The Realities of an EMP Attack On This Country

EMP attackWhile I was in Utah on this last trip, I had a chance to attend the Utah Prepare Conference and Expo put on by Utah State University.  They held some great classes and one that I was able to attend was “The Realities, Response, and Recovery From EMP” taught by Jim Phillips.  His background includes being an Electronics Technician, Certified Nuclear Power Plant Operator, Standards Engineer, and Industrial Engineer.  He has done extensive studying of the problems of an EMP attack.

He feels strongly that we will suffer a devastating EMP attack within the next 15 years.  A nuclear explosion set off 30 miles about the center of the United States would take out about a dozen states.  One detonated 300 hundred miles about the center would take out all but Hawaii and Alaska.  This type of well-placed EMP attack could successfully destroy the entire power grid for the continental United States as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.  Because many of the larger transformers and other components are manufactured in China and other overseas locations, the grid would be down for years.

In addition, it would affect us in many other ways.  Food and medical supplies would immediately start to disappear.  The majority of vehicles manufactured since 1980 may fail to operate.  Some test conducted by the government-using car manufactured between 1980 and 2002, showed that many of them could be restarted.  The problem is that this was a relatively weak test and today’s cars have much more electronics.

Cars made before 1980 with points would probably run fine, but he suggested having a spare coil and condenser on hand, just in case.  Gasoline would be available from cars damaged by the EMP attack, but once this source ran out, there would be no more deliveries. With the power grid down and most vehicles not running, he said that conditions would be very much like in the book One Second After by William R Forstchen.  While this is a fictionalized version of an EMP attack, it does describe the aftereffects well.  You may want to take the time to read it.

Many small electronic devices including radios will fail if not protected in faraday cages.  Batteries should survive without any problems.

Regarding Faraday cages, he said that they need to be a complete enclosure with no opening.  Here is a list of items people try to use for cages.

  • Shipping containers will not work because of the wooden floors.
  • Metal sheds with grounding will not provide any protection.
  • Microwave ovens will not provide adequate protection, even though they will block radio waves. A nuclear device that has been optimized to produce EMP will generate waves a million times that of a radio transmission.
  • Trashcans may not be thick enough metal to be reliable.
  • Mylar bags will not work.
  • Military spec bags will work

After listening to him, I would suggest doubling all your faraday cages.  But don’t make the mistake of not making an effort to protect your electronics.  The nuclear device may not function as designed, or may go astray and miss its targeted area. The information that we are getting may be wrong, error on the side of safety. The sad thing is that the government knows what we need to do to protect ourselves from an EMP attack and does not provide us with the information.  I am sure our enemies know it, why can’t we?


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3 Responses to The Realities of an EMP Attack On This Country

  1. Ed Harris says:

    Searching for Jim’s paper online, it appears that it isn’t up yet, but as FYI presentations from past year’s expos are available for download at the link:

    And I expect if we check back in a few months we will be rewarded with the current crop from this year’s expo. In the meantime I’m loading all of these to a thumb drive for reference and recommend that everyone here do likewise.

  2. Ed Harris says:

    Frank Gaffney spoke on this subject at a conference in Washington, DC a year or so ago. He was a bit more optimistic about some cars perhaps working because of all the shielding that has to be used so that square-wave “noise” from the engine will not interfere with onboard computers and other electronics. Public safety vehicles which are equipped with 2-way radio, mobile data terminals, fleet management data systems and GPS navigation have additional shielding which is not present in vehicles intended for the civilian market. Vehicles included in the tests mentioned were Ford Crown Vics, Chevy Suburbans, Ford Explorers and Jeep Cherokees, as well as ambulances by AM General and GM.

    Gaffney did point out how easy it would be for the DPRK to deploy what looks like a harmless freighter somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, then open cargo doors and launch a missile over the central US. (Russia sold the North Koreans and Chinese ships with this capability.) Apparently, the US has no missile defense south of the Great Lakes in the lower 48.

  3. Ron says:

    A couple of things. EMP is not infinite. Distance and mass lesson the effects. The further it travels the weaker it gets. Solid mass will also absorb the rays. A car parked on the ground floor of a multistory reinforced concrete parking garage may very well be unaffected. In the air EMP travels a straight line and does not turn corners. A shipping container may provide adequate protection because the EMP is not going to enter the ground, make a u-turn, and come up thru the floor.

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