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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Electromagnetic Pulse Stuff

Ah, Electromagnetic Pulse. EMP. Turning out the lights, shutting down the grid, tossing man back into the dark ages.

Read the books? You know One Second After? Lightning Fall? Seen the television show? Perhaps the National Geographic American Blackout?

If so, you know that we are doomed. Doomed, I tell you!

Or maybe not.

Suppose we do a little preparation in anticipation of an EMP event? How much prep? I guess that depends on your assessment of the likelihood of an EMP event occurring during your lifetime. Does it make a difference if it's a man-made event, triggered by some nuclear explosion above the earth by some outlaw nation or transnational terror group or if it results from something the sun does?


So, there are about (by my rough count) 30 zillion survivalist sites giving out advice on fending the result off an EMP "event."

Let's go with what FEMA says:

  1. You are probably not going to suffer physically from the EMP source (unless, of course, it is an attack that involves lots of ground burst nuclear weapons, in which case EMP may be the least of your immediate concerns).
  2. Your unhardened electronics (and those of the area around you) may, however, sustain damage. However, FEMA  notes:
    To put all this in perspective, we must emphasize that while many types of electrical/electronic equipment could be affected or even knocked out by the EMP from high-altitude bursts, a rather small percentage overall is likely to be damaged. There are so many scientific uncertainties that remain in this area of technology that no one can state with any degree of certainty just how much damage could be expected. Certainly, some automobile ignition systems could fail, as could some portions of telephone and radio communications and airline communications, navigational aids, and electrical/electronic equipment. However, the concept of total oblivion for all electronic equipment and data stored on magnetic media (disc or tape) in all North America is a fantasy without scientific validity.
What? Hey, go read for your self - it's on page 16 of FEMA 128, Chapter 4, which is linked to above.

Here's another place to go exploring, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, which published the lengthy, Critical National Infrastructures Report. This report does what its title suggests and looks at the effect of an EMP event on everything from merchant shipping to farming to . . . you. Well worth a read. The scary parts are things like long lead time transformers for the power grid and possibility of fly by wire aircraft developing control issues in flight. Food, water, electricity, communications, banking, oil and gas production and refining, emergency services, government - it all gets touched on.

Well, what to do at the minimum to prepare? First, you cannot do much about the big stuff - the national infrastructure is something to keep talking to your senators and representative and state and local governments about - it is politics and money and money is always in short supply, while politics is plentiful. Secondly, focus on what you and yours will need - and "yours" includes your neighbors because if they see you doing with while they are doing without, things might not stay neighborly (a point well made in that NatGeo show, by the way).

A lot of these preparations are like those of getting ready for other any disaster - have an emergency kit - food, water, comfort stuff (toilet paper, baby wipes, etc). Other preparations may include more exotic stuff - like making a Farady cage in which to keep your valuable electronics. By the way, a microwave oven is a Farraday cage - I guess you could keep a old one around and stick electronics in it. What and when depends, again, on your degree of concern. You can also make a Faraday cage out of a steel garbage can, as seen below:

Note that the can is lined with cardboard to isolate the can contents from the metal of the can. You can also test the success of your effort by putting an FM radio inside the can and then closing the lid. If you hear the radio, you need to do some more work.

As far as your car goes - well, it's a good time to invest in a bicycle. You probably need the exercise anyway. Or have an older car around without all the computers. My son's 1968 MGB is being held hostage in my garage while I work on it.

I have this idea that I could generate electricity through a steam engine powering. This guy will sell you a steam engine capable of providing "1500 watts of electrical power." I think you provide your own wood and a boiler. You can build your own boiler, I reckon. Or buy one. All the old Navy BT's and snipes will want one.

Good luck.

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