What is it?
Briefly, a single nuclear weapon exploded at high altitude above the United States will interact with the Earth’s atmosphere, ionosphere, and magnetic field to produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) radiating down to the Earth and additionally create electrical currents in the Earth. EMP effects are both direct and indirect. The former are due to electromagnetic “shocking” of electronics and stressing of electrical systems, and the latter arise from the damage that “shocked”—upset, damaged, and destroyed—electronics controls then inflict on the systems in which they are embedded. The indirect effects can be even more severe than the direct effects.
How likely is it?
Several potential adversaries have or can acquire the capability to attack the United States with a high-altitude nuclear weapon-generated electromagnetic pulse (EMP). A determined adversary can achieve an EMP attack capability without having a high level of sophistication.
EMP is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. EMP will cover the wide geographic region within line of sight to the nuclear weapon. It has the capability to produce significant damage to critical infrastructures and thus to the very fabric of US society, as well as to the ability of the United States and Western nations to project influence and military power.
The common element that can produce such an impact from EMP is primarily electronics, so pervasive in all aspects of our society and military, coupled through critical infrastructures. Our vulnerability is increasing daily as our use of and dependence on electronics continues to grow. The impact of EMP is asymmetric in relation to potential protagonists who are not as dependent on modern electronics.
What are the impacts?
Cars (all current cars are computer operated), computers, electronics, etc are all susceptible. If these go out our infrastructure breaks down. Transportation of food and other supplies stop. Electricity stops. One report stated that while a nuclear war was expected to have 10-20 million deaths (from the explosions and fallout), there could be 60-100 million more deaths within the following 6 months due to food and medicine shortages.
The Congressional EMP Commission estimated that, given current U.S. unpreparedness, one year after an EMP attack, about two-thirds of the U.S. population, 200 million people, would have perished from starvation, disease, or societal collapse.
An event like an EMP blast is a non trivial thing to prepare for. Large sections of the country will be affected and it could be many months before help can arrive. With this in mind required items to include are:
- Food: unlike short term disasters you need to prepare enough food to survive for months. It could easily be 6 – 12 months before thing start to get back to normal. What will you eat during this time?
- Water: access to clean water is crucial for your health. There is no way to store enough of it directly, how will you find water and make it drinkable?
- First aid: you will need to handle first aid emergencies for an extended period of time. Do you have enough knowledge and supplies for this?
- Protection: those around you are civilized at the moment, but what if they are dying? How will they act then?
- Community: this is not something you can go through alone. You need to get your friends and neighbors on board. If you prepare a year of food and your neighbors do nothing, what will you do when they ask you for help?
- Power: just because the world will be without power does not mean you have to. Prepare solar power fodr your needs and then protect your electronics in a faraday cage. A faraday cage protects the electronics inside from the effects of an EMP blast.
News and information:
- How to build a faraday cage. A faraday cage is a metal box that protects electronics stored inside from the effects of an EMP blast.
- Executive report on the EMP threat facing America in 2004, report made to Congress.
- Threat to national infrastructure from an EMP attack against the United States.
- Current terrorism threat level maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.
- EMP Terrorism page with details about effects and how to prepare.