The threat of a damaging electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is one that has long been understood in prepping and survivalist circles but that has been often ignored in mainstream circles. To those who think the world will continue functioning just as it always has, the fact that disasters can occur doesn’t even enter their heads. But the effects of an EMP, whether natural or man-made, could be devastating.
A large-scale EMP, which could result from solar activity or from the high-altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon, could knock out the entire country’s electrical grid. If severe enough, it could also knock out automotive electrical systems and personal electronic devices. Needless to say, the effects of destroying so much electronic equipment would be catastrophic.
The most extreme estimates of the effects of a severe EMP are that 90% of people would perish once the country lost power. No one knows how long it would take the electrical grid to get back online, but it would likely take quite a while. With no way to start cars, pump gasoline, or provide water to homes, it would be a matter of days or, at most, weeks before a massive die-off occurred.
The effects of solar storms have already demonstrated how they can destroy satellites, interfere with communications systems, and knock out power grids. Those have been the effects of relatively minor storms, so one could imagine how badly a very powerful solar storm could affect a society that continues to grow more and more reliant on satellites and electricity.
A weaponized EMP, such as one delivered by a nuclear or non-nuclear explosive device, could be just as devastating. While there are other negative aspects to that, such as the fact that that would mean the country is at war and at risk of nuclear attacks that are far more devastating, that would make the effects of the EMP even more difficult to overcome.
About the only way to protect items against an EMP is to enclose them in a Faraday cage. A Faraday cage consists of a metal container that is completely enclosed in order to protect the items within from electric charges. The items inside cannot touch the metal, otherwise they will conduct electricity.
Some examples of homemade Faraday cages include metal gun cabinets or metal trash cans fully lined with cardboard. Many enthusiasts have tested these homemade cages to see whether they can be penetrated by radio frequencies, and have generally seen good performance.
Of course, the downside is that in order to protect your electronics within a Faraday cage you have to know that an EMP attack or solar flare is coming. If you don’t know that you need to protect your things, you’re likely not going to be able to protect them in time. And of course larger electronic devices such as automobiles, desktop computers, washing machines, etc. are nearly impossible to protect.
While the government is finally starting to pay attention to EMPs and their effects, it’s hard to say how seriously the government will take the threat of an EMP and how effectively it can protect critical infrastructure. The best strategy you can take for defending against an EMP is to protect what you can, prepare for a complete societal breakdown in the aftermath of an EMP, and hope that it doesn’t happen within your lifetime.