Can an EMP Affect Humans

Invisible, instantaneous and without warning. The idea that death could be lurking and you might never see it coming is awful. We have enough to be concerned about without wondering if some other country or even our own sun might be gearing up to take us out like cutting a puppet’s strings. EMPs involve electricity, so surely they can zap us where we stand, or can they? I had to do some deep searching to find out if it was even possible.

Can an EMP Affect Humans? If you’re wondering whether an EMP could shut you down like a light switch, the good news is that under any normal circumstances it should not affect you. While it might be possible to take some damage from an EMP, the level of power involved is at least double anything you would expect from a nuclear EMP event and you’d probably recover in a few hours. If you’re holding a large metallic object it’s also possible to suffer a lightning-like effect from the surge. Electricity can mess with a human but EMPs typically pass to quickly to do damage, like touching a hot surface too briefly to get burnt. 

EMP VS. EMD

Zap! We’ve all felt it, static discharge. Most of us have even been electrocuted. Additionally, you may have been tasered at some point. Hopefully, this was during a class or demonstration, but we’re not here to judge or pry. Electric shocks are alarming and they can be debilitating.

It’s only natural that when you read ‘electromagnetic pulse,’ you make the connection between a big countrywide, circuit frying, apocalypse, and a smaller more personal experience. Relating things is logical. Fortunately, things aren’t always as they seem.

EMD Weapons

Tasers and stun guns are the most famous EMDs. Electro-Muscular Disruption is designed to debilitate a human body. When you get hit with this kind of trauma it stops your muscle control. It can freeze you, make you thrash like a fish out of water, or worse. Some people lose bladder control, or their hearts can be affected by the jolt.

Though they’re intended as a non-lethal solution, too much electricity coursing through the body can certainly cause damage. Shock collars, like the ones some folks use on their pets, can cause burns. Electric fences will fry small creatures like squirrels and birds. At a higher voltage, they’ll kill a person too. We won’t go into the legality of electric fences, that’s a whole different topic (home protection).

EMP Weapons & Natural Events

A nuclear EMP strike would put your body through a spike measuring 100 kV/m. According to neuroscientists, that’s tolerable. It wouldn’t harm you. Though, to be fair, 100 kV/m is the maximum suggested for workers to be exposed to.

Finding hard science on hitting people with EMPs is more than a little difficult. Some answers oppose each other, so take the answers here with a grain of salt. Never the less, most of the reasonably scientific data suggests that it shouldn’t hurt people.

During the Carrington Event in 1859, a natural CMP hit the earth and was recorded by scientists in England. No evidence exists of any damage to people at that time. It did affect the telegraph system. If something like this were to happen today it would most certainly wreak havoc on things. Happily, people are not ‘things,’ our lack of conductive wires is a saving grace in this case. If you’re a cyborg then perhaps you have reason to worry.

EMP Waves

There are three kinds of waves from manmade EMP devices. Each wave has a different effect and could be part of an EMP attack. Our sun is only known to produce the third type, though it’s possible other stars might produce the first type. The likelihood of being hit by an EM wave from a distant star is almost nil. Meanwhile the chances of being hit (again) by our own sun are almost certain.

EM1

This pulse is the fastest. Consequently, it is the most dangerous to electronics since a surge protector cannot operate in the microsecond it takes for this to hit and pass. The opposite is true of humans. Because we, fortunately, don’t operate the same as machines, this pulse passes through us too fast to be noticed. It should have no effect on you whatsoever.

EM2

Ths pulse most closely resembles a lightning strike. It moves slower and is not as difficult to protect devices and systems against. Unhappily, the protections against this sort of wave require the type of equipment that is usually destroyed by the EM1. Essentially, it is the combination of effects from an EMP that creates the problem. Alone, each part would be less of a challenge.

EM3

The slow followup pulse is the EM3. Because of the speed, it can take a long time to disburse. Hours, perhaps days before this dissipates or is spent. EM3s produced by coronal mass ejections from Sol (our star) have narrowly missed us recently. These are the part that interacts with the ionosphere causing the extended electromagnetic storm.

To help alleviate this threat, there is technology available that will protect your home or vehicle against any one of EMP waves mentioned above. Click Here to get more detail about the EMPShield that has been tested and approved by the DoD and US Military.

Electronics We Rely Upon

It goes without saying that whenever we are dependent on something we have a weakness. Damage to anything we need can certainly affect us. As a result, indirect damage is a certainty. The bad news might be that you’ll live to see the world collapse. Of course, this is why we prepare for emergencies. Knowing what you’ll face is the first step to doing something about it.

Electronics and Metal Inside People

No one wants to hear it, but pacemakers or even hearing aids might be at risk in an EMP event. The unfortunate reality is that as electronic devices, they may be affected. If you have a tens unit in your spine for pain control you may also be at risk. When you integrate electronics into your body the risks extend beyond rejection and infection.

What about pins in your hips, or those with a plate in their head? Though it’s not very likely, you might need to be concerned about the EM2 lightning effect. There’s just not enough data to corroborate or refute either way. Since we don’t know, try not to lose sleep over it. Even people with conductive metal piercings in their bodies may have the same concern. Without more study, there’s no telling. It’s not exactly scientifically sound or humane to pierce people and then shoot them with EMPs to find out.

Wearable Devices

Some small devices short out in EMP fields, like cellular phones. Meanwhile, others seem less affected. A Gameboy, for example, appears to just undergo a hard reset. What does that mean for wearable devices? CPAPs, headsets, fitness trackers and anklets used for monitoring people under house arrest could all be affected. Like internal machinery, none of these things have been tested. The effects could be minor or very serious. You want to have a backup or serious EMP shield if your devices are life-saving like the CPAP

Electronics We Ride Inside

Electronics power airplanes, trains, some boats and most modern cars and trucks at least in part. Would an EMP drop every plane from the sky and kill all the cars in place? Well, not exactly. Solid state electronics, essentially the more complex modern stuff, would be affected. Planes can still glide and an EMP doesn’t change physics so anything in motion would need breaks or friction to slow it down.

Older vehicles, any coal trains, sailboats and those vehicles equipped with EMP shielding will survive. A great example is Airforce One. The president is not falling out of the sky. At least, not because of electromagnetic problems. So, while there’s some concern, things would not all come crashing to a halt simultaneously and plenty of vehicles would still run.

Electronic Controls For Essential Devices

Your heater, air conditioner, and power to your house are probably going out. Your phones are pretty likely to stop working, whether landline or cellular. Water and gas will not flow. Anything run by a complicated circuit or much wire is going kaput. While your car might run, you won’t be able to get gas, and that old washing machine you keep meaning to replace is the same. A basic motor is fine, but without power, it’s not going to work.

The Grid

This is a bit trickier. Utilities will probably cease functioning. Internet, cell towers, radio towers, and plenty of essential services would go down. Maybe not all of them however. The EMP Commission has done fairly extensive studies on the topic. There are those who don’t believe it would be a serious issue because of “existing resiliency built into the grid,” but this is a theory that hasn’t exactly been tested fully for obvious reasons.

Protecting Yourself & Your Stuff

Don’t let the complexity of dealing with electrical grid disruptions get you down. It hasn’t happened yet and that means you still have time to do something about it. Sure, electromagnetics isn’t the sort of thing everyone just ‘gets’ but any threat can be acted on. You can get ahead of the issue and make sure you, your loved ones, and all your stuff survive.

Protective Clothing

You could make a tinfoil faraday cage hat. However, most of us prefer to look a little less insane on a daily basis. There is some evidence that aluminum foil can protect your brain from outside electrical signals. I understand completely that this is not what you expected to hear, however, it’s true. Perhaps a thin layer of foil inside a normal hat isn’t the worst idea in the universe after all. Maybe use more than one sheet… and try not to make it obvious. You can also look into EMF shielded clothing, but its effectiveness is still a subject of some debate.

Home is Where the Prep is

Since the more likely scenario is that you need to protect your equipment, generator, car, things inside your house, you may want to strongly consider using something bigger. Protect your entire home with a military and DOD tested and approved unit called EMPShield.

You can attach various EMPShield models to your circuit breaker box, RV, generator, or even automobile. This unit will protect you against EM1, EM2, and EM3 event. Then at least when you’re inside you can hang up your hat. You can even get what you need to shield a modern car. Technology is wonderful stuff if you apply it properly. To have a peace of mind, Click Here

Final Thoughts

Will an EMP effect you? You bet it will, the only question is how. Let’s say the grid manages to bounce back. That’s fairly optimistic, but we’ll run with it for the moment. So, the grid is fine and your body is fine. What about all the unshielded solid-state electronics everywhere else? Realistically, if only a small percent of the devices in question were destroyed, you’re still looking at a billion dollars in damage in a microsecond. I’d say, conservatively, any EMP is bad news.

Additional Questions

Can you feel an EMP? No. You shouldn’t be able to feel, smell or taste any part of an EMP. There are people who are intensely sensitive to electromagnetic fields, but there’s no evidence at this time to show whether these special individuals would have any extra ability to ‘tell’ if an EMP passed through them. 

Will tinfoil protect against an EMP? Sort of. First, “tin” foil is actually aluminum most of the time. Second, it’s at least partially helpful. You can create a sort of Faraday cage with foil, but it’s imperfect. Third, any conductive metallic mesh will help you build a Faraday cage. Exactly how effective your faraday cage is, mostly depends on the design. A well built Faraday cage should completely block an EMP. 

Can I buy an EMP jammer? This is an odd question because it can have two meanings. If you’re asking if you can buy a product that uses EMPs to jam or stop other devices from working then the answer is yes. Not only can you buy one, but you can also build them as well. It’s not legal to use them on any form of telecommunications, so a cell phone jammer is illegal. If you want a portable device that stops an EMP from happening, you are out of luck. You can get a surge protector rated for EMP protection for your home and vehicles from EMP Shield. They’re the world’s first entire home EMP protection system.