Perhaps the biggest TEOTWAWKI threat out there is an EMP. While there are those who scoff at the possibility of such an attack against the United States; both North Korea and Iran have publicly declared their intent to attack us in this way.
Russia is being aggressive against their neighbors in Eastern Europe and China is building up their nuclear arsenal. Everyone knows that an EMP is a much more efficient use of nuclear arms than blowing up cities is, just like they know that we are woefully unprepared to defend against such an attack.
Without spending a lot of time getting into the science behind an EMP, there are two reasons why it is such a major threat.
The first is that the E1 and E2 pulses overload fragile electronic circuits, frying the components. This happens the most where there are wires attached to those devices, as the wires can act as antennas, drawing in the electrical energy of the pulses.
The second is that the E3 pulse creates a massive surge in our power lines, which is likely to overload electrical substations and transformers, melting them down. It will also attack electronic devices that are connected to home and office electrical outlets, frying the power supply section of those devices.
Nevertheless, while we tend to think that an EMP will wipe out all of our electronics, a surprising number of them will survive.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they will be useful, as there will be a severe lack of electrical power to power those things, as well as the equipment they need to connect to. What good is a working cell phone, if there isn’t a cell phone network?
Of course, there is a certain amount of guesswork associated with trying to decide what electronics will survive and what won’t.
There are a wide range of factors, including the physical location of the device, whether the building it is in can offer any protection, the strength of the EMP, how the Earth’s magnetic field affects the electronic pulses and whether the device is connected to anything by wires.
But we can make some fairly decent guesses, based on what we do know.
Surprisingly, one of the most useful things that will survive an EMP is solar panels. That seems a bit hard to believe, considering that those panels are exposed directly to the full-force of the EMP.
But while they will take the hit and some damage, solar panels should retain about 90% of their ability to produce electricity. As most systems, are designed with about a 45% safety factor, they will still produce ample electricity the majority of the day.
About the only time it will really make a difference is at dawn and dusk, when the panels’ output will drop below usable levels.
Considering that the electrical power we receive from those solar panels may very well be the only electrical power available after an EMP, they are clearly an important part of EMP survival.
But we need more than one or two panels; the more panels we have, the more we’ll be able to do.
There’s a good chance that our cell phones will survive the EMP, although the cell phone system itself will not.
Cell phones are small enough that they will not absorb enough of the EMP to be destroyed, especially if it is not connected for charging.
The cell phone towers, with their re-transmitters will most likely be fried, so the phones themselves won’t be able to be used to communicate with others.
But anything that is stored locally on the phone itself will still be available and might be useful.
There are a number of survival uses for a cell phone, many of which involve apps that are stored on the phone or data that you can store there. Turning your phone into a survival tool is a worthwhile project, even if you never do have to deal with an EMP.
Considering that solar panels will work in a post-EMP world, you’ll be able to recharge your cell phone and use whatever you have stored there.
Don’t plan on using one of those small, handheld chargers though, at least not if you’re going to try and use your cell phone every day.
The phone will consume more electricity than those can produce. So you’ll need a larger one.
As with cell phones, many other handheld electronics will still probably survive the EMP and for the same reason, their size.
About the only way that they could be damaged by the EMP is if there are wires attached to them, such as a charger.
Those wires could act as an antenna, gathering in enough of the EMP to damage the delicate electronics inside.
On the other hand, chargers for these devices are likely to get fried if they are plugged into wall outlets, even if the device isn’t connected for charging. So it is a good idea to have spare chargers and cables on-hand, as part of your survival preps.
Flashlights and Portable Lighting
Flashlights and other portable lighting devices are likely to survive; especially those which have aluminum cases, like most tactical flashlights.
While the LEDs that produce the light are sensitive enough to be damaged, they are not connected to anything that can absorb the EMP and transmit it to them.
Besides that, the aluminum case, at least in the case of tactical flashlights, makes a perfect Faraday Cage, protecting the LED inside.
Spare batteries are unlikely to be affected by the EMP either, as they are single units that are unlike to absorb much in the way of electronic radiation, so they will survive.
With battery manufacturers now claiming that the alkaline batteries they are making will last for 10 years in storage, there’s good reason to stock up on them.
Another big surprise item that will probably survive is a lot of old computers.
I’m not talking about the computers we use every day; but rather the old ones that we used before, which are either stored in our office closets or our basements.
Since they are not in use, they are not connected to a bunch of wires to act as antennas for the EMP. Many also have metal cases, which will work as a Faraday Cage.
There’s also a pretty good chance that laptop computers which are not actually in use and not connected to power at the time of the EMP will survive, even though they don’t have metal cases. But that’s not as sure as the old ones, stored away.
Of course, the internet won’t be available, as that depends on the entire communications network, meaning lots of wires.
So like our cell phones, you’re going to have to depend on just what you have stored locally on the computer. Still, a computer is useful for a lot of things, even without the internet.
One thing that you should do, as part of your EMP preparation, is to download survival books and other references onto your computer.
Make backups of them on either CD or thumb drives, just in case you need to use them on some other device. That way, you’ll have those references at a time when you will really need them.
There is a lot of controversy over whether cars will survive an EMP or not. The general consensus is that they’ll all die; but that’s not necessarily true.
During the testing that was done by the EMP Commission, no cars were destroyed. A few stalled, but all of those but one restarted.
To be fair, I need to state that the EMP Commission’s testing was non-destructive testing. In other words, they stopped increasing the intensity of the EMP the cars were exposed to, once the cars stalled.
Their funding did not allow for destructive testing. On the other hand, the level that they stopped testing at is supposedly more than our cars would be exposed to from a high-altitude EMP.
The vulnerability of cars and trucks is the windshield. If sensitive electronics are located under the dashboard and the car’s windshield is pointed in the direction of the EMP, it can destroy them.
But if the vehicle is pointing in the opposite direction, those electronics should be protected. Most cars and trucks are made largely of metal, making them function as Faraday Cages. However, plastic body panels offer no protection.
Even if our cars survive, that might not make any difference, as the available supplies of gasoline will quickly be gone. Local gas stations don’t have equipment for pumping the gas out of underground tanks manually. While I’m sure some people will improvise, that won’t last long.
Neither will the gasoline stored in tank farms, which will probably be confiscated by the government anyway. So you and I are going to be limited to whatever gas we have stockpiled and/or can get our hands on.
Stockpiling gasoline is difficult, as the hydrocarbons evaporate off quickly. By and large, you can’t store gasoline for more than six months; a year if you add a life-extender to it.
Storing in metal cans is somewhat better than plastic ones, extending that life. But the best thing we can do is to rotate our fuel supply, using the old fuel and replacing it with new every six months.
Most basic appliances are hearty enough to survive an EMP, especially older ones.
Of course, I’m not talking about the $4,000 refrigerator with a computer that monitors your whole house in the door; I’m talking about the $1,000 model that just keeps your food cold. The same can be said for any other appliance.
The basic operating parts of any appliances consist of motors, many of which are robust enough to survive the EMP. The problem comes when we have delicate electronics in the controls
. So if you want to make sure that you have appliances that survive an EMP, keep the old ones around and fix them when they break; don’t buy the new ones.
Of course, all of those appliances are heavy energy users, so you’re going to have to be extremely careful about their use in a post-EMP world, where you’re powering all of your electronics with what you can get from your solar panels.
You might only be able to run the washing machine once every week to 10 days, so make the most of it.
Warehouses Full of Electronic Devices
Finally, the real treasure is going to be all the electronics stored in warehouses and big box stores, all across the country.
Most warehouses and stores are metal buildings, making them natural Faraday Cages. Since the products inside will be packed in boxes, the boxes act as insulation, ensuring that the contents are not in direct contact with the cage itself.
So those electronics should survive the EMP unscathed.
The job of rebuilding after an EMP will depend greatly on what we can find in those warehouses.
With the grid severely damaged, unable to be brought back online for a decade or more, it will depend on local neighborhoods and communities to find ways of producing electricity locally.
Once they do that, which may actually mean melting down copper and drawing wire to make generators, they will be able to take a look in those warehouses and find what is useful. That’s where rebuilding will begin.
While most people expect airplanes to fall out of the sky after the EMP, that probably won’t happen.
Airplanes, regardless of the size, are generally made with an aluminum skin, once again forming a nearly perfect Faraday Cage; even better than cars, as the windshield is smaller.
Airplanes are struck by lightning fairly regularly, without effect. That’s because the airplane is not grounded. So any electricity that hits it merely runs across the skin of the airplane and continues on to ground.
The airplane itself doesn’t attract electricity, unless it is sitting on the ground and has some metal cable or piece of metal (like a mobile stairway) connecting it electrically to the ground.
The big problem for most commercial airplanes will be the lack of ground reference.
The ADF systems they depend on will be offline, as well as the entire network of air traffic controllers, weather radar and even the runway lights they depend on to find their way to a safe landing.
Pilots will have to rely on dead-reckoning navigation and the mach-1 eyeball to find their way safely back to the ground.
While the fact that airplanes are unlikely to fall out of the sky is good news, there will be a lot of people who get off those planes who are far from home, without the necessary resources to survive.
All flights will be grounded, except perhaps those of private planes. But those will quickly become grounded by the lack of available fuel.
People who are stranded in other cities will either have to make the best of it or try to walk back home. Neither of those will be a good option.
Those with cash might be able to buy gear and supplies for the first day or two; but after that, it’s going to be all based on their wit and knowledge.