Most of the questions I receive on my website AskaPrepper.com are about EMP’s and Faraday Cages.
What I realized is that there are a lot of EMP myths generated by movies and even some internet sources. The situation is so bad that the United States Air Force Space Command commissioned Bill Nye to make a video for the Air Force called “Hollywood vs EMP” (which is not available to the public). It seems that the Air Force wanted to make sure that Hollywood fiction would not confuse those who must deal with real EMP events.
Well… this is exactly the purpose of this article. No bs, no exaggerations.
Myth or Fact? Will an EMP destroy batteries?
Not likely. Batteries are made of relatively thick plates of metal that are unaffected by EMP’s. Some experts claim that they even extra charge a little bit. (Source)
But if the batteries are connected to the power grid, they will take some damage.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter that much, since all of the electronics you run off of that batteries will likely be fried.
I was thinking that if a car dies, why not use the battery? But what to do with it?
Myth or Fact? – Will Cars Really Come to a Halt?
There are a lot of people saying that cars will work just fine. Some say that they’ll stop and all you need to do is to restart them. And some say that all cars made after 1990 will come to a halt because they are totally dependent on their electric parts.
All of this is based on a report made by the EMP Commission. They tested 37 cars in an EMP simulation laboratory (up to 50 kV/m). All cars stopped at approx. 30 kV/m, but only one car was damaged seriously. The other cars just needed to be restarted.
What people don’t know is that this test was made long ago and the 37 cars tested were vintages ranging from 1986 through 2002, which means they depended less on electronics.
The EMP Commission also states that “since 2002, the number of microprocessors in cars and the reliance on microprocessors in all motor vehicles has increased greatly. Also, the sensitivity of the electronic circuitry to EMP has increased due to the use of smaller electronic components designed to operate on lower voltages.”
Another thing is that an HEMP can produce more than 50 kV/m, which can have even more damaging effects on cars.
The fact is that you don’t need to damage all cars to make the traffic stop. I think it’s enough to permanently damage 40%-60% (some sources say even 15%) of cars to block cities, highways and supply lines.
Read more: How to Build An EMP Car Bag
Myth or Fact? – Will Phones/iPads/Electronic Devices be Affected by an EMP?
Well, first you should know that 95% of these devices already have an internal EMI shielding (which is there to protect the components from affecting each other). Plus, these devices are very small (comparing to the power grid) so you have very good chances of using your iPhone immediately after an EMP. But not to make calls or to search stuff on the internet. Telecommunication antennas will be fried so signal (on any kind) will be dead.
But if the phone is connected to the power grid – charging – at the moment when the EMP hits it will be fried. And even so, you have a chance of getting away with only a fried phone charger.
Myth or Fact? Solar Storms Will Only Affect the Side of the Earth that is Facing the Sun when the Storm Hits.
Not true! Solar storms tend to disturb the entire magnetic field of the Earth and can affect both sides.
Because of a solar storm on 13 March 1989, Hydro-Quebec lost electric power, cutting the supply of electricity to 6 million people for several hours. This happened at 2:44 a.m. in complete darkness, so Quebec was on the side opposed to the Sun.
In the picture: A fried transformer from Hydro-Quebec electric power grid.
Myth or Fact? Will Planes Fall Out of the Sky When an EMP Hits?
Older planes use hydraulics and cables attached to the pilot controls (with manual valve actuation & direct pressurization from the ram air turbine) which means they’ll still have semi-functional flight controls.
Newer planes (almost all airlines) will be extremely difficult to control after all their electronic parts will be fried. But even so, all Airbus and Boing planes are demonstrated to be controllable with complete electrical failure. They would be extremely difficult to land, but it would still be possible.
All planes will be turned into semi-controllable gliders… with newer planes having almost no control and older planes having almost full control over the plane.
And pilots will face a very hard task: to land the plane, with highways being full of broken cars, no emergency services and if it’s night then add no ground lights to this. I’m not an expert, but I guess that if you’re on a plain when an EMP strikes you are pretty much dead or incredibly lucky.
But don’t think that an EMP will cause planes to enter in a spin and pancake into the ground like you’ve probably seen in movies.
Myth or Fact? Will the World as We Know it Come to an end?
A world without electricity is not the world as most of us know it. But if the blackout lasts for 1-3 days then it won’t be a huge problem.
It all depends on the time required to replace the broken pieces:
“The equipment used in the transmission grid is costly, specially produced, and has to be ordered from overseas before replacement in the U.S. Those with the expertise to replace transformers and capacitors are likely to be overwhelmed if much of our infrastructure is damaged, only delaying the replacement of equipment that generally takes two years to be manufactured and delivered.” (Source)
Nobody knows for sure how much it will take to replace all transformers and capacitors if other countries help, but a time-frame of 10-20 months is not far-fetched.
Did you know that New York City had a blackout (in 1977) that lasted for only a day? It was called “The Night of Terror”. The night resulted in widespread looting throughout many New York neighborhoods. The police were outmatched and had no chance of stopping such massive theft, largely having no choice but to stand by watching the looters from a distance. This will be just the first night after an EMP. After a few months it will be total chaos and widespread starvation to say the least.
Myth or Fact? Do Faraday Cages need grounding?
No. Grounding, but it’s not necessary. To be sure that you made an EMP hardened Faraday cage all you need to do is to place a small turned on radio. If it stops… then you have an EMP hardened box.
Myth or Fact? If you test your Faraday Cage with a radio then the electronics inside are 100% protected against an EMP
NO! No protection is 100% certain, but shielding against a 20,000 volts/m EMP will be enough to protect it from known weapons.
Jerry Emanuelson from Futurescience has a very good explanation for this:
“A very efficient 80 db faraday cage would reduce the EMP by a factor of 10,000. In other words, it would reduce a 20,000 volts per meter EMP field to 2 volts per meter. This high level of shielding is necessary for some applications, but not for the average consumer (except for the most critical electronics such as an emergency radio receiver). For many applications, an imperfect shield is quite helpful and may be all that is necessary. (In some cases, though, such as an expensive solar panel system, it makes sense to try to get as close as possible to military grade protection since a functioning solar power system may determine whether you have electricity or not.)
This myth is analogous to saying that if a coat doesn’t keep you from being cold during a winter blizzard that you might as well just rip your coat off and go shirtless while out in the snowstorm. Asking how much shielding that you will need is like asking how much of a coat you will need in the winter. (It depends upon how cold it will get, and upon how sensitive you are to the cold.)”
Myth or Fact? Turning Off Electronics Will Better Protect Them
Yes, it seems that equipment is more vulnerable if it is operating. And this also includes cars. Cars that will be running when an EMP hits have a higher chance of getting broken.
But this of course doesn’t mean that all systems that are turned off will be unaffected.
Myth or Fact? Will an EMP Destroy Pacemakers?
A solar storm won’t destroy a pacemaker. But if you are in an airplane – flying above 30000 ft – then you might be in trouble. Earth’s atmosphere does not provide significant shielding at this altitude. According to NASA, the effects at this altitude are ten times higher than on the ground.
On the other hand, a HEMP (nuclear EMP) generating over 30000 V/m can be a problem. Here is a very good answer:
” I have been a medical scientist working with pacemakers for 36 years, and I think I can give a definitive answer! The hermetically sealed can will indeed be a pretty good Faraday cage so no direct damage from an EMP. A bipolar system with, say, 5mm electrode separation will, with a major high-altitude EMP generating ~25 kV/m in the northern US, deliver a voltage pulse to the circuitry of about 900V – this won’t damage a pacemaker, they are designed to cope with external defibrillator voltages. A UNIPOLAR system, where the electrodes may be 15cm apart, will generate a bigger voltage, maybe 4-5kV, to the generator, and this could be damaging.”
According to some manufacturers a powerful EMP may just turn the device off.
Myth or Fact? Will anEMP Destroy Solar Panels?
A solar storm won’t cause major problems to your solar panels.
If they are not connected to the power grid, nothing will happen to them. If they are, then in case of a solar storm the inverter will cause your system to shut down automatically. Worst case scenario will mean your inverter will blow a fuse and a simple fuse change will get your solar panels back to full working order.
But a nuclear EMP (powerful enough) will destroy unprotected solar panels.
The best way to protect them is, of course, to enclose them in a Faraday Cage.
This means you won’t be able to use your solar panels.
But since solar panels are pretty expensive, I guess that only a few people buy them just to put them aside for hard times. So if you want to minimize the potential damage in case of an EMP, while using your solar panels, there are still some things you can do:
1. Cut off cable surplus: Cable acts as an antenna, picking up the EMP and intensifying its strength. The leads from the panels to the charge controller and battery bank can pick up the pulse and fry the inverter.
2. Buy an invertor and keep it in your Faraday Cage, so you can replace the other one if it breaks (this is not the only part that may fry);
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