How to protect electronics against an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse)
Modern electronics have become part of our daily lives, whether we like it or not. They make life easier - as long as they're working! You see, the more comfortable we become with electronics, the more we rely on technology, the more vulnerable we get.
It’s not something many of us think about every day, but if an EMP went off it could disrupt and destroy many electronic devices and technology. And then what?
As Coronavirus has proved, just because an event is rare does not mean it won't ever happen. So maybe we'd be better off preparing for more rare events that could lead to disruption in our lives.
On this page, we're going to take a closer look at what an EMP is, what to be concerned about, and how you can prepare by protecting your most valuable electronics from an EMP attack.
What is an EMP?
An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation, creating energy that can easily damage and destroy your electronics and technological devices. EMPs are rapid, invisible, and often unpredictable bursts of energy produced by a nuclear detonation, powerful natural solar events or EMP bombs which can cause permanent or a temporary loss of power.
You can't do much about any of those, but you can ensure that your electronic devices are EMP proof.
So, how can you protect electronics from EMP?
We recommend using the RF Shielding technique (electromagnetic radiation or electromagnetic shielding) where electromagnetic risks are mitigated and the electromagnetic field is effectively blocked with barriers of magnetic materials. There are many ways to create EMP protection, which we'll get to further down.
Does an EMP permanently destroy your electronics?
An EMP attack can cause specific electronics, machinery and generator controls to stop working temporarily or permanently. There are two things to consider - one being the device itself, the second being the power grid. Your device may work (for a little while) but without power to recharge, it may as well be dead.
Electronics will not be able to change from an “on” to “off” state. Data communicating with remote equipment might also be affected.
From electronic devices like televisions to mobile phones and generators; an EMP could damage electronics or any device powered by electricity. The damage will vary, depending on the severity of power of the EMP while small, hand-held electronic devices may recover from an EMP attack.
Still, systems connected to power lines, like an electric-powered grid network or a landline might experience permanent component damage when exposed to EMPs.
What electronics would survive an EMP?
An EMP generally attacks solid-state electronics, so items functioning with an electronic circuit will stop working. The electrical grid would be directly affected, and it could take months to repair and get back to normal.
Although an EMP can be quite scary, simple electronics without reliable state electronic controls will most likely survive an EMP attack.
Let's take a look at some specific examples:
Solar panels that are operating and wired up will certainly see some damage at the very least. A nuclear EMP will deliver some damage - maybe not enough to kill the solar panel, but certainly, reduce functionality and effectiveness. It should survive - just!
Appliances like a fireplace, solar oven, power tools or generators won’t be affected by an EMP. These non-electric appliances don’t necessarily operate with solid-state electronic controls and will probably still work when even after an EMP has blasted through your area.
Manual appliances are also effectively EMP proof. Make sure you have manual items in your home or at work to accomplish regular electric tasks. You can actually do a lot of cooking simply by using a hand-powered coffee percolator, pasta maker, manual mixer, can opener or specific battery-powered devices.
Most vintage electronic components don’t use a solid-state grid. If your old radio or television uses vacuum tubes to operate, you’re in luck. They laughed at you for your old TV but whose laughing now!
Small, portable electronics
File this in the "maybe" category. Small electronic appliances like mobile devices might survive an EMP attack, primarily if they are housed in concrete buildings. However, it will depend on the location, severity, and type of EMP.
How do you protect electronics from an EMP attack?
Not going to lie - an EMP attack is bad news both in the short term and in the long term for civilization.
However, an EMP even can be survived, but you need to be adequately prepared because there may be little to no warning. Aside from the usual survival tips, such as having food, water, and medical kits ready - functioning electronic devices will help you stay connected to what is going on.
So do what you can to keep all your electronic devices and appliances up and running. There are a few ways to shield or protect your electronics, but make sure you always practice caution.
Basic DIY EMP protection you can try at home
Don't have an EMP bag or case? That's unfortunate.
But don't worry, here are some DIY tools that will help.
A home-made Faraday cage (more on Faraday cages later) can be created by completely covering your electronics or appliances in tinfoil. Wrap the chosen device with a cloth, paper or any non-conductive insulation and add about three layers of tinfoil with no visible gaps.
PS: The shell should be well-grounded for this method to properly work.
Use a steel garbage can with a lid
You can line the can with cloth or cardboard, so your electronics don’t get affected by an EMP. Secure the lid with duct tape, so it doesn’t get knocked off easily.
A metal roof or solar paneled house
Houses with metal roofs or solar panels should provide some protection from an EMP, but it must be well-grounded.
Put devices in the microwave
Microwaves generally operate at the frequency of 2.45 GHz. They have built-in shielding that uses non-ionizing radiation, causing your food to absorb energy. Water molecules interact with each other, sending kinetic energy out as heat.
The glass window of a microwave has small holes in a metal screen which can act as a Faraday Cage, which keeps the energy inside the walls of the microwave. This protects you when you're heating food, but it will also work in reverse - providing some protection to electronics placed inside when an EMP attack occurs.
To test the effectiveness, place your electronics or small appliances in your microwave (turned off) and check if you receive a signal. Also - do NOT use the microwave with the devices inside!
The real solution - a Faraday Cage
Named after its founder and 1800s scientist, Michael Faraday, a Faraday cage, bag, or case will help distribute electromagnetic radiation to the outer surface, ensuring that no charge ends up within the enclosure.
It effectively acts as an EMP shield built to redirect power from the ground. Devices inside the cage will be protected from damaging currents.
Backyard Brains shows us how to make a DIY Faraday Cage below:
Although there are many kits or templates for EMP-proof boxes available online, it might be worth investing in a professional cage.
EMP-shielding reduces the coupling of radio waves, electromagnetic fields, and electrostatic fields; all of which produce potential threats to electronic systems.
If you’re looking for professional EMP shielding options, you’ve come to the right place. We have developed a range of sophisticated Faraday Cages to help protect your electronics. Our all-environment EMP shield cases are molded with an exclusive conductive resin providing a high-level of attenuation for electromagnetic radiation over a wide range of frequencies. The cases are also sealed for protection against dust and water and are robust to handle the kind of knocks you'd get in travel.
The benefits of using a professional Faraday Case from Underwater Kinetics (UK)
Unlike traditional copper, aluminum, steel or DIY enclosures, the conductive plastic adhesive we use for our cases doesn't lose its shielding capability due to possible corrosion. It provides electrical continuity between the lid and base of the case which protects your electronics from possible dust or water. All our cases meet the MIL-STD-464 standard: Electromagnetic Environmental Effects Requirements for Systems.
EMP protection for your electronics or appliances is not so difficult that only government agencies can prepare. There's a good chance you'll never need the protection, but you have to ask yourself if you're the type of person willing to risk it.
If not, whether it's a DIY solution or a professional EMP bag, make sure you take the necessary steps to protect yourself from devastating future events.