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How To Reduce Your Risk From An EMP

power outage

Astronomers everywhere have been warning about the severe rise in solar flares that is expected for 2013. Even NASA has issued warnings for this, concerned that they could cause major disruptions on a worldwide basis. Part of the problem is that we’re really not sure what kinds of effects the solar flares are going to cause or how serious those effects will be.

It’s a known fact that all solar flares cause some sort of radiation. Often, this is broadband radiation, which hits our atmosphere and causes problems with radio reception. Back in the 1970s, this was severe enough to put an end to the CB radio craze, essentially eliminating all but the shortest-range communications on the frequencies that CB radios use. In addition, it affected commercial radio and television transmissions, sometimes severe enough to block out reception in outlying areas.

However, the bout of solar flares that happened in the 1970s is nothing like what’s expected this year. The solar storm of 2013 should be a couple of orders of magnitude greater than that of the 1970s. So the radiation which we receive will be much more severe as well.

The biggest risk that scientists are concerned about is that of electromagnetic pulse (EMP). This is the same sort of radiation that occurs when a nuclear bomb is exploded above the atmosphere. Since the lack of an atmosphere prevents the energy from going out as a physical shock wave, it goes out as electromagnetic energy. Since the sun (or any star) is essentially the same as a sustained nuclear explosion or hydrogen bomb, it produces large quantities of electromagnetic energy as well, especially during times of solar flares.

The Problem of an EMP Hit

If a massive EMP pulse from the sun hits the earth, the results could be disastrous. Other than military electronics, very few pieces of electronic equipment are designed with the necessary protection to prevent EMP damage. So, there’s a strong possibility that a large portion of the commercial and consumer electronics that we depend on for our day-to-day lives would be out of commission.

That may not sound all that serious, but you have to realize that the entire infrastructure that we depend upon is controlled by electronics, specifically computers. A severe EMP hit could knock all of that out of commission. Were that to happen, our lifestyle would be set back 100 years or more.

Harness the power of the sun when the power goes out…

The greatest risk that we face from an EMP hit is the loss of the electrical grid. This is already the most sensitive portion of our infrastructure, with much of it being outdated and in need of repair. Because of that, it’s highly susceptible to EMP.

Imagine living in a world without running water, city sewer service, all of the home electronics that we all depend upon, stores, gas pumps, heating and air conditioning, refrigeration and much more. That’s the world we are likely to find when and if this electromagnetic pulse hits.

An EMP attack is probably one of the worst disaster situations possible to prepare for, simply because of how much we depend upon will disappear in a moment. All of the preparations that preppers typically do will be needed. People will have to do everything for themselves, from filtering their own water to growing their own food. Until the electrical grid can be rebuilt, everyone will have to be independent to survive.

Protecting Yourself from EMP

The common way of protecting yourself from the results of EMP is to use a Faraday cage. This is based upon two things: the fact that metals are great conductors of electricity and that electromagnetic waves are attracted to metal. When they encounter it, they are stopped by that metal. Even a piece of metal as thin as aluminum foil is enough to block electromagnetic energy.

Placing electronics in a Faraday cage is an almost foolproof way of protecting them from the devastation of EMP. However, the Faraday cage must be constructed properly. First of all, the cage must totally surround the electronic device. If there are any gaps, then it may be possible for the electromagnetic radiation to enter. Secondly, the electronic devices inside must be fully insulated from any physical or electrical contact with the faraday cage itself. This is accomplished by insulating the cage with a non-conductive material.

If you wanted to make your own Faraday cage, it would be extremely easy. All you need is an enclosed metal container, such as a portable metal file box or a metal trash can. You can line the container with any of a number of materials, but one that works extremely well is sheets of Styrofoam. You can buy this in any building materials center, as home insulation. Merely cut up the sheets and glue the pieces in place.

That will take care of small electronics, but it won’t help you much with large electronics or electronic devices that you use regularly. You can protect those to some extent by a combination of using surge protectors and grounding them.

Our electrical grid is going to act like a huge antenna for that electromagnetic radiation, capturing it. That will cause a huge electrical spike. In fact, that spike is probably what will ruin most home electronics, rather than the EMP itself. If you put surge protectors on everything, you can stop most of that. The surge protectors themselves may not survive, but they will protect the equipment connected to them.

The earth itself is the best electrical ground there is. Your home electrical grid is probably grounded to earth. Electrical code requires that the circuit breaker box by grounded. This is usually accomplished through a copper-plated rod, installed through the foundation, right below the electrical box (it’s usually hidden in the wall). However, that may not be enough protection. If you have a room with a lot of electronics in it, such as a home office, adding an additional ground would be advisable.

Not all of our home electronics is connected to electrical power. All modern cars have more computer power in them than the old time mainframes. Yet, almost by definition, the rubber tires on a car insulate it from the ground. That can be dangerous for the electronics.

Driving a ground rod into the ground next to where you park your car provides you with a simple way of grounding your car at home. Simply use a jumper cable, connecting it to any accessible part of the frame (bumper supports are accessible and might work) to the ground rod. Then, if an EMP strikes, it will be grounded, protecting the vehicle’s electronics.

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57 comments

  1. For those of you that have an auxiliary generator, be sure it is grounded! Also, conduct an itemized list of all appliances, heaters/furnaces, air conditioners, and anything that’s connected electrically, with the ‘start-up’ power ratings, and the ‘running’ rating to determine the size of generator needed to run essential items!
    Typically, items that have a motor, such as a refrigerator and HVAC system, will require considerably more power current to start up than while running. Best practice, when preparing to put a generator on-line, turn off ALL circuit breakers before turning on the auxiliary power generator, than only turn on one breaker at a time that controls those high start up appliances before turning on others, such as lights and outlet receptacles. If your generator is rated properly for ‘surge’ use, that will avoid overloading it causing its circuit breaker to trip off.

    • Just be sure you do not back feed the electrical grid. One way to prevent that is to trip the main breaker in your electrical panel. Another way is to use an AB switch; one side connects to the grid and the other connects to your generator. The AB switch can have an center OFF position so that your loads are not connected to either source of power. You can connect specific loads directly to your generator with dedicated line cords; proper AWG to fit the load.

  2. Another good Faraday cage is an old Microwave oven.Wrap your electronic item in plastic bag ,then in aluminum foil,another layer of plastic, then put in an old microwave oven…Make sure to either CUT the POWER CORD or use it to ground the oven with.Do not just leave it hanging on the oven,the EMP charge will flow through the cord into the oven..To protect your cars.Bolt a ”static strip” to your car or truck,they will hang down and should discharge any EMP or static electricity that might envelope your vehicle.STATIC STRIPS can be bought or ordered from any large Auto Parts store..A static strap is what you see under and hanging from a fuel truck as it unloads fuel,its to prevent any static electricity from igniting fuel by discharging the juice into the ground,it will do the same for a solor or EMP event..Some people just hang a chain off their tow hitch at night as they say it will also discharge a charge into the ground,just remember to remove it before starting your car and leaving…Buy an old car ortruck with the OLD POINTS in it,it will crank up and run after a EMP attack from the sun or a nuke.Aluminum windo screen will work as a Faraday cage,just make sure the metal does not touch the protected electronic item in storagr.I’ve bought an extra brain for my old for truck and put it in a micro wave oven for protection.

    • What are Old Points?
      How do I know if my vehicle is EMP ready? I’m looking for an older one but don’t know what to look for.
      Also you mentioned you were storing an extra ‘brain’ in your microwave. What is the ‘brain’?

      Will simple lawn mowers work?
      How about old motorcycles?

      Thanks

  3. Can you make me one of these?

    • Cost wise it wouldn’t be feasible for me to build you one, because depending on the size and labor and shipping it would take to get it to you it might be expensive or more than you’d want to pay.I’m assuming your referring to a Faraday cage? If you know a carpenter call hijm locally.I live in East Texas..Build a wooden frame box and line it with aluminum foil,stapeling the screem to the wooden parts of the box.iT doesn’t have to be a solid box just a wooden frame but the aluminum screen has to cover all around the frame including the bottom.Just hinge a door and latch,it might be wise to ground it just in case..Any electronics you put in the cage will have to be BACKUP electronics parts because what EMP can’t reach your electronics ,signals can’t get out either.What I’m saying is none of the electronics in the cage can be up and plugged into a power supply because the signals cannot leave the cage as I understand it..I’d buy a weather band radioes,a good old CB radio older the better> for hopefully calling for help after the grid goes down…I have a 80watt solor panels that I need to build a Faraday cage for,its still in the box for future back up power for a 12volt bank of battries..If I don’t protect it. and a EMP hits it will destroy any of the charging electronics if they not protected.Research on a google or other search engine>”HOW TO BUILD A FARADAY CAGE youtube” and you’ll find all kinds of help and ideas.Ben

      • Hi Ben.
        I also live in East Texas. I have a carport with a metal roof and 2 metal walls. Do you think it would be feasible to enclose the rest of it with metal screen and have an effective “faraday garage”?
        Cheryl

        • Cheryl if you could tie a wire mesh screen around your home that might offer protection but I could not gurantee it,simply dioesn’t seem to work in such a large structure..It might be best to just buy back up electronics and build a Faraday cage around them.Putting small electronics in a steel trash can should protect them if the can is grounded in my opinion.Using an old micro wave oven will offer protection for electronics if you cut off the power cord and wrap the items in aluminum foil then plastic to prevent moisture from entering..I have a back up brain for my old ford truck in foil in a micro wave oven.I also have a short wave radio’s protected that way also..Aluminum screen can be purchased at any good lumber supply or hardware store.Simply wrap your transistorized items in wire and staple the edges together and put in a Faraday cage.Search Faraday cages on youtube and several video’s will come up.Ben

      • infact thats the way to test if your faraday cage is sound…..after its finished go inside close it up and turn on a radio….if you can get a signal then you have an opening somewhere…if not shes locked up tight.

  4. I run across conflicting answers on Solar Panel EMP survival. I would not count on them surviving. I would put spare Charge Controller and Inverter in a Faraday Cage along with a couple small panels to recharge batteries of all sizes. I would also add Gas Discharge Tube to the Solar Array in an attempt to prevent damage.
    There is no sense in investing thousands of $ only to keep the panels buried for after an event that might not occur.

  5. There is a difference between an EMP which is the result of a nuclear explosion in the earths upper atmosphere and a solar flare. A solar flare can cause damage to devices connected to power lines or long lengths of cable(hundreds of feet). An EMP causes damage to all electronics due to the high voltage that falls to earth like an umbrella from the point of explosion. The very short but very high voltage is was destroys electronics. The solar flare lasts for seconds to tens of seconds while the EMP lasts for les than a second. A faraday cage helps with the EMP but an EMP is not caused by a solar flare.

    • Right. And grounding a Faraday cage incorrectly will render it useless in a nuclear EMP. Hopefully these guys are making absolutely certain no part of the ground is above ground or they just turned the cage into a ridiculous antenna. Faraday cages never have to be grounded. And earth grounding a car is not smart either. Instead of replacing a solenoid or two it’ll melt all the electronics to slag.

      The only truly safe Faraday cage is a full ungrounded enclosure with no transmission lines or breaks.

      In other words it’s for spare parts and electronics you don’t need until you need them. Things like battery operated radios without the batteries installed, spare parts for off grid power generation like controllers and inverters, spare car parts if you have a car that’s post 1985. Faraday will hold backup. Everything 3lse will be gone unless you know how to replace and fix electronics. At which point you’ll be like me and also have a backup oscilloscope in the cage.

  6. so would a 50 cal ammo can lined w/ styrofoam holding ign. coils etc for an 80’s vintage vehicle serve as a mobile faraday cage??

    • yes, granted that there isn’t any corrosion where the lid and box are joined and that there are not any gaps. Think of the gaps in the viewing window of your microwave as the largest possible gap for an effective faraday cage.

  7. Hey thanks for the great video on your EMP trash can faraday cage. I assume it’s not entirely necessary to attach a copper grounding wire to the can for it to be adequately grounded in the event of an EMP strike? Thanks! Jennie

    • Just my take on this grounding of a Faraday cage is if its not grounded the charge will look for the shortest rout to get grounded and if the Faraday cage has the least bit of opening where the charge could enter and destroy your electronic devices it will.I’d ground it so the charge safely enters the ground but not inside your cage.You are right its not a must but I would advise it to be on the safe side..

      • Thanks, Ben, for your input. That’s helpful.

        • Your welcome Jennie.Our prepper group let me give a EMP class one day on this very subject..Grounding always sends any static or EMP charge to the ground because it goes to the least resistenice..An old micro wave oven makes a good Faraday cage for your small spare electronics such as a weather band radio or another brain for your car or truck.Just cut off the power cord so the EMP charge does not enter the oven..Drill a small hole in the side bottom of the oven and put a grounding wire and ground it if possible.Ben

          • I live in longview area I see you are in Texas am I close enough to you that I could join your prepper group?? I am as well but would love to be around like minded and offer and learn more skills

  8. The pad is known as “non-skid”. that is what to ask for when you go shopping for it.

  9. My land based phone line puts out 48-50 volts dc current.I bought a 48 volt dc to12 volt dc inverter from http://www.powerstream.com for about 35 dollars 3 years ago..If an EMP or solar flare shuts down the power grid,I’m hoping my phone companies back up generators are HARDENED OR PROTECTED against an EMP event,if they are I’ll be able to use the power from my land based phone line with my inverter to charge up a bank of 12 volt batteries and then put an 3,ooo watt CONVERTER that I have thats now protected in a faraday cage to kick up the voltage on the bank of 12 volt batteries to 110 volt AC current to possibility run a refrigerator or freezer depending on the wattage they use.Any
    electricians out there that can help me with this idea?./..I think a voltage regulatoir will be needed to shut down the charging rate once the bank of 12 volt batteries are fully charged…Ben

    • ben, Your idea has only one problem, the POTS “plain old telephone service”, landline can only produce up to about 500 Milli-amps, one half amp. the resistance in your 12 volt bank is high enough that this will not even maintain a charge. sorry to break it to ya. the other factor is you must input 13.5 volts to charge a lead acid battery. Might i suggest buying a small to medium solar panel. cheers

  10. At almost any builders supply, there is very inexpensive insulating material that is a 4×8 sheet of hard foam with a layer of aluminum foil on one side. I’ve been wondering about using it to build Faraday cages. They sell the foil tape as well. From this article, it sounds like a good ground protects as well… didn’t know that. My worry is being a long way from home (I travel in my business) and my vehicle being disabled… Instead of a bug out bag, I keep a “get back pack” in it if I’m more than an hour from home…

    • Bonnie, I was actually pondering a modified trash can that would be aesthetically pleasing in my home. What came to my mind was something like a wooden storage bench that looks nice on the outside, but then on the inside I could line it with your suggestion of the aluminum foil lined foam, perhaps ground it somehow and then (yes, call me either prepared or paranoid) I could store my beloved MacBook Air when not in use, plus a radio and perhaps some batteries in this “faraday cage”.

  11. I simply have a question: I live in a metal frame house, good or bad?

    • Just because you have a metal frame house won’t protect your electronics from a EMP attack in my opinion because of the gap’s in the frame.It should protect your house from lightening strikes ”IF”the steel frame is grounded.I’d ground the metal in the concrete slab if possible. That way iflightening hits your home the lightening hopefuly will go the least resistence into the ground and not hit your TV and other electronics..Using SURGE PROTECTORS will help protect your power devices from power surgers if lightening strikes your home or near it…It has to say ”Surge Protector ”on THE PLUG IN STRIP.

      • Ben, we live in two old mobile homes joined by a wide hallway that both have the aluminum siding on them. They still have their original metal roofs on top but last year we had Perma-Roofs put on them – 3″ of foam insulation and then steel on top. Since we did the new roofs, our cell phone doesn’t want to work in the house very good anymore. Sometimes we have to go outside to use it. My radio is almost up against the glass of a window in order to get a signal. Are these signs that the metal on our trailers are cutting down on the signals/microwaves coming in? I’ve wondered what would happen if I put aluminum foil on the inside of the windows (I *do* do this in the summer on some windows just to reflect heat). Also, we have a new steel storm shelter that we are putting in the ground next to our trailers – would it be a good place to put some spare electronics? Maybe put them inside of a plastic bucket inside of the shelter in the ground? My husband is wanting to put foam insulation on the sides of the shelter down in the ground for some reason (to cut down on condensation inside??). Would this be a bad idea? I’m not crazy about it just because the foam has chemicals in it and it would be in the ground where they could leach into the ground water. We are also planning on building a wood shed over the shelter (so we can get in it without being out in the rain) – if we lined the inside of the shed with foil insulation (mylar bags?), would that also help to keep *whatever* is in the shelter below from getting hit? We want the wood instead of metal because the metal gets so hot in the summers. We are in southern Arkansas. We are also going to get surge protectors for stuff in the house. Thank you for any help you can give – and have enjoyed reading your comments. A lot of food for thought…

  12. Mylar bags make excellent Faraday cages!

  13. Just built my first attempt at a cage today. Its small, 9x9x9, the inside is completely press board, inside I have a small water pump, inverter, some flashlights and a couple cooling fans. Also a fresh Solenoid to replace the one in my van when shtf. the outside, is first lind all the way around in chicken wire, then again in aluminum roofing sheet metal. Grounded from the side to a stake that goes 3 feet in the dirt, and, the entire rig (except the ground and wire) are wrapped tightly in a mylar bag. I wanted to azdd a bit of extra protection, so i stacked a tire on top of it, the box fit perfectly inside. tire stacks 4 high, then topped with one with a rim in it, then threw a few other rims on top. Wrapped the whole Faraday tire stack in a plastic garbage bag to protect it from the rain but I dont think it was really needed in the first place. So based on this, anyone think this will be effective?

    • I’m not so sure about the chicken wire because of the one inch or 2 inch wire your using but I would think the small mesh aluminum wire would be better because of the small mesh.The rest sounds good.Ben

  14. What effect would an EMP have on solar panels?

    • Yes, I would like to know the answer to that, too. We don’t want to be putting a lot of money into a system if it could be fried soon. Our main concern is Iran…

  15. My concern is that we won’t know when an EMP is going to happen. what about a person with a pacemaker? What would happen to them? And someone with an insulin pump? If one were to get a solar powered refrigeration unit in a faraday cage, an extra pump, I think it would help but worried about my mom with a pacemaker.
    So, you’re saying a car can be protected from emp by static strips?? Grounding vehicles to the earth while not in use? I’m not a mechanic- how do I do this? A jumper cable hooked from what part of my car to what in the ground?

  16. Wow! This is all new to me, like something out of a science fiction movie. I’m going to go back and read all of this again.

  17. Guys, I would caution against jumping to too many conclusions about what will, and what won’t be affected by nuclear and CME EMPs. It is not as simple as “hot” and ground as in ordinary electrical devices. Two different major sources are the sun (CMEs) and a super-nuclear bomb – and they emit different types of EMPS – with different characteristics and therefore, differing protection requirements.

    I invite you to read a four-part piece on EMPs, you will find it informative. Here’s the link:
    http://peskytruth.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/forecast-millions-dead-within-a-year-part-1/

  18. It’s not recommended to have 2 ground rods unless they are right next to each other. They can actually build up potential between them and create and electrical current. It probably is a violation of the electrical codes for buildings in your area, wherever you are. Consult a licensed electrician before jumping into it. The United States government actually built an underground bunker lined with lead once and it generated so much current that it was unusable.

  19. I have a question.

    If you have a 1250 watt goal zero yeti solar generator with 4 solar panels at 30 watts each, would I have to worry about that also?

  20. Question: Could a walk-in cooler structure with aluminum walls, floor, ceiling and door serve as a Faraday Cage? And have the entire structure grounded to earth with an 8ft copper grounding rod?

    • I know this is a old tread, but I have the answer to this. Walk-in coolers are generally galvanized steel, not aluminum. It would work, but the panels the walls are usually made of don’t actually touch. There is a thin foam seal between them. So, the panels would need to be connected together or grounded individually. As for radiation leaking between the panels, I don’t know. Maybe one should trim up the seams.

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  35. So folks in stucco homes have a faraday cage around them except windows and doors. First if the earth takes on the charge, you have the earth in the cement, then the stocco screening underneath which would make a darn good faraday cage- just extend that to unprotected areas.

  36. I have an external surge protector on my home, where the power supply enters, at the meter. Is this sufficient in the event of a nuclear pulse? Also, I have an underground well-head for my water source. This contains the pump. Is it feasible to protect this, and if so, how? Thank you! I also have a full solar array, but am buying portable back-up,, which can be stored in a faraday cage, just in case.

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