One of the reasons I haven’t discussed EMP survival on this site is because truthfully, your chances of surviving an EMP attack in the city are slim. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done. But in addition to plenty of food and water, you would need enough guns and ammo to hold off looters for months. That’s because after an EMP, the two biggest killers are starvation and starving people.
EMP is short for electromagnetic pulse. Here’s the gist of it: If a nuclear bomb were detonated anywhere from 25 to 500 miles above the Earth, it would electrify the atmosphere and change the Earth’s magnetic field. This would cause a series of powerful electromagnetic pulses to spread in every direction at the speed of light. These pulses would be attracted to metal, particularly power lines.
As the pulses traveled along the power lines, they would build in intensity until tens of thousands of amps slammed into the electronics at the end of those lines. Everything would be fried—lights, televisions, computers, kitchen appliances, all of it. In fact, an EMP is so powerful that even things that aren’t plugged in—cell phones, portable radios, electronic ignition systems in cars, etc—would get fried, too.
As you can see from the map, a rogue nation with the ability to launch a nuclear bomb could do a lot more damage by detonating the bomb 300 miles above the United States than by hitting one particular city. There’s an interesting presentation about this at EMP-Survival.com.
The destruction would be unimaginable. Hundreds of thousands would die in the first few minutes because of all the commercial airliners that would crash. Within an hour, all the people on life support in hospitals would die (the hospitals’ backup generators would be useless). The next wave of deaths would happen less than a week later when people start killing each other over whatever food is left.
What’s sad is that the country could prepare for this potential end-of-the-world scenario, but Congress will never spend the money required. It’s possible to shield electronics from an EMP by gold-plating all the essential components. The military could EMP proof enough trucks, trains and planes to transport food and maintain order throughout the country, but the cost would be in the hundreds of billions. And why spend hundreds of billions on a disaster that might never happen when the TSA needs new scanners?
I’m not going to get into the specifics of EMP survival in this post. This is just an introduction for people new to the topic. However, it should be obvious that you would need ways to purify water, a huge food storage cache, and self defense and security measures.
There’s more free information on this topic under the Nuclear, Biological, Chemical category on the survival eBooks page. I also recommend the novel One Second After by William R. Forstchen. The author is an expert on EMP survival and paints a terrifyingly realistic picture of what an EMP attack would look like.