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Time for yet another front porch rumination. The dog is resting, and the coffee is hot, so there’s no better mood to solve the problems of the world. This time let’s do a deep dive into EMP protection.
We all dwell in the darker topics of survival. You know the biggies like nuclear war, pandemics, and the queen mum of prepper fiction; the electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.
One way to keep ahead of EMPs is with a Faraday cage. Big and small, Faraday cages protect our most sensitive electronics. So, let put together a list of the best items to put in our Faraday bags, boxes, cages, and rooms.
EMPs, CMEs, and Faraday cages, Oh My!
Regardless of your intent to build an electronically sealed lockable ammo box, chicken wire Faraday cage (not recommended), a Faraday garbage can (highly recommended), or purchase the best EMP bags a Faraday device can be a lifesaver in this electronic nightmare. But what is a Faraday cage?
A Faraday cage, and I’ll use the term cage instead of alternating between ALL the possible variants (it’s just easier to type and keep track of), puts the Faraday shielding effect to work for us. That is, it keeps the electrical charge at the surface of a conductor and away from any of the items inside the cage.
During an EMP or coronal mass ejection (or CME), the net effect is a charged atmosphere. This charge seeks out a conductive path to ground and this is most efficiently accomplished via a conductor.
Looking around us we are surrounded. Power lines, communication lines, small electronics. They all can absorb a charge.
Due to the miles and miles of power lines overhead, they collectively absorb astronomical amounts of energy and pass it directly into homes, transformers, and power generation plants.
When the charge encounters these critical components, it will bring them offline at best, or at worst permanently disable them.
EMP Protection for the Electrical Grid
Our home electronics are replaceable as we live in a disposable society. The main components of the electrical grid are not.
Losing a single high voltage transformer, you know the ones that are the size of a bus, is recoverable. Granted it takes 12-18 months to replace one. In the meanwhile, power companies rerouted, and we go about our business.
When we lose a half dozen or more, the entire electrical grid fails. Power companies won’t have anywhere to rout power. We can’t wait a year for it to come back up. Without power, we are crippled.
Small electronics fair no better. While they won’t gather much charge, their circuitry is designed to manage minuscule voltages. The voltage induced by an EMP overwhelms and destroys them.
How likely is an EMP attack… I honestly do not know. But I assure you in today’s political and world climate it is not as much fantasy as it was even just a few years ago.
The result is the failure of our modern society. A partial solution is protecting your devices with a Faraday cage. I will leave how to build a Faraday bag, or cage, or how to build Faraday room for another day.
Today let’s focus on filling it and maximizing our EMP protection.
Let’s first look at preserving our ability to create, store, and manage energy.
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Most of the items that will follow in this list take some sort of batteries so one of the first things to focus on for EMP protection and placing into your cage is a full complement of batteries.
From AAA to D stock rechargeable batteries in enough quantities for every device. Consider use patterns as well as re-charging times in calculating the number of batteries to store.
Make sure to also store more exotic batteries such as CR123a and CR2025, and those for watches, hearing aids, medical devices, and any other batteries your devices take. Complete a thorough review of your Faraday cage items to make sure you have 100% traditional battery EMP protection.
Extend the battery concept beyond what you stick in a flashlight to how we support our other electronics. 5V external batteries are a thing of wonder. I run cellphones, MP3 players, Bluetooth speakers, even my Tecsun shortwave radio off my bank of external 5V batteries.
Stack these up in your Faraday cage.
With batteries come battery chargers. Stash several “wall wart” USB plugin chargers. Then add chargers for your traditional AAA, etc. batteries. Diversify your charging capabilities by including both solar and plugin (110v).
Don’t forget to include chargers for all your electronic devices. I’ll cover these in detail in the following sections.
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Inverters and Charge Controllers
Next, we need to include the ability to convert our DC energy into AC power as used by the majority of our EMP protected electronics. Inverters are relatively inexpensive and will allow you to utilize stored energy within car and marine 12V batteries.
Pack away both smaller units (e.g. 300-400W inverter) for laptops, battery chargers, and USB chargers as well as larger units (e.g. 1600W inverter) for furnaces, and larger appliances.
Solar panels are inherently immune from EMPs and CME and don’t require EMP protection. However, the supporting electronics are not.
Store a charge controller for your solar system so you aren’t left with only half a system after the EMP! If you run wind or micro-hydro, store backup components as well.
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Depending on the size of your Faraday cage, store a generator.
Solar is great but it just doesn’t compare to the ability of fossil fuels for the generation of power. While most generators use EMP-proof carburetors and not complex fuel injectors, they still contain other susceptible charge-controlling electronics.
Even a small, quiet, gas-sipping EMP-proof generator will be an oasis in the electrical desert.
Better safe than sorry so add one if you have the room.
One of the greatest advancements of the last century is our ability to communicate and exchange information. Our ability to converse with others has increased almost exponentially with each passing decade.
Most of our youngest generation is dependent on the ability to instantly talk with friends and post personal info for all the world to see (I’m sure we’ll cover that in-depth someday). An EMP will rob us of the ability to reach anyone at any time.
Without proper preparations, anyone beyond walking distance will instantly become someone we used to know. So, let’s look at adding items to our EMP protection list that increase our ability to reach out and exchange information.
We’ll work from close to far.
Let’s be honest, Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) have nowhere near their advertised range under normal use. However, they are the most popular radios out there.
These two-way radios are also very affordable (compared to HAM radios). Store enough for your team as well as a few spares for communicating around the homestead.
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The legal rights to use 2-meter and 75-centimeter HAM radios come with a technician license. With power and ranges far above and beyond blister pack FRS/GMRS radios, I recommend storing both handheld HT radios as well as mobile units.
Mobile systems, in comparison to handheld devices, increase both power and range. Some mobile units also double as repeaters. Get your technician license to understand the true benefit of repeaters.
HAM Radio Power
The big boys of the HAM world are high-frequency (HF) radios. All the previous radios are “line of sight”.
That is, their range is limited to the horizon. HF radios bounce signals off the upper atmosphere and provide global communications.
An FCC General license is required to use these frequencies. These radios become more expensive, but the cost is worth talking around the country and the world.
I recommend a smaller mobile unit like the Icom IC-7100 or the Yeasu FT-857D to save room and have more space for EMP protection of other critical devices.
If you are going the HAM HF route, I also recommend storing an Antenna tuner to allow you to use long wire antennas as well as other configurations with ease.
The final HF radio I recommend considering is a low-power or QRP radio. These incredibly small and efficient radios send Morse Code signals (CW) around the world on as little as 5-10 watts. The Mountain Topper is one such example of a small radio that packs a big punch.
Two-way is nice, however, information gathering is still the foundation of good decision-making.
There is no need to go full general license unless you wish to transmit. To receive you don’t need a license, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
AM/FM Transistor Radio
First, start with a simple AM/FM transistor radio. FM receives local radio stations and AM picks up distant broadcasts at night when the conditions are just right. Even my little MP3 player has an FM radio and its clone has earned a spot in my EMP protection stores.
If an EMP has truly set us back a few hundred years we hope that the Government will make all attempts to get out the news that all is well. This will most likely come in the form of an AM or FM broadcast. Store a simple AM/FM hand crank weather radio or two (they’re small).
Next is a shortwave receiver such as the Tecsun PL-660 or PL-880. Shortwave radios receive HF broadcasts. While not as high quality as a $1,000 HF HAM rig, they still pull in a respectable signal. Especially with the right antenna.
No matter what you get, make sure it has single sideband (SSB) capabilities. This will allow you to pull in ham communications. Again, store one or two within your Faraday cage.
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I next recommend an FM transmitter. Several years ago, AMRRON established the Black Echo project. This project provides protocols for transmitting information via AM and FM transmitters when other terrestrial radio stations are down.
Just like your neighbor broadcasting music for their Christmas lights, the Black Echo project encourages preppers to broadcast information (AMRRON SITREPs), as well as music to fill the void when things go dark.
Finally, from the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” department, consider storing a field telephone. Military field telephones have been used for generations for short-range, secure, wired communications.
If your retreat plans include LP-OP operations, stash one or more pairs for after the CME blows.
For all the radios on the list if they take batteries, add enough to your stores to cover your anticipated usage. Spend time with the radios to get a true measure of the usage time for a set of batteries.
Don’t forget to store chargers for all your COMMS gear. They are sensitive to the effects of an electrical event and deserve EMP protection too.
Community Intelligence Operations
Surviving the end of the world hinges upon multiple factors. It’s not all beans and bullets.
Community intelligence operations will fill you in on what is going on around you. This will inform you of both threats and benefits alike. As in most things in life, knowledge is key!
Even though we preach that EMPs will take out electronics large and small, there is no reason not to prepare for only a partial electronic collapse.
If the grid is down but small electronics have not been affected, then there is an excellent chance that the operation of the local government will last if there is gas in their tanks. If they are operational then they will make efforts to communicate.
With that in mind keep a scanner in your Faraday cage. The Uniden HomePatrol is the gold standard for local scanners. Make sure that it is loaded with the local frequencies before you pack it away. Consider the mobile version as it takes up less room.
A CB scanner may have some utility. If you are within range of well-traveled roads, gather intelligence from those moving through your area.
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GPS and Knowing Your Surroundings
Secondly, keep a GPS device handy. I know we should all know how to use a paper map and a compass, but a GPS device does so much more.
Load up as many local topo maps as possible. Purchase preloaded SIM cards with all the 1:25,000 maps for your region of the country.
Don’t neglect waypoints and trails either. Pre-set waypoints for all local points of interest.
Include water springs, caches, utilities, trails, chemical plants, garbage heaps, meth houses, etc. They all make for good ground intelligence when things go sideways.
Aerial Imaging and Seeing Your Surroundings
If you’re anything like me, you’re a gadget person. This is going to sound gimmicky but make room for a drone with a camera. Not only are they fun and cool but getting an aerial view of your surroundings and potential threats is worth its weight in gold.
There’s a reason that the United States has spent more than a few billion dollars on reconnaissance assets. It works! With advancements in copter technology, you no longer need to spend north of a thousand dollars to get a good setup.
$200 will get you a good copter with a 1+ mile range, a camera, and a real-time visual feed to your controller. Add another $100 and you get a pair of First Person View (FPV) goggles. Neat stuff.
Most copters come with a SIM card slot that allows for recording everything the drone sees for analysis at your leisure. Beating a dead horse here but add extra batteries and the charger to your EMP protection device of choice.
A little closer to home is the incredibly useful game camera. Purchase them in quantity. While they will not provide real-time feedback, they do provide eyes on your perimeter or property while you are not around.
Safety and Security
If the balloon has gone up, then security is paramount in your activities. If security is the weak link in your chain, then your post-apocalyptic future will be short.
While there are plenty of non-electronic components let’s focus on the electronic backups that are suitable for storage in your Faraday cage.
Motion Detection at a Distance
Overlapping with COMMs, the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) radio systems such as the Dakota Alert systems are great in that they extend the traditional two-way capabilities to something more security-minded.
The most popular Dakota Alert option is a motion detector. It’ll let you know if something’s creeping around in the back 40.
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No fully tricked-out AR is complete without an EMP-proof electronic optic. Whether you call them red dots or holographic sights they are handy little items. They are also susceptible to EMPs. Keep a few protected in your Faraday cage.
Weapon lights are also a good addition to your EMP protection stores. Gone are the days of the simple Mag Light with an incandescent bulb. Today’s lights have LEDs and enough electronics to support multiple fancy flash modes and light levels. Some even have an SOS mode. This isn’t done with tubes and analog.
The final weapon accessory is electronic hearing protection. These wonderful devices block loud noises, but also amplify softer sounds. It’s like having bionic ears during a hostile version of ‘hide-and-seek’.
Own the Night
We live half our lives at night. EMP preparation is a must for this half of our existence. Therefore, bring daylight into the night during a CME or other grid-down nightmare.
Pack your Faraday cage with solar-powered motion floodlights. Small and powerful they charge during the day and fill the night with light. More importantly, they are set to do so only when something or someone walks by.
Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) are the pinnacle of mastering the dark. Whether weapon-mounted, helmet-mounted or a handheld monocular, NGVs allow the user to see what hides in the shadows. When two forces meet in the dark hours and one has night vision and the other doesn’t it will not be a fair fight.
NVGs are expensive there is no getting around that. If you have the means to set yourself with EMP protection for a spare set, do so! If your funds limit you to a single pair when not in use keep them safe in a Faraday cage.
With night operation comes determining friend from foe. Purchase and store Infrared (IR) beacons or markers for you and your team to wear.
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The common prepper rule is that CME or EMP attack renders computers useless. Just like intelligence or communications gear, don’t discount the obvious – computers provide utility. With utility comes the necessity to protect them.
Store a laptop or tablet. The functionality that one brings is unparalleled in the non-digital world. I recommend installing the following items on your EMP-proof computer.
The power of a computer is in its ability to do some of what the human brain does faster and more efficiently. The myriad of applications available to the modern prepper is astounding. I cannot possibly cover all applicable apps, but I’ll give you some highlights.
HAM radio programs that provide digital data exchange via analog signals is a marvel of the modern world. Sending text messages (via PSK31, Contestia, or even good old CW) have less impact from noise, therefore, is more accurate in interpretation. Install FLDIGI, FLMSG, and JS8Call (all staples of AMRRON).
Digital security is a must when a component of your preparedness plans relies on digital data. Install and learn to use VeraCrypt on both individual files and your USB drives.
As stated within the community intelligence section, knowledge of your surroundings is key. While dynamic factors (who is moving where) garner the most attention, don’t neglect the static ones.
Download maps and aerial photos. Don’t neglect Google Earth’s offline mode. Google stores a few GBs of data in your local cache for use when the internet is down.
Ensure you have applications that support various formats of files including PDFs, music, and video files. These will come in handy in the next section
Data and Reference Materials
The greatest advantage of a computer is the ability to store and recall vast amounts of data. A modern thumb drive stores thousands of books. So, get a few thumb drives and hard drive or two and fill them up.
Make your reference library as large as possible. Gather eBooks, manuals, and reference guides for every topic you think of.
One quick shortcut. Buy a copy of the SurvivalBlog thumb drive. It contains thousands of well-written articles as well as hundreds of military and other reference manuals. It’s small and won’t take up much room in your EMP protection kit.
Prepare a personal digital binder and store it with your computer (well encrypted). There are plenty of postings around the internet on what this should contain. Load yours up and digitally secure it.
Computers have brought us both task efficiency and entertainment. The apocalypse will have its share of downtime so load up on music, games, and movies.
Alongside your laptop or tablet, there are many accessories to make your life easier. A mini photo printer will allow you to share images from your surveillance exercises.
Spare DVD readers give the opportunity to store data on DVDs as well as watch movies on DVD.
Finally, store copies of your data on a rugged, weatherproof thumb drive and even spare external hard drive backups. These are cheap insurance.
For your reference materials, an EMP proof eReader is a valuable addition to your Faraday cage. Modern readers support multiple formats and use an amazingly small amount of power. One charge will last for days rather than a few hours for a laptop.
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Part of the survival trifecta of beans, bullets, and band-aids is medical supplies. This is for good reason.
Without this foundation element, your chance of survival is limited. As such plan some EMP protection for electronic medical supplies.
If anyone in your prepper group has diabetes plan on stocking an insulin pump. Even if you do not have a history of diabetes store a glucose meter. While there is an analog equivalent with test strips, an electronic glucose meter is faster and leaves less to interpretation.
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It seems like the entire world is on a CPAP machine. So, it makes sense to store one in your medical Faraday cage. Next to this store an AED. If for nothing more than the diagnostic capabilities, they deserve a spot.
For your younger children, one of the most valuable medical accessories could be a Temporal Artery Thermometer (TAT). These handy devices give the ability to get a temperature without waking a sleeping child.
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Regarding medical records, a specialized medical tablet containing medical references as well as digital medical records of all members of your group.
Finally, store flashlights. I know these have already been mentioned, and that is simply because they are useful. They aid diagnosis and are a must for various procedures. Without them, you are limiting your medical options.
God bless prepper fiction for educating and entertaining. However, the authors rarely document the boring times. You must plan for the excitement as well as for the tedium. Extend your EMP cache to compensate for the boring times.
With today’s technology, we watch movies in the palm of our hands. Therefore, stash an old cell phone loaded with movies and apps. Make sure the apps work offline. Your teen will be over the moon being the only one on the block with an EMP-proof phone.
As for movies, a mini projector takes the place of an old drive-in. The other option is a DVD player and a mini projector.
I love music, old radio theater, and podcasts of all types. I am rarely without my cheapo MP3 player, a selection of compact flash drives, and a mini speaker. This setup fits in the palm of my hand and holds over 1,500 hours of old radio theater alone!
While I love Old Time Radio (OTR), and much of it is in the public domain now, I also have a collection of podcasts. These include survival and educational topics, and entertainment.
Look around and find a few prepper-oriented modern radio theater casts. “Blackout” and “We’re Alive” are at the top of my list.
Finally, we have the EMP-proof junk drawer. You know, the stuff you need that just doesn’t fit anywhere else.
First, consider a multimeter. We just packed a box full of electronics so include the one tool that will help you diagnose simple issues.
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Second, pack a few watches and a few calculators. I’m not sure about you, but the subtle intricacies of long division left my brain years ago!
While I mentioned solar lights in the security section, they deserve a second mention. Simply put working in the dark sucks.
A shrewd move on your part would be to throw in several solar power banks. If the power grid goes down, you’re on your own. Having solar power will be the only means for charging those devices you saved in your DIY Faraday can.
If you have space consider spares for critical systems in your home or BOL. These include a water pump and any furnace/heating components susceptible to damage by a CME or EMP.
Finally, I recommend one non-electronic component go into every Faraday cage, desiccants or silica gel packets. Desiccants remove moisture from the air. If there is a greater enemy to electronics than an EMP, it’s water.
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Desiccant cat litter is available in large quantities for cheap. Add one or two cups to an old stocking or sock and toss it in the bottom of the Faraday cage for good luck.
Final Thoughts on EMP Protection
Well, my friends, the coffee is long since gone but we have made some progress. Looking from COMMs to medical supplies, intelligence to entertainment, and everywhere in-between, there are components that will benefit from EMP protection.
From the lowly EMP-proof solar floodlight to the EMP-proof car. From computers to drones and glucose monitors, we all know the value of storing a few (ok more than a few) critical items in a Faraday cage.
If the day ever comes when the EMP threat from North Korean nukes materializes, or the sun burps up some plasma in our direction, the chance that the electrical power grid will be overwhelmed is high. And if that happens humanity is suddenly thrust into the lost ways of horses and candlelight. I’d sure rather hedge my bets with a well-stocked Faraday cage or two. Wouldn’t you?
What’s the Closest Nuclear Bunker to Your Home?
Do you have a plan if an EMP hits nationwide and SHTF? There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free.
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Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the main method for protection from an EMP?
The best protection against an EMP is a Faraday Cage. A faraday cage, bag, or room is simply an enclosed area that is completely surrounded by a conductive material such as aluminum or copper foil.
How do you build a Faraday Cage?
The simplest Faraday Cage is a box wrapped in aluminum foil or a garbage can with a well-sealed lid.
What sizes of Faraday Cages can be built?
Size is limited only by the materials you have on hand. From a box for your cell phone, to garbage can, to an entire room. If you can wrap and seal it with a conductive foil, you can turn it into a Faraday Cage.
What should I put in a Faraday Cage?
Communications equipment, computers, electronic medical supplies should top your list of items to store. Secondarily, security equipment (electro-optical weapon sights, etc.), night-vision goggles, and entertainment gear should all be stored.