note: article first appeared in December 2015
In part #1 yesterday I laid out the case for the probability of an EMP strike on America. I started laying out the case for the severity of the impact of such a strike. This article, Part #2, finish up on the impact severity, and end with what you can do to mitigate the EMP threat.
It is probably a good idea to read Part #1 first if you haven’t already done so.
The experts and planners really don’t know for sure just what the extent of and EMP blast effects might be. Yes, there are books written talking about a 90% die-off in the first year. But, they are writers not experts in EMP warfare, they are novel authors.
I had the opportunity to talk to a 40 year expert that worked for Motorola and was a professor of electronics at a major university. We discussed the EMP potential. He explained to me that all their own testing was different than the hype and scare that we hear about in the media and read about in the books.
He was referring to all the post-EMP books hyping pre-computer controlled cars. Granted, vehicles with all the different computer technology would be far more susceptible to being rendered useless by an EMP strike. So some cars beginning in the mid-70’s began using integrated circuits, actual computer modules were about 3 – 5 years later. Obviously any vehicle without an integrated circuit board or computer module would be far less susceptible to damage from an EMP strike.
He went on to explain that not even the cars with computers that were all “zapped” had died an electronic death. The EMP pulses that they tested with only killed about 60 – 70% of cars with computers. I found that very interesting. He explained that sometimes all they had to do was disconnect a battery and the car would survive just fine. And not all the batteries were automatically destroyed by the pulses either. So the outcome for vehicle transportation may not be as dreadful as some would lead us to believe.
Electronics were a little different in their testing. If electronics weren’t protected they usually got wiped out. But, they also discovered that protecting the delicate electronics wasn’t all that difficult. They found the concept was to direct the energy of the pulse around the electronic gadget not allowing any of the energy to come in contact with the piece of equipment.
When I asked him how difficult it was, he chuckled and said, “Not very.” He told me that placing electronics in a metal box on insulated material should be just fine.
To me the operative word was “should.”
He said there was no way to conclusively say what kind of metal box worked all the time. And the reason is the EMP pulse itself. The energy flows through the air at different frequencies. The key was to block that specific frequency of energy associated with that specific EMP blast. And he also told me that there couldn’t be any gaps in the metal box, a tight metallic seal was paramount.
By then my eyes were kind of glazing over, I was getting lost. Then he said it was pretty simple to test. He said take an FM radio, tune it to a clearly heard station, and turn the volume up. Then place it in your metal box on insulated material. Slowly start to close the lid. If the radio reception died away and you could no longer hear the radio then the box was blocking the energy frequency of most EMP pulses.
He did qualify that by saying that to the best of their knowledge at that time EMP, energy pulse frequencies were roughly that of FM stations. And that is why if you could block the FM reception, you could block the pulse energy. And technically you weren’t blocking the energy pulse. The metal box was moving the energy pulse around the outside of the box not allowing the energy to come into contact with the radio’s antenna.
He also said it would be a good idea to remove the battery and the antenna from the radio. That would further assist in keep the energy out of the radio since both of those items attracted energy. We talked about wrapping the radio in a layer of insulation and he thought it would help if there were no gaps in the wrapping.
Faraday Cages –
We talked about Faraday Cages for awhile, he was not impressed. He thought they were overrated and pretty much was just a fancy and more expensive version of a metal box. He even mentioned that a garbage can with no holes or cracks, with a tight fitting lid, and lined with a non-conductive material could accomplish the same thing…maybe even far better.
The idea was simply to keep the energy from entering or contacting the piece of electronic gear that you were trying to protect.
A Faraday Cage was simply a fancy metal mesh box, that might not work as well as a metal container such as a garbage can mentioned a minute ago. We again talked about steel garbage cans with a plastic lining (i.e. a plastic garbage can) as an option. He said that would probably be just fine if the garbage can lid was tight fitting and let no gaps in the lid’s seal. We talked a little more and he liked my idea of using crumpled up aluminum foil as a “gasket” to ensure that there was no gap at all between the lid and the garbage can lip.
Layer after layer –
After thinking it through for awhile I talked with another buddy of mine, a serious and intelligent prepper. And the qualifications to be called such. We talked for awhile about EMP strikes and the potential for damage. Mostly sticking to how to protect radio equipment from damage.
When as was said and done we decided that we would wrap our gear in non-conductive material ensuring that there were no gaps. Then wrap that bundle in aluminum foil without gaps or open seems. So, imagine a bubble-wrap envelope sealed tight with clear shipping tape. Then that bundle is wrapped tightly with aluminum foil with absolutely no gaps in the wrapping.
Then use the non-conducting bubble wrap again, then another foil wrap, and then finish them off with a final layer of non-conducting bubble wrap. When we were all done with that, we placed them in a metal box with a tight fitting lid that left no gaps between the lid and the box.
I thought through that a lot. Basically we would be doing what my expert buddy had talked about. End result…redirecting the energy around the piece of electronic gear you are trying to protect.
“What to do now?” is the big question isn’t it. And honestly, that is up to you. I didn’t say that to be smug or avoid answering the question. It really is up to you.
Here’s how I see it…
- If you take your radios and EMP proof them in a metal box, then you don’t get to use the radio. You don’t get the operational practice or get to have fun with the radios.
- The EMP pulse, if it does occur, might be on a completely different frequency than what you have prepared for. Therefore your box is a complete failure and your radios get fried anyways.
- We may never get hit with an EMP pulse. Remember, it is rated in the low or very low probability category. So you wasted all that time, effort, and money for nothing.
- Or you can hedge your bet. The Baofeng UV-5RA radio is very inexpensive. Buy a set to use with all the right accessories, etc., especially the programming software. Get them all set up and enjoy them. Then buy just the radio itself, a back-up for each radio you actually use. Program them, wrap ’em up, box ’em up for that potential EMP strike. And just to be on the safe and plush side…throw in the old family laptop with RT Systems programming software loaded on it, along with the cable and DVD.
No! While the potential for an EMP strike severity could be quite high if we are struck, the probability of being struck is still quite low. So there is no reason to start obsessing over being hit with an EMP.
And honestly, what part of your preps are truly dependent on electronics or batteries? For me it is:
- Tactical flashlights
- Solar generators
- Night vision
Yup! That’s it for my dependency on electronics and batteries. So I have to ask myself the question, “Could I survive without all of the above?”
“Of course I could!” is the easy and accurate answer. Would it be more convenient with them? Yes. But we could get long without them.
So you really have to ask yourself the same questions –
What preps of your depend on electronics and batteries?
Could I get by without those things?
As far as priorities go I would put EMP-proofing your electronics way, way down the list. I would say look into it after; a year’s worth of food, water, and garden seed. And then after, considerable medical supplies, weapons, and 1000’s of rounds of ammo. Then put in water filtration and purification capability, a good tents, clothing, and quality tactical gear. Then…and only then, would I consider worrying about protecting my gear from an EMP.
This has been a really long article on EMPs, but I thought it prudent to go through it in detail. But, by now you also have a pretty good idea of what you need to be doing about it.
Now…just go do it! “whatever “it” may be.
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