Government publication shows practical ways you can prep for an EMP

Chances are you have seen a movie or book recently covering the topic of an EMP – an Electro-magnetic pulse from a faraway nuke that could cause outages and damage. While most of what you hear will either be dismissive of the possibility, or a horror story of years of electronic wasteland, the reality could be more in the middle and is something folks can prepare for, according to a US government publication linked in the documents section of the SHARES site.

The SHARES system is a HF long range ham radio service but there are several recommendations in the document that just about any civilian should be considering, not just radio maintainers and organizations:

Level 1, which is where most households could land, is where an outage would be okay for some period of time. The recommendations include:

  • Keep at least a week of food, water and supplies for yourself and your household
  • Turn off and unplug devices not in use
  • Use a good surge protector and have a spare.
  • Have extra equipment in a Faraday cage (A bag completely enclosed with “heavy duty” aluminum foil could work, and metal can or ammo box will not work unless it is metallically sealed. If you want to go this route search Digikey or another electronics retailer for “conductive gasket” material which is available in a variety of thicknesses.)
  • Backup power that is not connected to mains power
  • AM/FM/NOAA radios (If you have a FT-65 or other good ham radio you probably have a FM/NOAA listening radio too – learn to use it!)

At “Level 2” and “Level 3”, one could additionally have:

  • 30 days of food, water and critical supplies.
  • 30 days emp-proof power and necessities
  • EMP-shielded rooms and equipment
  • Satellite phone or HF radio
  • Shielded-cables and Ferrites on them near equipment
  • UPS for uninterruptible power supply if you must finish what you are doing on the computer or equipment in use.

History and considerations

On page 15 and on it gives some interesting history of Nuclear EMPs – in 1962 the High Altitude test caused an EMP which caused:

  • Disrupted telephone service in the islands due to one wireless link fried
  • Fuses blown on a few hundred street lights
  • Some car ignition systems damaged and burglar systems malfunctioning (perhaps due to unprotected outside sensor components?)
  • Many satellites damaged

Note what that says and what it doesn’t say – although there were many fuses blown and satellites damaged, not “all” were, and “some” car ignition systems were unusable due to ignition system damage. So much for the idea of getting and old car for a foolproof guaranteed backup-vehicle…? Although many cars still are made with a number of steel panels, steel hood, and might be fine in such a circumstance today. (But note the disclaimer, this “is not a formalized DHS position regarding EMP risks”).

Further on it details the 1950s-60s burst tests in near-ground nuclear tests, which showed damage to AC/DC adapters, FM radio towers, Cellular handsets, even fires due to overheated wires. In other words, things that are attached to antennas (aka long wire) could be at risk.

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