What Will and Won’t Survive an EMP

There’s been a lot of talk about EMP attacks and it’s gotten a lot of people wondering what it is and also what will survive one of those attacks. So, let’s answer those questions.

First in order to understand the threat, a proper definition of an EMP attack must be made. An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP produces a sudden burst of electromagnetic radiation. When an EMP hits, it will literally shut down the power grid, disabling any sort of electronic mechanism within a certain radius.

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An electromagnetic pulse, or EMP produces a sudden burst of electromagnetic radiation. When an EMP hits, it will literally shut down the power grid, disabling any sort of electronic mechanism within a certain radius.

What Will Survive and EMP

What Vehicles Would Survive an EMP?

Conventional wisdom says that most vehicles won’t survive an EMP attack due to the number of delicate electronics that are in virtually all modern cars.

A 2004 study by the US EMP commission came to the conclusion that, in the event of an EMP, aproximately 10% of the vehicles on the road will stop:

Approximately 10 percent of the vehicles on the road will stop, at least temporarily, thereby possibly triggering accidents, as well as congestion

Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack

This is an optimistic perspective, and further research is definitely needed to better aproximate the disaster that will unfold. The vehicles that would come to a stop, particularly those on highways and/or speeding will most likely cause accidents.

Whether that percentage is accurate or not, here’s a list of the vehicles that are most likely to survive and electromagnetic pulse:

  1. Toyota 4×4 Trucks 1985-and earlier – The key factors that make these types of trucks EMP ready are a solid front axle and a carbureted 22R motor. It’s a simple setup, but when it comes to withstanding a pulse, these will do it. And the best part is, these trucks are known to perform better under pressure.
  2. American made Pre-1980 trucks, SUVS, and commercial vehicles – American truck motors were built very simple pre 1980. When it comes to choosing the right type of truck to use after an EMP, follow this rule of thumb: The simpler the motor, the better. American trucks can withstand and handle the duty of a bug out vehicle.
  3. Dune Buggy – These are not on fun, but they are awesome bug out vehicles that will withstand an EMP.
  4. Pre-1980 Jeep – Jeeps are iconic for survival. They will make great bug out vehicles and can double as daily duty vehicles.
  5. Pre- 1980 Land Rover – Like the Jeep, Land Rovers have their place in the survival game and for a reason. They are efficient and they can handle off road situations when getting you from point A to point B.
  6. Old tractors.
1937 Ford tractor
a vintage 1937 Ford tractor

Dirt Bikes and Off-Road Motorcycles

Certain types of motorcycles may survive an EMP. Those would be the off-road kind, those designed to trek through the back country and over rough terrain.

Motorcycles are excellent choices for surviving an attack. If you plan to use a motorcycle for a SHTF type of situation, chose one that is definitely off road and one that can be converted to diesel. Converting a motorcycle to a diesel and using it as a survival vehicle is highly recommended.

A couple of favorites among preppers are the Kawasaki KLR 650 and the ROKON 2×2. The Kawasaki can be converted to fit your needs. The ROKON is a bike that is designed to go everywhere and do almost everything. It’s designed to handle everything from escaping to scouting.

Solar Panels

Solar panels absorb nuclear radiation from the sun daily. An EMP will only affect these slightly. They’ll suffer a small decrease in power output.

They’ll still be able to power. If your home or bug out shelter is powered by solar panels, you can rest easy knowing that an EMP will not wipe out your power source.

It’s a good idea to keep a spare power inverter and other electronic parts in a Faraday cage. The solar panels themselves won’t be affected by an EMP but the electronic components of your system can be. Better safe than sorry.


We put people on the list because overall humans as a whole are unaffected by EMPs. However, some will not be as seen in the list below of things that will not survive.

Non-Electric Appliances

Appliances such as a solar oven for cooking and a woodstove or fireplace for heating your home. Without power to your home, you need to have a manually operated method for washing clothes, such as a hand plunger and buckets or even a washboard with a tub and hand wringer.

Manual Tools

These will come in handy. Make sure you have critical items to help you accomplish basic cooking tasks like a hand operated can opener, hand powered coffee grinder, coffee percolator, manual mixer, and Zeer clay pot fridge.

When an EMP causes an extended grid down situation, you’ll need additional hand powered items such as a hand operated grain mill, meat grinder, and pasta maker.

Make sure you have hand tools such as screwdrivers, saws, hammer, a hand drill, block sander, sandpaper, etc. so that you can accomplish basic carpentry tasks and make repairs as needed. A brace and bit for drilling holes and driving screws will make repairs a lot easier.

Any device (including means of transportation) that is mechanical. I.e. mechanical watches, bicycles, etc.

What Won’t Survive an EMP

The Main Power Grid

The main reason why enemies launch an EMP attack is to disable the power grid. Without power, there’s no computers to maintain the military defense system, there’s no communication between law enforcement or emergency personnel and without power and communication, the land is sure to descend into chaos.

Shutting down the main grid, puts everyone in the dark. Literally. Radio darkness occurs, causing confusion and panic everywhere. Without some type of emergency generators of some kind, if the EMP attack is bad enough, it could cripple the affected area for a very long time and thus give an enemy the upper hand.

Some Cars

This is a known fact that many modern cars will not survive an EMP attack. We already talked earlier in this article about a certain percentage of cars coming to a stop the second and EMP happens, but frankly I think many more will be in this situation.

The super-efficient computers that manufacturers boast about could be useless to their owners once a pulse has been unleashed. If you have a car that is computerized in any shape or form, it may not work following an EMP.

If your car has any of the following features, an EMP will render it useless: electronic fuel injection, anything computerized that controls your vehicles main systems, a PCM also called a powertrain control module, ABS (Anti-locking Brake Systems) electronic ignition or keyless ignition, or a negative battery terminal that is grounded to the vehicle frame.

Eco-Friendly Electric/and Hybrid Cars

Electric? Forget about it.

Upgraded Computerized Motorcycles

We love our Harleys and our touring bikes, but if you have a motorcycle that is computerized and 21st century fancy, you can forget about getting the heck outta dodge on it when an attack happens.

Homes that are Computer Operated

In the 21st century we have all these great new and innovative home appliances. They call them appliances for the home of tomorrow!

You must admit, some of those gadgets are cool. The touch screen refrigerator or the voice activated oven. They’re cool, but will they survive an EMP attack? Most likely not. Why?

Because of the solid-state components that they’re made up of. These “smart homes” may be smart and innovative but they’ll be shut completely down during an attack.

Can you imagine spending all your prepping budget to build a smart computerized home, only to fall victim to an EMP attack and get stuck inside your house?


These are a given. Computers are getting faster and more complex these days, but they cannot withstand an attack by an electromagnetic pulse.

Most of us are aware that you can’t put a magnet on a laptop because it’ll mess up the hard drive. Likewise, just imagine what will happen when a gigantic magnetic wave hits the region. Everything computerized within the affected area will flat line.

People with Pacemakers

It’s a sad truth. The electromagnetic pulse that is released during an attack would no doubt kill a person with a pacemaker. Though it all depends on how close they are in proximity to the initial burst.

So, knowing that so many things we rely on will fall victim to an EMP attack, what can be done?

How to Prepare for an EMP Attack

When an enemy decides to unleash an EMP, it’s usually when no one is expecting it. And when it does happen, even the ones who are prepared are caught off guard.

The best way to make sure that even if you’re ready for an EMP is by preparing ahead of time and routinely practicing drills. Practice a drill of what to do if an EMP attack happens:

  • At home
  • At work
  • At school

EMP attacks are nasty and will cripple an entire city and its population. Imagine the state of panic that will arise if an EMP hits New York City. That’s a city packed full of millions upon millions of people.

They don’t call it the city that never sleeps for no reason. If an EMP hits the Big Apple, it will immediately descend into darkness. If it happens during the day, the inhabitants of the city will not be prepared, and they will panic and panic quickly.

Subway trains, buses, taxi cars, will all simply stop working. Traffic lights and other electronic signs or devices will stop working.

Once night falls on the city and all the lights are out, chaos will reign. That’s the main purpose for the design of the EMP. To knock out the communication. A breakdown in communication lends to a breakdown in society. Turning out the lights will only make the matters worse.

If you live near a densely populated metropolitan city, understand that cities with huge populations are prime targets for EMPs. Enemies want to hit hard and hit fast, disabling as many section as possible, so they can confuse the population and cause widespread panic and mayhem.

Plan Ahead Now

If you don’t want to get caught up with the rest of the general population then the time to prepare is now. The key to moving quickly right after an attack is to be familiar with the signs of an EMP and be prepared to act immediately when you discern a threat.

Quite obviously, the lights will go out, and everything that is electronic will cease to function. If you’ve practiced your escape plan, you will have already put it into action, especially if you are caught in the city when it happens.

Dan’s note: What you can do is build a Faraday cage to keep some of your electronics.

With the right plans in place, you will have access to electronics, if they were protected in a Faraday cage. You will have lighting, water, and ways to cook and heat your home while the rest of the area is trying to figure out what to do. If you are bugging out, be prepared to do it quickly.

The last place you want to be is in the city when an EMP strikes and to get stuck there after nightfall. You’re chances of survival are lessened the longer you stay in the city. It’s best to get out of the city and as far out as possible so you can implement your other plans of action.

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updated by Megan Stewart 10/16/2019

17 thoughts on “What Will and Won’t Survive an EMP”

  1. “…mechanical. I.e. mechanical watches.” I bought a Seiko dive watch for just this reason. I had a couple of these when I was a kid. They went out of fashion when battery watches and digital watches became popular. However, if you take the watch off, it will stop after 24-36 hours. If you can figure out when noon is, you’ll be back in business. Also, as a dive watch, it is not NASA/Atomic clock precise. When you’re diving, nano seconds aren’t that critical.

  2. I see Solar panels listed but there are many parts of the system that will fail. i.e. inverters, charge controllers, any thing that needs power from the Solar in the first place. I just do not see the need for the hype of the EMP fear when it will happen quick and the science to prevent it weak at best. I hope we are not stupid enough to simulate n attack, just to see if it works.

  3. Oscar, I dont believe that type conversion would be possible. It would be nice tho. The other question Ive had come up is outboard motors to diesel. Same problems.There were a scarce few manufactured back years and years ago but I have never found one.

    Lone Wolf, good point. There is one popular manufacturer of magnetos. Almost everyone uses them on serious race cars. I think they are less than $200.00 but you could pick up a used one. On the alternator, if you dont have a Faraday Cage garage for your bug out car, the only choice you have there is to keep a spare in a Faraday cage. Pretty cheap for insurance against not being able to bug out. Average cost is around $50.00

    Hey John, right on target there bro. The most desirable truck is the Dodge Diesel, made in a couple of years only ending in 1999. No electronics, just plain old mechanical stuff.

    Good on the watches. I have one too.

    I wish someone knew about the solar panels. We all know it would be wise not to have the downline components connected but about the panels themselves, Ive never spoken with anyone who knows for sure. Why dont you contact the Florida Solar Energy Center and ask them. Most of those guys are ex NASA People. I would but they dont like me too much. I have challenged them in the past and won. Long story. I built and installed thousands of Solar Energy Systems, mostly of my own design and one of my problems was they told me one of my systems would not work and it almost doubles the performance of anything even up to today! I did find out recently that tornadoes dont like solar panels and vice versa!

  4. Living the dream and prepping with 7 kw solar, 120 kwh submarine battery, wood gas powered backup generator etc. Gave the system a fighting chance to survive emp etc by fitting mov’s (metal oxide varisters) in a delta configeration to the 240 volts inverter output and generator inputs. Also fitted to the solar and batteries are low voltage movs. Be awair that the mov will instantly conduct when hit with a transient and will probably be destroyed, especially when connected to the 5kw inverter. So have appropriate circuit breakers etc fitted. Also, spares are a good idea, only a couple of dollars each and refit new ones before turning it back on, just in case the smart a…ses pop annother emp after the first one.
    Dont forget communications. Have Ham radio as well as both 80 channel uhf and 40 channel hf cb radios. Aslso have a 1942 vintage communications reciever from a ww2 aircraft using valves, so is inherently emp proof. Runs from the aux 12 volts in the shack, charged with 1/2 kw solar etc. Small inverter for the Kenwood HF transciever(1960’s valve type as well). Movs fitted of course. Leave all antennas disconneced unless actually using the gear. Have lightning arresters as well as gas discharge arresters fitted as we get corker electrical storms, especially in summer (now). Have backup inverter made in 1940’s using vibrator cartriges and NO solid state electronics. Emp proof as well.
    Carry a small uhf 40 channel cb in bug home pack and wife has instructions on how to use the home radio. Code sheet on wall of radio room as opsec will be needed and dont want to advertise my location. Carry bug home vehicle in ute (18 speed pushbike). Also ute is duel fuel (petrol and lpgas) carby mitsubishi, but has electronic ignition. Spare module in steel toolbox along with coil, ballast restistor etc anly cost $100 and takes minutes to change.
    Fiited 2 bvatteries as alternator could fail, but ute will run for some hours just on battery alone, even at night. Modified lighting circuit to switch off tail lights, stop lights etc and only have headlights. opsec again, fitted crank handle through a hole made in radiator and sealed up again. Lots other things happening, bees, food etc.
    Good prepping eveyone.

    1. Hi Dick my name is Irene my husband doesn’t believe in may of this but I want and like to be prepared I need help getting the radio and a generator and a solar panel then way u have it set up. By the way everything’s looking these days something will happen very soon I have a gut feeling. My email is [email protected] please email me what and how to obtain these items thank you

  5. Note to moiderator,

    Please dont publish the comments made, 2nd thoughts re opsec. Could do a short article for u instead if interetsed.

  6. Having old tube type communication equipment will improve chances that your commo will survive. The Russians and Chicoms both have kept thier tube type equipment. Keep a short across the power input terminals, and set equipment in a metal box (grounded if possible). Old some times is much better then new

  7. I have been thinking about EMP and wonder if all modern electronics in a modern car would be fried by the pulse. The engine compartment of most cars is somewhat like a Faraday cage except for the area underneath the engine, etc. I realize it is not completely sealed but it is close to 75 percent shielded. Is it possible that this level of shielding could reduce the effect of the pulse to something that electronics could survive? Of course all bets are off with a fiberglass hood or fenders. Sorry, Corvette owners.

    I did have an opportunity to visit a sensitive communications facility 40 years ago. The whole building was built as a Faraday cage,. Entire rooms, including doors, were 100 percent shielded with copper window screening used as a wall covering. Conceivably it would be possible to turn a garage into a Faraday cage if you can figure out how to put shielding on the garage floor to complete the 100 percent shield. You could store a lot of sensitive electronic equipment in a shielded garage as well as a couple of cars. Just some thoughts

  8. If a simple flashlight or old style transistor radio ( pre 1975) are stored without the batteries would they survive an EMP? And what about batteries not in any devices?

  9. Check out the soon to be released book The Silent Armageddon, By E.C. Itnyre. Will be published on Amazon kindle, Google ebookstore, Apple i bookstore, litfire Barns and Noble nook books.

  10. Isn’t it a fact that essentially anything that is solid state electronics will be fried if it’s not in a sufficient Faraday cage? It’s implied in a couple of the comments above, but it could be stated a little more strongly. Amazing creativity described here.

    1. How would one protect a mechanicaheart valve? If it would be effected in an emp or a cochlear implant? I’m hoping to either protect my baby girl from any harm to her heart, as far as her cochlear implant if that fails I am learning asl!

  11. My son works on a towboat. He is on it 30 days at a time. I don’t know how they are powered or how he would get from the middle of the Mississippi river to land in case of an EMP attack. Wondering if anyone has any info on what would happen to a towboat if the SHTF

  12. I’m calling BS on the pacemaker comments. Pacemakers are designed to withstand cardiac paddles which are high voltage. The pacemaker generators themselves present a small aperture (small size) and are less apt to be affected by the E1 component of the EMP because they are a “small antenna”, as it were. The cardiac leads are typically shielded and grounded to the titanium case. Tests were done in the late 70s at the Georgia Tech Research Institute on pacemaker-implanted dogs that were exposed to RF radiation. You can find data on such tests. There are lots of EMP myths floating around out on the internet, and the pacemaker vulnerability to EMP is one such myth.

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