Does an EMP Permanently Destroy Electronics

Sudden darkness. No one is coming to fix the lights, at least not this month. Now what? From a house to an entire country, an EMP event would be catastrophic. We’re entirely dependent on electronics for things like refrigeration, utilities, and communications. I wanted to know if it would destroy everything, or if there’s something I could do to protect against the possibility. Fortunately, there is plenty we can do to prepare.

Does an EMP permanently destroy electronics? Simple electronics might survive. Any devices affected by an EMP would be ruined. It does not matter if you turn things off. In some cases, you might be able to replace parts. Unfortunately, many would be unsalvageable.

What Happens to Electronics in an EMP

In an EMP event what happens, in layman’s terms, is pretty simple. Anything with enough wires conducts a massive surge of power. It moves faster than surge protectors can handle. The result is fried equipment. Unplugging things doesn’t have any effect because the power isn’t created by the source you plug into. Instead, the power comes from EMP weapons or solar ejections.

Be aware that trying to power back up immediately is a bad plan. A high altitude nuclear blast and a solar ejection both interact with the ionosphere, which is made of electrically charged particles. This can cause a series of atmospheric radiation waves. It can take up to 3 days for this storm to stop. While an EMP is incredibly quick, a series of them takes time to pass. Of course, if a more targeted EMP weapon is the culprit things are a little different. Sadly, with the power out, it might be hard to determine the source.

If you are concerned about the damage an EMP can do to your home or apartment overall there is a unit that can be hooked up to your circuit breaker box. This unit called EMP Shield is designed to protect an entire home from lightning, solar flare (coronal mass ejection), power surges, and an EMP (electromagnetic pulse). It has been tested and approved by the US military. They offer different units made to protect your car, RV, and even your ham radio antenna, solar panels or generator. Get the latest pricing for EMP Shield by Clicking Here.

Can You Replace Parts

If you have replacement parts, they might be useful. Anywhere the surge didn’t fuse things you can take parts out. Removing the damage and adding new elements should work. As long as the new parts were safe from the initial blast or created afterward, there’s no reason they’ll be affected.

Will it Get Everything

Simply put, no. While the damages are permanent, not everything is vulnerable. Many electrical devices and machines lack the necessary conductors to burn out in this way. Things like older appliances, older model cars, and even solar panels are likely to survive.

A Brief History of EMPs

Natural EMPs have always existed. Unfortunately for us, our sun puts off coronal mass ejections which can cause an EMP naturally. If a massive solar storm hit the earth, it’s possible that entire continents could be without electricity. Although we’ve known about the problem for a long time, previous generations had less to worry about. Naturally, the less dependent you are on electricity, the less vulnerable you are to anything that interferes with the electrical transmissions.

When your house is a wood cabin heated by fire, and your fridge is a root cellar there’s not much worry about how you’d be affected if the power went out. Likewise, even just a couple of generations ago, far less dependence on our devices was at stake. Additionally, there was less population to compete for resources. In a world of 7.5 billion people, a power outage is far more damaging. Available supplies don’t last as long.

The Carrington Event 1859

The earliest recorded EMP event is the coronal mass ejection in early September of 1859. Recorded by British Astronomers Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson, the effects are described by both. They reported a vast white flash in the photosphere. However, the massive geomagnetic storm was not the only effect. The long-distance communications of that era were affected. Telegraph systems went down all over as the wires overloaded.

The Manhattan Project

During WWII there were many R&D projects, but the most destructive was the Manhattan Project. If you don’t know the result of this program off the top of your head, you probably should. The Manhattan Project developed and tested nuclear weapons. Trinity Test, the first nuclear weapon ever exploded by the project was likely the first record of a human created EMP.

Starfish Prime

In July of 1962 the Defense Atomic Support Agency, and the Atomic Energy Commission worked together to conduct a high altitude nuclear test. A W49 thermonuclear warhead attached to a Thor rocket launched from Johnston Island. It detonated outside the atmosphere about 900 miles south-southwest of Hawaii. Project Starfish is unique because it is the most massive nuclear explosion in space thus far.

Cold War Notions

The first official mention of “The Cold War,” was in a 1945 essay from famed dystopian writer George Orwell. The paper was unsurprisingly called You and the Atomic Bomb. Alternately, Wikipedia records the Cold War as 1947-1991, with dates based on the opinion of the writer. Regardless of when you mark the beginning of the era, it was during the Cold War that nuclear weapons were first considered as a source for an EMP attack. Some of the US nuclear weapons were fused to create weapons for this sort of offensive.

Modern Concerns

Boeing creates modern electromagnetic weapons for the US government. They are hardly alone in this pursuit. Naysayers argue that there’s little point in using an EMP when a country could explode another nation with a nuclear weapon. What would be the point? That sort of thinking is limited. Atomic weapons have fallout, radiation, and other messy problems. Cleanup is costly and time-consuming. The alternative is wasteful.

Why create unuseable land when you can panic and destroy a population and then swoop in as savior or new leadership and take over? After all, of the resources on Earth, the most vital are water, air, and land. Resources are seriously limited. An EMP even that kills millions in its aftermath because they have no clue how to self sustain is far more useful than another Fukushima or Chernobyl.

CHAMP & Friends

The Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (aka CHAMP) is a US program that aims to destroy electronics, but not lives or property. Our leaders are looking at the future of warfare in terms of non-destruction. Taking out any dangerous equipment while preserving resources is a new trick. It’s smart warfare for a brave new world.

Boeings Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon is pinpoint accurate. Gone are the days when you need to wreck everything for miles around to wreak havoc on an enemies ability to perform. The next step forward from MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) is to find ways to fight that save what we want while taking the fight out of the enemy. Leave targets helpless, and they cannot attack.

What Would Happen to A Country if a Large EMP Attack Occurred

Obviously, not all countries work the same way. Naturally, not all people live the same. For example, places like Haiti and Ethiopia don’t use a whole lot of per capita electricity. They’d be less affected by electrical power problems. Technology gives some people a better quality of life. Regrettably, it also creates dependence and thus vulnerability.

For a sizeable first world country like America, it’s a very different story. The most conservative estimate puts things at two months. Sixty days without power would probably kill quite a few people. Relatively speaking it takes perhaps forty days to starve. People in large cities couldn’t feed themselves without grocery stores. Those stores need large machinery and power to cool things down if they are going to restock and supply the public.

Unhappily, this is just one example of a challenge that would affect millions. If the ten largest cities in the USA lose power, 23.3 million people lose services. Without heat, light, food, or running water, they would be in trouble quickly. Only 13.5 million Syrians were displaced during the recent Syrian Civil War.

What About My House

You probably cannot protect an entire country, at least, not with the technology we have right now. Your home is a different issue. There are some truly ingenious ways to protect a small collection of vital electronics. Having a backup generator and some radios could save your life. Of course, you could aim to protect your entire home  with EMP Shield instead, which seems like the best option.

Cars & Other Vehicles

Making sure that your personal property stays safe is an achievable goal. Surprisingly, you can even protect your vehicles from shorting out with an EMP Shield. Now, you don’t have to sell them off as trade-ins for earlier models. Older cars are one technology that will keep working. Unfortunately, the gas stations won’t. Consequently, you should make the most of your fuel-efficient vehicles when SHTF.

Final Thoughts

Frighteningly realistic, the grid blowing out is something that can keep you up at night if you let it. Realistically, with reasonable preparedness, you’d be fine. The more significant problem would be all the neighbors who aren’t ready. Desperate times, as they say. Unfortunately, it’s handling starving people is the biggest concern once you have a reasonable plan for shielding your home. At least guns won’t burn out if an EMP causes TEOTWAWKI.

Additional Questions

How long does an EMP take? The EMP itself lasts only a fraction of a second. Sadly a solar event might last days and surge in waves. How long should you wait after an EMP event to try turning things back on? It would depend on the event. In a natural occurrence, about four days is the longest it would take. Perhaps even longer if there’s an ongoing war involving EMP weapon use. A second or even third strike to take out backups is likely. Wait a week to be safer. 

Will an EMP destroy batteries? No. Batteries are not affected by EMPs. Anything connected to an active device or power grid that was burnt out would most likely be kaput. Realistically the issue is not batteries. Ruined machines and electrical networks are problems. 

Do EMP grenades exist? Yes, but you can’t have them. The US military supposedly possesses the tech. However, the grenades aren’t for sale to the public. If you want EMPs, unfortunately, you will have to DIY. 

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