Will My Walkie-Talkies Work Post EMP Blast?

One of the biggest and scariest mega-disasters that can potentially occur in our era is an EMP. An EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, is a massive surge of energy that can overload electrical grids and disable, damage, or destroy electronic components and many of the things we use every day and rely on.

several Motorola walkie-talkies
several Motorola walkie-talkies

But EMPs of the magnitude we’re worried about are poorly understood. What we need to know is whether or not the gear we depend on as preppers will work in the aftermath. How about something like walkie-talkies? Will they work post EMP blast?

Possibly. Walkie-talkies might function after an EMP or they might not. It depends on the strength of the EMP, the distance from the source, whether or not the unit is shielded, and if any EMP protective measures like Faraday cages were used.

Contrary to popular belief, the occurrence of an EMP is not a guaranteed “death sentence” for your walkie-talkies…

You might be able to turn them on and get on the air immediately after it happens. Or your EMPs might be fried beyond all hope of repair. It just depends. To help you figure all of this out and make an informed decision, I’ll be telling you a lot more about the risk factors below…

How are Walkie-Talkies Vulnerable to EMPs?

Walkie-talkies are vulnerable to EMPs, and accordingly electromagnetic energy generally, for the same reason that most other electronics are. They need a certain amount of voltage to operate, and if they are overloaded, it can result in damage or even outright destruction of vital components.

Also, the antenna that our handhelds need in order to function at all, including the receiving and the transmission of signals, is potentially a big problem. An Achilles’ heel, if you will.

Basically, the antenna itself can, depending on its design and materials, be damaged by the EMP, but it will also channel that energy into the walkie-talkie, potentially frying it if the event is strong enough.

Factors Influencing Vulnerability to EMPs

There are several things that influence or even determine EMP vulnerability….

The first is how powerful the EMP is. They certainly are not equal in strength! An EMP resulting from a nearby lightning strike might be potent, but it is very brief and highly localized, likely only to cause temporary interference or damage if it is very close or a direct hit.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, EMPs generated by the detonation of a nuclear warhead, a non-nuclear EMP generator weapon, or phenomenally powerful solar events could overload, disable, or destroy electronics, including walkie-talkies, many miles away from the point of origin.

The design of the unit in question also makes a big difference. Good manufacturers that use intelligent design, shield vulnerable components, and choose more resilient materials to build the radios. These higher-end units will be somewhat more resistant to all kinds of EMPs, and might be able to resist low-level or weaker emissions entirely.

Likewise, the presence of any materials or obstacles that could impede or block the electromagnetic energy between the walkie-talkie and the emanation could make a big difference.

Walkie-Talkies on a Charger are Very Vulnerable

More than anything else, your walkie-talkies are likely going to be toast if they are on a charger when the EMP hits.

Basically, the electrical grid will be dangerously overcharged when it occurs, and that current has to go somewhere. Any devices connected to the grid by being plugged in, on a charger, or otherwise hooked up will be overloaded to the point that they might catch fire.

It might be possible to protect walkie-talkies on a charger by using heavy-duty surge protectors for the purpose, but most of these devices aren’t tested in a way that will guarantee protection from the most potent EMP events.

A better bet is to keep your walkie-talkies off the charger and turned off themselves, and keep a supply of charged batteries ready to go, rotating your cells through the charging process so you aren’t risking the walkie-talkies, or all of their batteries, directly.

How Can You Protect Your Walkie-Talkies from an EMP?

You have a couple of good methods for protecting your walkie-talkies, and one of them directly concerns the manufacturer of the units themselves.

For starters, consider the installation of EMP -resistant shielding if your model can make use of it. These devices enable the radios and other systems they protect to withstand a certain amount of energy without being damaged or destroyed.

Basically, they ruggedize your unit against an EMP’s effects.. EMP shielding devices consist of special conductive materials placed around or between vulnerable components that will block or basically redirect the EMP energy from reaching sensitive parts.

However, this shielding is usually only proof against a certain level of energy. It might not save your walkie-talkies from the big one.

Also, you must make sure that your antenna is rated as EMP protective or resistant. This will prevent the antenna itself from being damaged, and also make it less likely that it will channel the destructive current into the body of the walkie-talkie where it can cause havoc.

Lastly, consider keeping your walkie-talkies in a Faraday cage, or Faraday bag. This is a box or bag that’s made from or integrates conductive material on all sides, forming a protective bubble, if you will, around the walkie-talkies.

Once the EMP has subsided, you should be able to remove your walkie-talkies and expect them to work normally.

There is Much Uncertainty About the Most Powerful EMP Events

One last thing to keep in mind, reader. The simple fact of the matter is that there is a whole lot we do not know, not really, about how bad the most powerful EMP events can be. I’m talking stuff like a huge solar storm or a high-altitude nuclear warhead detonation, or the high-altitude deployment of an EMP generator weapon.

Any of those events could dramatically intensify the electromagnetic energy that will be affecting our grid and electronics.

Ultimately, we have a lot of theory to go off of, but precious little experience. And if any governments have done their own testing about the likely effects of these events, they are not telling us, poor civilians.

Your best bet is to go for broke: if you want assurance your walkie-talkies will work in the aftermath, keep them inside a good Faraday cage along with their batteries or power supplies.

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