Can You Feel an EMP?


EMPs are an imminent threat to us all! That’s what the media would have you believe, anyway. We’ve heard stories of Electromagnetic Pulses that could wreak havoc on our power grid and disrupt electronic devices we all rely on every day. A question many people have is if it happens, can you feel an EMP? Can an EMP hurt a human?

You might expect you’d feel a blast powerful enough to darken your world. The science, however, may suggest otherwise. Theoretically, individuals with electronic medical devices installed in their bodies could potentially feel an EMP, but the evidence remains inconclusive. Most of these people probably wouldn’t feel any different, but a powerful enough pulse could hypothetically disrupt cognitive functions.

People Who Can Feel EMP’s

Most of us would be completely unaware of an EMP in the upper atmosphere. Physically, you wouldn’t feel anything. Human nerve endings are not capable of detecting an EMP. The first clue would be a sudden loss of power. Unless you’re close enough to a lightning bolt or nuclear strike to feel the shockwave, you’d likely have no idea what has happened. If you are that close, you’ll have much bigger problems than the lights going out.

No Real Proof

There has been very little research on the effects an EMP may have on devices in the human body. Doing these studies would be unethical because of the potential harm to the subject. What we do know about EMPs raises questions about how certain medical devices may react inside a person’s body.

Medical implants such as tens units (used for pain control in the spine) and pacemakers are critical. If one of these devices reacted to an EMP, it would cause pain to the victim as well as probable unit failure. Even people with modern prosthetic limbs could be affected. It is important to remember, however, that this is all speculative. No tests have been done to prove this hypothesis.

Could it Hurt?

If you are wearing a headset or similar piece of technology with internal wiring during an EMP event, you might notice something. Of course, the device wouldn’t explode or catch fire as you might see in a movie. It would more likely make a small noise and then suddenly die.

The effects of EMP on electronics would likely be more alarming than painful. There is currently no reason to suspect we would feel anything beyond frustration. Rest assured, it won’t kill you if your phone or smartwatch suddenly shuts off.


One researcher has concluded the following about tooth implants and other devices:

“…Using the worst-case value of 1 μs, the energy dissipated around the implant is 250 μJ or 0.25 mJ. This is not a significant amount of energy, and therefore, tooth implants should not pose a major hazard to those having them during a nuclear EMP event.

Similar calculations could be carried out for larger metallic implants. At the least, an implanted person would experience a brief jolt at the implant site from the high voltage. Heart pacemakers and hearing aids – devices with electronics – would pose a more severe problem, especially if they are life-critical.”

That’s a Lot of Big Words

To summarize, even those with implanted devices may survive the electrical failure resulting from an EMP. Surviving the blast isn’t the issue. If your life depends on a device such as a pacemaker, the malfunction of the implant would be the real threat.

Many people are not fully dependent on their pacemaker to survive. A pacemaker doesn’t actually pump your blood. It just ensures that your heart is doing its job consistently.

Just as a hearing-impaired person would no longer have assistance hearing, a person with a pacemaker would be forced to deal with the condition the pacemaker was treating. This is not an automatic death sentence, but a heart patient may experience a great deal of discomfort and potentially have a shorter life expectancy.

If your life is dependant on a pacemaker or other medical device, you may want to plan ahead to protect yourself against a possible EMP. A company like EMP Shield can bring you some peace of mind. They install whole-home protection systems that will protect your devices during an EMP event. Check out My Emp Shield Here.

How Do You Shield Against Something So Fast?

Ironically, the reason EMPs are so dangerous is the same reason you can’t typically feel them: speed. Human cells are surrounded by excellent conductors such as sodium, potassium and chloride ions. This means the charge would pass right through the body without time to harm internal systems. While our bodies would remain undamaged, we are left with an alarming question: how do we protect susceptible systems against something that moves so quickly?

What the Government is Doing to Help

Even in the worst-case scenario, people may reap some minor benefits of government programs designed to protect against the damages of an EMP attack. Our government is currently working to better understand the threat of EMPs and to take steps to mitigate that threat.

Experiments conducted on Plumb Island by the DARPA researcher got quite a lot of press last year, but unfortunately, they were widely misunderstood and misquoted. The experiments were actually done to establish strategies to counter cyberattacks, not EMPs. The government did, however, look into the threat of EMPs in 2013.

Sadly, no real solutions were decided on during the conversations. Major utility companies are privately owned, and most dismiss the idea that their systems need updating. Protecting the infrastructure from EMP threats would be high in cost and would not provide any direct benefits to the owners of the companies.

Those Who Help Themselves

If you are concerned about the threat of EMPs, it’s best not to wait and hope for the government to come up with a plan. Take action for yourself. If your emergency plan is reliant on any type of electronic device, you should come up with a backup plan in case of an EMP attack.

It’s a good idea to have a manual option in case the technologies you rely on stop working. If you normally plow a field with a machine, for example, you can use a sling blade if the machine stops working. You may also want to consider building small faraday cages to secure essential equipment. If you want to ensure your lights stay on when the world goes dark, you’ll need the whole-home protection system from EMP Shield.

When Will You Know it’s Coming?

There are many methods used to detect incoming problems. A few examples are radio, radar, and satellites, as well as others. We have ways to predict and respond to a variety of problems, be it a storm, invading force, or nuclear warhead.

If whole cities can be evacuated ahead of a hurricane, surely we’d have some warning before an EMP attack. We might detect a nuclear weapon headed for the sky over the United States, but we couldn’t exactly evacuate three hundred and thirty million people out of the country.

Would You Tell?

If the government were to warn Americans of an incoming EMP attack, mass panic could ensue. Announcing that refrigerators, heaters, cell phones, and credit cards will become obsolete in the next ten minutes could spark riots.

Sudden unexplained darkness, on the other hand, may not cause such a severe reaction. If people’s communication and power are cut off, most people would probably stay put and wait for a resolution. If they’re told ahead of time that there is no rescue coming, people will do what they have to to survive, and it could get ugly very quickly.

Our government would have a serious dilemma in the event of an EMP attack. They would have to decide if warning people would prevent or cause more deaths. It’s not certain that we would hear about an EMP before it happened.

Are You For Real?

People naturally fear the unknown, so it is easy for many to retreat into disbelief when the circumstances are overwhelming. A lot of us may have no emergency plans because we are more comfortable in denial than facing the reality of uncertainty. About half of the country has no emergency supplies.

It is crucial that you are able to protect yourself and your family if a disaster occurs. While any single scenario is not likely to happen to you, emergencies of some sort happen every day. You never know what will happen, so it’s best to be prepared for anything.

Anyone Can Become an EMP Threat

Using an EMP is illegal in the US with some exceptions, such as officially sanctioned testing. Of course, the law doesn’t serve as a deterrent for everyone. There are people attempting to build homemade EMP weapons, and it would be naive to assume their intentions are good.

Why Can’t I Build a Personal EMP for Self Defense?

According to the legal advice site AVVO, EMP devices are prohibited. John M. Kaman, a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco says the reason has to do with interference. He explains:

“Federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and wireless networking services (Wi-Fi).”

Are EMP Jammers Legal?

The answer to this question is a little unclear. There doesn’t appear to be any laws explicitly prohibiting the blocking of EMPs. Faraday cage can shield from EMPs, and they are completely legal to own. However, you may want to be aware of federal laws and FCC restrictions on blocking wireless communications before you settle on an EMP solution.

Section 301 of the Communications Act: “No person shall use or operate any apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by radio…except under and in accordance with [the Communications] Act and with a license in that behalf granted under the provisions of this Act.” 47 U.S.C. § 301.

Section 302(b) of the Communications Act: “No person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section.” 47 U.S.C. § 302a(b).

Section 333 of the Communications Act: “No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under [the Communications] Act or operated by the United States Government.” 47 U.S.C. § 333.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to emergency preparedness, having a goal is good, having a plan is better. Preparing for emergencies is a journey, and even the best plans can’t account for everything. Stay vigilant in working toward your goal, and when something unexpected does happen, you’ll be ready.

The idea of an EMP threat can be extremely frightening because they’re invisible. Luckily, you can plan for even what you can’t see with a little assistance and a lot of perseverance.


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