Is The EMP Issue On The Table Again?

The ugly specter of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) has raised its head again, with the release of a new report by the Air Force’s Electromagnetic Defense Task Force, of the LeMay Center for Doctrine.

This report, which is the compilation of data from 40 agencies, gives the most sobering analysis of the potential results of a EMP attack on the United States, verifying some commonly held beliefs, such as the likely death of up to 90% of the population, as well as bringing to light some new risks, such as:

  • 99 nuclear reactors which would likely suffer a meltdown, due to the lack of electricity to power their cooling systems
  • These meltdowns would cause 41 million people to flee their homes to avoid the radioactive clouds
  • Power and communications grids would immediately fail
  • It would take a minimum of 18 months to replace key elements in the electric grid
  • Defense and counter-attack would be impossible, due to military bases being cut off and lacking communications
  • Figuring out which country initiated the attack would be just about impossible, due to our government’s reduced capability
  • While aircraft wouldn’t necessarily fall out of the sky (an airplane is an almost perfect Faraday Cage) many of their critical systems would fail (largely due to antenna for those systems, which pierce the skin of the aircraft), downgrading the capability of the planes severely
  • Civil unrest would begin within hours of the attack

Many preppers have stopped worrying about an EMP, since President Trump’s historic summit with Kim Jong-un, but it is clear that the threat of an EMP attack from North Korea hasn’t gone away. While they have curtailed their provocative test program and are no longer launching missiles over Japan, they haven’t shut the program down. Current estimates say they have as many as 60 nuclear warheads, already miniaturized to fit in missiles and they have proven that they can produce hydrogen bombs.

North Korea isn’t the only threat out there either. It has long been known that Iran has been pursuing both nuclear bomb technology and intercontinental missile technology. The flap over former President Obama’s agreement with Iran centers around their nuclear program, with the former president claiming that they were going to have the bomb anyway, but at least his agreement delayed the inevitable.

While those two rogue countries are the most likely to use an EMP against us, they are not the only ones who have that capability. The list is short, but there are other countries, unfriendly to us, who have that capability. Vladimir Putin has already threatened that, reminding us that Russia is a nuclear power to rival our own capability. Between his imperialistic ambitions and the highly devastating effects of an EMP, he just might decide that it is in his nation’s interest to eliminate us as a strategic rival.

About the only good news is that as of this point in time, it doesn’t look like there are any terrorist organizations which have nuclear arms. I say that, because they haven’t used them yet. It is doubtful that any terrorist organization would hold onto nuclear arms long, without using them. Coupling one to a SCUD missile, which is actually World War II level technology, would make it possible for them to commit an EMP strike off a ship.

This entry-level rocket science is not beyond the technical or financial capabilities of a number of terrorist organizations.

Where Does this Leave Us?

The truth of the matter is, the risk of EMP hasn’t abated one bit. All that has changed is that the risk isn’t as obvious, because we’re not hearing all the threats out of North Korea. So, since that wheel isn’t squeaking anymore, it’s not getting any grease. In other words, we’re not any more secure, there’s just the appearance of security.

By definition, an EMP attack would be a surprise attack, so that doesn’t give me much comfort. As far as I’m concerned, the lack of noise just means that we don’t know what’s going on in the shadows. EMP is a proven weapon; a very devastating one; so as long as it exists, we are under that threat.

In many ways, it’s like the Cold War all over again. The big difference this time is that we have more potential enemies and the destruction they could wreck upon us is even greater. Before we just had to worry about the Soviet Union attacking our military, government and major cities; now we have to worry about several different enemies taking out our entire country.

Will this happen? There’s no way of knowing until it does. Just as we lived under the threat of thermonuclear war in my childhood, we now live under the threat of EMP. By the time we do find out, it will be too late; we’ll either be ready and survive, or we won’t.

The EMP Survival Problem

As a survival problem, an EMP attack is one of the worst we can face. It isn’t just a long-term survival situation, but basically a permanent one. The 18 months that this latest report mentions to get the grid up and running again, doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that 90% of our population will probably be dead, before it can be restored. That means that unless extraordinary measures are taken to ensure the survival of the people needed to repair the grid, it simply won’t be possible.

I have no doubt that the grid will eventually be restored, especially to the larger population centers. But those population centers will also see the highest death rates. Most of the survivors will probably be in rural communities, especially farming communities. Few will have the necessary skills to rebuild the grid. So, while I’m sure it will be restored eventually, I wouldn’t be surprised if it took more than a decade for that to happen.

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What this means for you and I is that we need to be ready to survive that long, without any other source of supply, other than what we can scavenge. As scavenging is not a reliable means of supply, all we can count on that for is incidentals, or perhaps clothing.

This will require complete self-sufficiency, more than any other survival problem we could face. We will need to provide our own food, water and heat, as well as a host of lesser needs. The only ones who will be able to do this are people who have built a huge stockpile or those who have developed a homestead which can provide all their needs.

There will probably be some small rural communities which band together and survive as well; not so much because of being prepared, but because of having the right resources and reacting in the right way to the situation. Even so, such communities will probably see a large percentage of their populations die away to disease and starvation. Those who do survive will be the strongest and healthiest.

Preparing for an EMP

While I suppose it would be possible to survive an EMP and its aftermath by stockpiling, that’s not something I would want to count on. I’ve only heard of one family which is building a 10 year stockpile of food, and they were featured on Doomsday Preppers. Most of the rest of us are working to get a year’s worth, which clearly won’t be enough.

The key to surviving such a scenario is sustainability. In other words, being able to provide ourselves with enough heating fuel, water and food to survive, year after year. This will require much more than a simple vegetable garden and a few chickens. We will literally have to turn our entire property into a homestead, growing food.

The three key things we will need to concentrate on, will be water, food and fuel for our fires:

  • Water – To survive will require having a way of harvesting enough water to meet your family and your homestead’s needs. That probably means a well, but it can be accomplished through rainwater capture also, if you live in an area with adequate rainfall. Those few people who are lucky enough to have a stream or river on or bordering their property will have it the easiest, assuming that nobody dams the river.
  • Food – We’ve all seen stories of people who grow all their own food in their backyards. This will have to become the norm for us, turning our entire backyards into vegetable gardens. The one thing that takes the most space is grains, so we will probably have to do without them, unless you happen to own several acres. Whereas grains provide the bulk of our calories today, we will have to get them from fruits and vegetables. At least some animals will be needed as well, such as chickens and rabbits, to provide us with animal protein.
  • Fuel – It takes somewhere between four and six cords of wood to heat a home through a winter. A good source for that wood, close to your home, is essential. You have to assume that you won’t have your truck or car available to haul that wood, so you won’t only need a way of cutting it, but of moving it from wherever you cut it, to your home for use.

In addition to these basic needs, there is a very high probability that you are going to have to defend yourself. In some cases, that will be from individuals that seek to steal enough food to survive. But as time goes on, chances are high that these people will gather together, forming raiding gangs to steal food and other necessary supplies from whoever is still alive. Gang-level warfare or gangs attacking communities will become commonplace.

This is the biggest reason why you will need to be part of a survival community, rather than trying to survive on your own. As these groups rise up, they will be able to overcome the defenses of individual homesteads easily. The only people who will stand a chance against them, will be communities which band together in defense.

Of course, banding together in defense also means banding together for other survival needs as well. Those same people who are helping you defend your community, will be quick to turn against you, if they find out that you have food and they don’t.

Expand Your Survival Vision

It may not be a popular position, but I believe that it is essential that we develop a survival mindset that expands beyond our families or survival team. If we are going to survive this gang warfare, we are going to need the help of others. That means that we must be able to integrate ourselves into the community in such a way that they see us as a resource, not just as “that selfish family who is prepared.”

As far as I’m concerned, it’s impossible to stockpile enough food to take care of more than my family. Even so, I have a few hundred pounds of rice and beans, which is earmarked as “extra” for helping my neighbors. That’s not enough, but I’m hoping it’s enough to earn their goodwill.

My greater plan is to help them become self-sufficient in the midst of the crisis. I am working towards that goal through a number of different strategies:

  • Finding Warehoused Resources – I’ve started mapping out warehouses which will have needed resources, especially food. Many of these are not obvious. My intent is to use that list to lead the municipal government to appropriate those supplies in the name of the people, providing them with something to eat.
  • Stockpiling Seed – If I’m growing my own food, probably the best thing I can do for others is to help them grow their own food as well. I not only have enough seed on-hand for my needs and those of my neighbors, but I have mapped out all the feed and seed supplies in the area. While I have no way of knowing what they will have in stock at the time of the EMP hitting, I can be sure that they will have seed that can be used.
  • Learning Critical Skills – I am always working to improve my survival skills, to include methods of doing things without electric power. While I need those skills for my own survival needs, they will also be helpful in bartering with others and helping them to survive. My hope is that those skills will make me valuable enough to the community, that I can count on their support, as well as having my voice heard.

Written by

Bill White is the author of Conquering the Coming Collapse, and a former Army officer, manufacturing engineer and business manager. More recently, he left the business world to work as a cross-cultural missionary on the Mexico border. Bill has been a survivalist since the 1970s, when the nation was in the latter days of the Cold War. He had determined to head into the Colorado Rockies, should Washington ever decide to push the button. While those days have passed, the knowledge Bill gained during that time hasn’t. He now works to educate others on the risks that exist in our society and how to prepare to meet them. You can send Bill a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • Personally, I am skeptical that established countries would make a preemptive first strike with an EMP. They have too much to lose if something goes awry and the USA is able to retaliate. Instead, I think the real danger of an EMP resides in its use as a coup de grace. If our country were to experience a financial meltdown or a pandemic or other disaster on a national scale, I could easily see an enemy state stepping in with an EMP to finish us off.

  • EMP is real and has been known about for many decades. One bomb properly placed could kill millions. If we have not built our weapons to withstand EMP then we are idiots!

    • As far as I know there is NO defense. What would you have used?

  • Mr White is quite idealistic. Hungry men who have even hungrier families will do whatever they need to do to obtain food. Giving them rice and beans will just make them dependent upon you and want more of your stuff which you cannot afford to give them.
    The best plan is to make sure that you will have sufficient oxygen and protection from radioactivity (nuclear attack) as well as sufficient stores of water, food, medicine, intellectual material (chess, books, music, etc), weapons, and EMP proof sources of energy/electricity — eg propane generators, wind mills, and solar panels.
    And it’s also time to consider force multipliers such as electric fences, razor wire, booby traps, molotov cocktails, hand grenades,mines, binary triggers, excellent night vision, functional combat clothing (armor), and tactical training. Nothing illegal should be activated during peacetime, but if a mob is coming to kill your family to get food after an EMP attack then you have every right to defend your loved ones by any means necessary,. It will be survival of the fittest. Don’t count on the rectitude of anyone except your closest friends and family.

  • Where can I find & GET free eBooks & info on surviving EMP attacks?

  • A HEMP attack from one of our ‘enemy’ or adversary nations is unlikely. This is because it would have to be delivered by a ballistic missile. Which is the major purpose of our entire super advanced ‘missile defense’ system. To provide an early detection in order to shoot it down–or even before it even gets too far from its source. We have extremely advanced satellites just for that ‘detection advantage’ purpose. Our very recent advancement in super Earth surveillance can detect a foreign missile almost before it’s launched. There’s no ‘surprise’ attacks with missiles anymore unless maybe it’s delivered from a coastal vessel only a few mile outside of our territorial waters. But we have ‘special defense for that also’. So as MMcclure pointed out, It would be suicide by America for the shooter Country originating the action. Even if we couldn’t shoot that one down We’d be automatically retaliating almost simultaneously from our own foreign based counter attack missiles, our killer Satellites, and Submarines. Because our Spy networks and their computers are so powerful now that they track and assess virtually ALL potentially dangerous and suspicious activity in the Air and Sea before they get too close. That’s how they always ‘know’ when Russia Sends Submarines underwater or Planes too close to our U.S. Coast. No Copuntry in their right minds, no matter how much they despise the U.S. would risk turning their populations into charred Wall Art and their nitwit nation into one giant ashtray.

    That’s not to say that our Grid will never be attacked or come down. Check out an Article I wrote on this a while back here on Survivopedia. As antiquated and fragile our Grid structure still is at the moment, the fact I explained in it was how it was easier to take down most of our power without using a HEMP. That’s even more true right now. The devastation will be just as bad, but all your stuff won’t get fried and you definitely can prepare better for that form of grid outage.

    • Don’t discount satellite delivered EMP. It would be quite simple for an adversary to launch a weather satellite or just about any other satellite that just happens to also have a nuclear bomb included. It could then be detonated whenever they want to do so….with the same end result for the USA. And I think you have a blind spot when it comes to mutual destruction…I doubt if the NK dictator would care one whit about his country if he thought the USA was launching against him – he’d quite likely attack us out of spite if he thought he was losing his grip on power. Same scenario could play out in Pakistan or Iran if things change a bit in those regions….so I wouldn’t discount the EMP threat at all. We can hope all we want, but it’s just prudent to prepare as best as we can for the worst case. Do I think these scenarios I’ve outlines are likely? No, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done all I can to protect my family in case of SHTF or TEOTWAWKI.

    • You have made several valid points. However, you neglect to realize that some people/religions have no problem with retaliation. They are more than prepared to perform an act which is essentially suicide. This includes destroying the earth, which in their mind, will bring renewal, i.e. paradise to the world.

      • MeWho, yes that’s true of the extremis Islamic theocracies and their ‘end times’ beliefs, which consist of a growing impatience with the coming of their Maadi savior said to follow a major world societal collapse (similar to the Christian End times Revelations which Islam basically did a knock off of in their religionist organization), which is also one of the causes of disagreement with their respective (sarc play on words intended) between various muslim sects. Some psycho brain warped Islamists think it’s better to facilitate the coming of their ‘savior’ by assisting the ending the world as we know it’ sooner. But deep down in their warped psychology they still do some pragmatic self survival evaluations. and instincts. Especially the core Islamic power elite like the muslim brother hood who reason that what purpose is committing suicide going to accomplish when the suicide will be so complete that there won’t be many muslim countries or even muslims themselves left for the Maadi to save?

    • Hello, N Korea, Iran, Isis…..All and more are crazy enough to run suicide squads to do this with small frigates just outside coastal waters.

    • When 2nd AMENDMENT / Bill of rights is destroyed buy in powerful SOCIALIST DEMOCRATES REPUBLIK gets their way. EMP becomes most cost effective means to destroy USA as a country !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! USSR == United Soviet SOCIALIST REPUBLIC. NOT GOOD…

  • I only need a LARGE loin cloth to survive. And all will be good

    • And flip flops

      • Yeah, and maybe just the flip flops!?

  • Defense against ballistic missiles is pretty much a fantasy our military has propagated since the Reagan Administration, it is a big moneymaker for the generals and their Bosses. Also, we have only worked on tech to intercept warheads in the terminal phase, when they are re-entering the atmosphere (and a successful non pre-programmed, non scripted intercept has never been attempted, let alone achieved). Most important to know is that EMP attack with current tech will be a high altitude (HEMP) attack from a warhead orbiting a couple hundred miles up, there is no reentry involved and we have no ability to shoot down a satellite.
    An EMP attack will almost certainly result in a nuclear exchange between Russia and the U.S., Russia has got to be fairly certain that if we are crippled we’re going to expect them to attack. Who attacks first? Go figure. Order that LARGE loin cloth with extra hair…

  • It is difficult to find anything positive about a societal collapse which would most certainly result from a widespread grid failure. Though it may take years to rebuild, we must use the opportunity to rebuild society without the flaws of today, which is structured on giving power-hungry politicians the coercive power to rule over the lives and property of others. Freedom is the societal condition wherein every person has total control over his own property. In such a society, no person whether elected or not would be able to rule anyone else or take their property without their permission.
    You say you are “mapping out warehouses…to use that list to lead the municipal government to appropriate those supplies in the name of the people”. Appropriation is but another word for stealing. Building a new society based on theft will evolve into a corrupt political state as coercive as we have today. If a disaster and societal collapse should occur, I hope the survivors will have learned from our mistakes and build a structure for stabilized durable growth which can only occur with freedom.

  • If a nuclear bomb was set off just above the atmosphere, the energy that is produced from the blast would create ionization. Ionization only means that the atomic elements in the atmosphere,(Oxygen, nitrogen)are bring stripped of some of their electrons. The force and energy of the blast literally knock these electrons free from the orbit of those elements. Those elements are then unstable because they don’t have the proper number of electrons. They then began to look for electrons so they may return to being stable. The elements looking for the electrons, moving in the atmosphere, back and forth, that is where the pulse is created. The back and forth movements of the elements searching for their lost electrons.
                    The electrons that were forced anyway from the elements Start their own journey.  They begin to fall to the earth in a spiral pattern. Because they are positively charged they are attracted to anything that conducts electricity. This means that there is an astronomical amount of positively charged electrons searching for a home. Whether that be the wiring of your house, the electric lines coming into your home, your car, laptop, they don’t care where they go, but they will go somewhere. The massive charge will create a lot of heat and the heat is what causes issues in your electrical system.
                    Now that we understand the problem, it is time to come up with a fix. That is exactly what EMP Shield LLC has done. The EMP Shield is placed into just about any given electrical system. Its job is to watch the flow of electricity. If it sees any spike in current it shunts it away in 500 trillions of a second. So, let’s put one of these in a car. So you’re driving along and an EMP attack happens, those freed electrons are going to induce into your car. That is going to be a large amount of electricity and It’s going to travel the frame and induce again into your electrical system. As soon as it gets there, the EMP Shield is going to see it and in 500 Trillionths of a second, it gets shunted back to the frame. Where it then has to travel the frame to get back to the 12-volt system. It loses a little charge in the process. It then introduces back to the system where it is shunted again. This allows the charge to be shunted away until the charge is gone.