What Would an EMP Do?
by Ray K
EMP, or Electromagnetic Pulse. Most of us have heard of it, some of us understand what it is and what it does, and those who have read “One Second After” have an idea of what will happen if we are attacked with it. Some additional info can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/electromagnetic_pulse
The U.S. Government created a commission to study EMP and what it could do to the safety and security of the United States. Unfortunately, this Committee published its report the same day as the 911 Commission, so it didn’t get much news coverage. You can read the report at www.empcommission.org. The bottom line in the report is that it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ we will be hit.
EMP will take out everything electronic, whether it is connected to the grid or sitting unplugged on the kitchen counter. Things connected to the grid may fry from the 100,000-volt surge brought in through the power distribution lines. Electronics with transistors or integrated circuits are extremely sensitive to static electricity and can be destroyed by as little as 100 volts.
Walking across a carpet and sparking to that door know is well over 1000 volts. The surge created by the EMP in your electronic device will be sufficient to destroy them if they are not protected.
One of the committee members likened EMP to a time machine, transporting our society from ‘today’ to ‘1870’ in about one second. We become, once again, an agrarian society, capable of supporting the level of population that we had in 1870. This means that there will be a lot of Americans dying.
Our goal, your goal, is to be among the survivors. There are many things that need to be done to prepare: learning survival skills (read – What Survival Skills Does A Prepper Need), having land and gardening/preserving knowledge, and many other things.
Having communications and some of the gadgets survive could mean the difference between surviving and not surviving. Things like solar battery chargers (see this article for solar charger recommendation), batteries, inverters, ignition systems for chainsaws, critical farm equipment electronics, walkie-talkies, NV gear among others could be critical when the time comes.
What is EMP?
When a nuclear bomb is exploded above the atmosphere, it releases gamma rays in all directions. The ones that head towards the atmosphere strike air molecules and strip off electrons. Those electrons and gamma rays head towards Earth, stripping even more electrons. This avalanche of electrons called the Compton Effect, interact with the Earth’s electromagnetic field, creating very strong magnetic waves.
When a magnetic field crosses a conductor, electrical current is produced. When this EMP magnetic wave crosses power lines, electronic equipment, anything conductive, current is produced. Enough current could be produced to create fires, exploding transformers, extremely high voltage (current pushing through resistance results in voltage) which can break down insulation and create arcing and short circuits.
In 1962 the US detonated a 1.4 megaton bomb over one of the test sites in the Pacific. It was high enough that the island of Hawaii, 900 miles away, had 300 street lights go out, and some microwave links were damaged. Hours after the detonation there were still surges and ripples in the power system. That was when we used vacuum tubes and before transistorized equipment was on the market. Today, with microcircuits and all of the very high tech equipment that we have in our homes, our factories and our defenses, we are more vulnerable than ever.
The U.S. Senate recently stripped funds for hardening the country’s power grid against EMP from a homeland security bill.
We are on our own.
What Will Work After an EMP Attack
Will EMP harm you? You, the human, will be safe. Magnetic waves, even very strong ones, will not harm you. MRIs use strong magnetic waves to make images of your innards.
But, look around you at anything with a wire or a chip. Whatever you see, be it a toaster, TV, laptop, microwave oven, radio, chainsaw, car, or truck, it is vulnerable, and the higher the technology the more vulnerable.
WSHTF you won’t need a TV, but you will need a radio, perhaps walkie-talkies, probably solar battery chargers, that ignition coil on your chainsaw, maybe that night vision scope and whatever else you deem necessary for your survival. EMP won’t hurt you, but it may take away most if not every electronic device that you possess.
If you are part of a group, you might consider building a larger box and sharing it, and the cost.
One way to protect your gear is to build a Faraday Shielded Box and keep your stuff in it (read this article for detailed Faraday cage instructions with photos). A Faraday shield is simply a physical device that prevents electromagnetic radiation from passing, in or out. In our case, we’ll take a cardboard box, cover it with copper screening material, and then ground it well.
I’ll describe the one that I built and you can size it up or down as you think necessary. Copper screen material with wire spacing of 0.1” is needed, and is the most expensive part of the project. You can keep costs down by only making as big a box as necessary. But when you think of the cost, think of the cost of the items that you will be protecting and what it might cost you if they don’t make it.
I started with a 2’ x 2’ x 3’ cardboard box. I actually had two of them. I cut the top flaps off of one and cut up the other to bend and fold a lid like a hat box, with about 2” of side overlap. I wanted a loose fitting top, with plenty of overlap on the sides. You don’t want any holes or gaps in the copper shielding, which is why I put the 2” flap on the lid for the box.
I laid out the screen coverage to minimize the number of lapped joints, cut the screen and used spots of hot melt glue to hold the pieces in place. I folded the screen around lips and edges, cut and tucked it into corners, and then used a very hot (150 W) soldering iron to solder all of the lap joints and corners. On the lid, not only cover the outside but fold the screen into the underside for the side overlaps. You don’t want any missed areas of coverage of the screen.
Next, take a piece of bare #10 AWG or #12 AWG (house wiring Romex) and strip off the insulation. Form it into a loop with a pigtail. Now make a second one. Lay one on one side flap of the lid and solder the pigtail to the screen. Put the lid on the box and solder the other loop to the main box a couple of inches below the pigtail loop on the lid.
Your box is ready. Find an out of the way place where it can stay undisturbed. From the box, run a copper wire (#10 AWG) outside the house to a ground rod. You can use a ground rod of copper or galvanized steel, or you can get 10’ of ½” galvanized pipe.
Drive it into the ground at least 8’, attach the copper wire to the clamp, and make sure that you always have the box and lid connected to the ground wire. At the box end of the wire, use alligator clips to conned the main wire to one of the pigtails and then make a short jumper between the two pigtails.
I haven’t finished stocking mine, but my list includes night vision goggles, IR laser sight for the rifle, game camera, batteries, crank emergency radio, walkie-talkies, solar battery charger, 12V to 110 VAC inverter, ignition coil for the chainsaw and an alternator for the tractor.