This post will cover some of the basics of an EMP Attack (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) and then offer my own opinion on the potential threat we face.
I will answer as many questions as I can – as an interested layman at best. I am not an expert on EMP, Nuclear Warfare, or attacks of any kind other than perhaps the occasional written comment of a disgruntled blog reader. Just joking, I’m very loved. ❤️
I won’t be getting into technical explanations, theories, and antidotes. Not only am I not even remotely qualified to do so, but I also find most of that incredibly boring.
I will leave a ton of links and official reports both within the post as well as below this article if that’s the type of information you’re looking for.
What Is An EMP?
To be clear, for this discussion, I’m referring to a large-scale EMP attack, a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (NEMP) from a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) device.
In other words, one or more strategically located nuclear explosions detonated high in our atmosphere – not something Batman might shoot from his Batmobile to shut down a car he’s chasing.
What Does An EMP Mean For The Country? For Society?
I could literally write a book on this but I won’t. So let’s look at some of the really serious challenges we’d face in the aftermath of a massive EMP attack that hit North America.
Not only is it impossible to perform many everyday domestic and workplace tasks, but also people must divert their time to dealing with the consequences of having no electricity. In the extreme, they must focus on survival itself. The situation is not different for the economy at large. No other infrastructure could, by its own collapse alone, create such an outcome. All other infrastructures rely on electric power.Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack – EMP Commission April 2008 Report (PDF)
The grid goes down. This alone is hard to wrap our heads around. Let’s quickly look at some of the implications here – off the top of my head:
- Light doesn’t work – obviously.
- Heating and cooling for millions of people stop working.
- Many or most cars may or may not stop working – more on that in a bit.
- Banks and the stock exchange shut down, immediately collapsing our economy.
- Money and today’s popular currencies will become useless. Poverty on an unimaginable scale will become the norm in many areas.
- Deliveries and transportation shut down because fuel production stops.
- Hospitals will shut down once generators fail or fuel runs out because more fuel will not be delivered.
- Millions of people that depend on electronic devices or machines will die.
- Millions of people that require medications to live will die.
- Stores, gas stations, and markets will close indefinitely.
- Phones and devices may or may not survive but many low-earth satellites will be destroyed.
- The internet, cable, and phones will shut down.
- Water pumping and treatment plants will shut down.
- Nuclear power plants may need to shut down and may become unstable.
- Natural and propane gas will stop flowing.
- Sewage and wastewater will begin to backup.
- Food refrigeration will stop functioning all over the affected area.
- Large food production and farms will stop producing and shipping.
- News and communication will all but stop.
- Personal hygiene will become a massive issue with no running water.
- Trash collection and processing will stop. Garbage will begin piling up and become a serious health hazard.
- Clean drinking water will become very limited and millions will get very sick and die from contaminated water.
- Running vehicles and machines won’t be able to resupply the fuel need to run.
- Anything that breaks and requires replacement parts will become useless.
- Schools will close.
- Businesses and government operations will all but stop.
- Cities and suburbs will become very dangerous.
- Within time, all communities will become desperate and dangerous.
- Wild game would become overwhelmed as people became dependant on hunting and fishing for survival.
That’s just off the top of my head – typing and hitting the return key as thoughts flowed faster than I can type. I may not be an expert but I’ve certainly given the idea of an EMP attack a lot of thought over the years.
Is The Threat Of An EMP Attack Just A Crazy Prepper Story?
Are they crazy? I imagine a few crazies live within the prepper world but, in my experience, most preppers are normal hard-working people just like you and me that pay attention and simply prepare as best they can.
I know this because this I is.Soon to be famous quote by Brian D. Hawkins.
The real question is;
Just how worried and prepared should we be about an EMP attack“?
Should we be prepping for an EMP? Keep in mind; only you can decide what you should be prepping for. With that said, I will toss my personal opinion out there.
For years I’ve heard preppers say things to the effect, “You should prepare for an EMP because you’d be ready for any SHTF event.” While that’s not entirely true, I do understand the logic behind that way of thinking. I understand, but I don’t see it this way.
I like to help new preppers approach different levels of preparedness in steps. Each step takes the prepper toward a preparedness goal they’ve set for themselves for their particular situation.
These are bite-sized and realistic steps custom-designed for that situation, location, resources, budget, etc.
To say “Just prepare for an EMP” is akin to saying, “Just prepare to become overwhelmed and eventually give up on everything” for most people.
Let me put it this way; I know a lot of preppers. People that have been prepping on a serious level for many years. How many of them consider themselves to be “prepared for an EMP“? Not a single person.
We’re looking at potentially years and years of struggle, hardship, and death. According to one of the government’s own reports, nine out of ten people dead within a year.
Nothing is produced, manufactured, or delivered. No fuel, medicine, large-scale food production, or education. Nothing is prepared, no parts being made, and very limited government.
Does that sound like a good place to start for the new prepper? That’s not even a realistic preparedness goal for those of us that have been prepping for years.
How Likely Are We To Experience An EMP In The United States?
Honestly, you’re much more likely to experience a job loss or severe sickness in the family than an EMP attack. As you can see, I try to steer preppers into a logical step-by-step approach to preparedness, but that doesn’t mean the threat of an EMP attack isn’t a real concern. It is.
In fact, I’d say the risk of an EMP is probably higher now than it was years ago when I started prepping.
We have countries like Russia and China that have been actively expanding their EMP strike capabilities while the U.S. and most western nations have done very little to protect us from such strikes.
North Korea has been threatening the United States with an Electromagnetic Pulse Attack since at least 2017.
This is serious folks! And Real.
The EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security published a report showing China not only has the ability to conduct an EMP attack on the United States using Super-EMP weapons but has protocols for launching a first-strike EMP attack. China also has been developing the means to protect itself against an EMP attack.
Let’s not ignore the up and coming regimes that seem bent on taking down the evil dragon – they’re working toward the ability to strike with an EMP as well.
And terrorist organizations? I don’t think they’re quite there yet, but they’ll probably get there eventually. Technology doesn’t just get smaller, easier and cheaper for TVs and cell phones. Something we should keep in mind at all times.
I believe, and everything on this blog is only one prepper’s opinion, the only reason a Russa or a China won’t deploy such a drastic attack on the US or one of its allies, other than the economic disaster the rest of the world would endure, is the threat of mutually assured destruction.
Yes, a large-scale high-altitude EMP strike above North America would end the United States’ ability to function as a modern society for years, but missiles would indeed fly in retaliation.
Responsible countries would be annihilated – possibly vaporized. That’s why we have nuclear-armed subs all over the world. That’s why we have missile silos buried deep in the earth – protected from such attacks.
How much of a deterrent is the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) to a crazy man running North Korea? I don’t know.
Have There Been Official Tests Or Studies On EMPs?
Over the years, many tests have been run, including tests back in 1962 by the United States; Starfish Prime, Bluegill Triple Prime, and Kingfish.
Also, in the early 1960s, the Soviets conducted five tests over populated areas.
The Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963. This may play a role in a lack of testing or perhaps the admission of testing.
Is The Government Doing Anything About The Risks?
Back in 2004, the EMP Commission released a report that included the following statement:
The high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold our society seriously at risk and might result in defeat of our military forces.Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack
Trump signed an Executive Order (#13865 – March 26, 2019) — Coordinating National Resilience to Electromagnetic Pulses. Honestly, I’ve seen little effort or action in that plan, and I’m not even sure if Biden allowed the order to stand.
The last report I’ve seen, August 17, 2020, (PDF) says, “the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has worked to reduce risk from an EMP attack by seeking to develop a greater understanding of EMP effects on critical infrastructure, national critical functions, and national essential functions, and by taking key actions to address known EMP-related vulnerabilities to critical infrastructure.“
In other words…
We’re looking into it.
EMP attacks are part of the emerging threats against our nation and demand a response.Senior Official Performing the Duties of the DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli
And on our hands we sit, as a nation. Just amazing.
They even had the audacity to publish this on their (DHS) website that actually combated nothing by doing nothing:
DHS Combats Potential Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack
Is An EMP The Same As A Coronal Mass Ejection?
While both an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack and a coronal mass ejection (CME) are not the same, both could potentially be catastrophic to our modern lifestyle.
An EMP is caused by a high altitude nuclear blast detonated by bad actors (Our Enemies) and a large CME is a rare but natural phenomenon caused by our own sun trying to kill us from 93 million miles away. Both may have a negative impact on your Netflix stock.
Is There A Nuclear Fallout Risk Following An EMP Attack?
Maybe, but probably not.
While it is recognized that the fallout from a nuclear detonation is expected in a typical nuclear attack, an EMP is detonated very high up. In the low Earth orbit, actually. So fallout in any particular area should be minimal at best. Unless I’m wrong and then it may be an issue.
See this report by REMM “Radiation Emergency Medical Management (US Department of Health and Human Services).”
Would Cars Really Stop Working After An EMP Attack?
I don’t think anyone really knows for sure. I see answers on both sides. The government commissioned a test that demonstrated that most modern vehicles would survive an EMP blast due to the cars shielding and short wires (To simplify the terms).
Only 6% of the cars tested shut down and ⅔ of those were able to re-start.
Do we have to ask ourselves just how far the EMP technology has advanced since that report? How much more advanced, or vulnerable, is our vehicle’s electronics today?
Here’s another quote from that 2004 EMP Commission report I mentioned above:
Based on this assessment, significant degradation of the transportation infrastructures are likely to occur in the immediate aftermath of an EMP attack. For example, municipal road traffic will likely be severely congested, possibly to the point of wide-area gridlock, as a result of traffic light malfunctions and the fraction of operating cars and trucks that will experience both temporary and in some cases unrecoverable engine shutdown. Railroad traffic will stop if communications with railroad control centers are lost or railway signals malfunction. Commercial air traffic will likely cease operations for safety and other traffic control reasons. Ports will stop loading and unloading ships until commercial power and cargo hauling infrastructures are restored.Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (PDF).
The bottom line is simple, your car may or may not survive an EMP strike. But how long will fuel be available? Will fuel even continue to be produced?
Will roads even be open for travel? Remember, no lights or controls. Finally, how safe would it be to drive in a world that’s been basically shut down and thrown into darkness?
Don’t despair; an EMP threat is not the only excuse to buy that classic muscle car.
And guess what? Starting at only USD 155,000+, you can order your very own EMP-proof Tactical Urban Vehicle (Rezvani Tank) with Thermal Night Vision and 1,000 HP. You know, just in case. ?
The Bottom Line – Use Your Common Sense
It would be silly to go out and start buying faraday cages, a classic car, and EMP shields if you have just three weeks of food and water stored. You see that, right? Your radio works, even though there’s no one else broadcasting, but your family is going hungry.
The natural steps of preparedness will always help you in most SHTF events (That you survive), including an event as drastic as an EMP attack. We’re just eating the pizza one bite at a time, not trying to stuff the entire pie into our mouth and calling it good.
What Steps Can We Take To Protect Our Families From An EMP Attack?
The same steps we recommend for any other SHTF event:
- Storing food and water are obvious choices.
- Medical supplies and any medications you or your family need should also be a priority.
- Having an active and fruitful garden should be at the top of any prepper’s list.
- Learning and actively storing food for the long-term should probably come next.
- At some point, we need to consider alternative methods of cooking. Off-grid canning, dehydrating, and curing could be huge when it comes to any long term power outage if you have a bunch of food in the freezer.
- Security and protection skills and preps will obviously be helpful in the event of an EMP Attack.
- Alternative heating comes to mind rather quickly as I watch the snowfall here in Michigan. If we lose our natural gas furnace, we have portable kerosene and propane (With over a week’s supply of both fuels) heaters for short-term emergencies. My next step is a wood stove inside our home for both cooking and heating.
- We have a month’s gasoline supply for our generator if we just run it four hours a day. We have a small solar setup for device charging. My next steps are a whole house multi-fuel generator combined with a large solar setup.
As you can see, the question, “Should we be preparing for an EMP Attack?” is probably no, for most preppers, because if you’re preparing and taking the right steps, you’re already preparing for an EMP.
Once you have your family well prepared and protected for the more likely SHTF events (job loss, natural disaster, sickness or death in the family, localized event, etc.), by all means, move on to the more advanced preps such as a bugout location, faraday cages, silver and gold, and a classic car or one converted for gasification.
Don’t forget meat production and building a community. You see how it all starts coming together, don’t you?
EMP or no EMP, I believe most serious preppers eventually gain the goal of a very long term or indefinite self-reliance and independence.
I actually avoid having this discussion with new preppers because it can send them over the edge or away from prepping altogether. There’s a sort of natural progression that builds us up to that realization. At least that’s what happened to me.
Prepping for an EMP attack is a huge topic in our community, and while I want to add a little reason and common sense into the mix, I do not discount the possibility of such a devastating event.
A large scale EMP would redefine the term SHTF. Things would get very bad in a hurry. Walking Dead bad? No, but pretty bad still. No zombies, at least.
My best advice – stay on course, prepare daily, and don’t lose sleep over anything that “could” happen one day. You’ll want to eat, and you’ll need water tomorrow. We know that for sure.
Hey, don’t forget to subscribe to my email list so you can keep up with everything in the prepping and survival world. It’s what I do.
Stay safe. Stay prepared.
EMP Threat Related Resources
- What Is an EMP Bomb? – Lifehacker November 20, 2017
- Trump Moves To Protect America From Electromagnetic Pulse Attack – Forbes April 5, 2019
- Newt Gingrich talks about the threat of a nuclear North Korea 10 years ago (Video)
- The EMP Commission – (Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack)
- Washington absolutely must save the EMP commission – The Hill Sep 19, 2017 (Opinion/Commentary Piece)
- Three New EMP Commission Reports Released – Michael Mabee May 9, 2018 ( Article )
- Wired for Greed: The Shocking Truth About America’s Electric Utilities – Michael Mabee January 18, 2020 ( Article )
- Secure The Grid Coalition – Vulnerability Overview (Videos & Resources)
- Military warns EMP attack could wipe out America, ‘democracy, world order’ – Washington Examiner November 30, 2018
- America and the EMP threat – American Thinker May 3, 2018
- Protecting and Preparing the Homeland Against Threats of Electromagnetic Pulse and Geomagnetic Disturbances – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) September 20, 2019
- (PDF Download) Electromagnetic Defense Task Force (EDTF) – 2018 Report Defense.gov
- (PDF Download) Empty Threat Or Serious Danger: Assessing North Korea’s Risk To The Homeland – House.gov October 12, 2017
- (PDF Download) U.S. Department of Energy Electromagnetic Pulse Resilience Action Plan – US Department of Energy
- (PDF Download) Electromagnetic Pulse: Effects on the U.S. Power Grid – The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) January 2010
- Understanding North Korea’s EMP Threat – HuffPost November 03, 2017
- North Korea’s Plenty Scary Without an Overhyped EMP Threat – Wired November 1, 2017
- Just an interesting tool: The NukeMap
- An interesting video: Nuclear Explosion Power Comparison
Care to share on Pinterest? Here’s a very cool image that I’m very proud of:
This Post Has 2 Comments
I’ve noticed some new EMP-weapons news stories lately. This time, it’s Russia that has an EMP weapon (too).
As you say, you can’t really prep for an EMP without prepping for just about every other disaster anyhow. Develop alternate means for doing things that don’t rely upon the grid. Such measures will be useful if you just lose power due to an ice storm, or hurricane, or whatever.
An EMP attack would be much longer-lasting than an ice storm, though. Prepping to be grid-independent for a week is good and prudent. Prepping to be grid-independent for a year or more poses some serious challenges.
Hi Mic, I saw an article about Russia building EMP technology as well. We live in scary times, that’s for sure. And we’re a generation that lived through the cold war.
I didn’t even get into the potential of hackers taking out parts of the grid.
It’s amazing that we’ve become so reliant on electricity that most people would die from its absence when it didn’t exist until 1882.