Can You Harden Your Household Electronics Against an EMP?

EMP: Electromagnetic Pulse

What You Need to Know

Your food, medicine, and water supplies are dependent on a smooth overall operation of the national power grid. If it went down for even just a week or two, millions of people, especially in dense urban areas would quickly become desperate and turn on each other for supplies.

Of course, we have seen this happen on a smaller scale in cases where hurricanes strike and all the food and water and gas inventories vanish overnight. But this has never happened all across the country at the same time.

For most, the possibility of a national failure of the power grid is unthinkable. But this scenario is, in fact, a very real possibility. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Most scientists agree that a collapse of the national power grid is a risk. Let me explain.

Which do you think would be worse – a nuclear warhead detonated at ground level in Omaha, Nebraska, or one detonated in space above Omaha?

A ground-level warhead would take out the city and cause concerns about nuclear fallout across the nation.

An aerial detonation, on the other hand, would take out the entire country’s communications system and power grid.

The Truth About EMPs

and Electrical Equipment

How can you protect your electronics? Unfortunately, due to the way most home wiring is set up, any electronics that are plugged in— even if they’re not turned on— would probably be damaged by an EMP. However, you could avoid damage to much of your electrical equipment by unplugging it, if you knew beforehand that a nuclear explosion might occur…

From a design standpoint, “hardening” equipment against an EMP is ideal, but often very hard to carry out. The National Academy of Sciences found in the late 1980’s that tailored hardening is not only deceptively difficult, but also very poorly understood, even by the defense electronics community. The US Army Corp. of Engineers has noted that,

“Definitive standards and specifications for hardening facilities… do not exist…. design approaches are not compatible for all EMP protection requirements. Many of these incompatibilities are related to methods for grounding cable shields and allowances for penetrating conductors.”

In other words, even the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers doesn’t have clear requirements for what should be done to prevent this damage. (For those readers with deeper electrical engineering knowledge, the US Army Corp. of Engineers’ findings on EMP and electrical equipment may be of interest. You can find a copy on the Web at:

There are a few methods you can take to reduce EMP damage, though they are somewhat crude. These methods include:

  • placing induction shielding around components
  • you can use self-contained battery packs and loop antennas, which eliminate the chance of pulling in an EMP surge from power lines or long antennas
  • the use of grounding wires for each separate instrument which is coupled to another can also reduce EMP damage by increasing the paths an electrical surge can take to ground itself
  • the use of Zener diodes has also been shown to have merit in protecting solid state components from EMP

There are also automatic switches which seems to hold promise in saving electronic components from EMP damage. These should not be confused with similar switches designed to stop lightning damage; although EMP and lightning are similar, they are different enough that devices designed to protect from lightning strikes won’t protect electrical equipment from EMP.

Some of the most EMP resistant electrical equipment includes electric motors, old vacuum tube equipment, electrical generators, transformers, relays, and the like. These would likely survive an EMP pulse if you had the foresight to unplug them and remove long antennas (if any) from them before the EMP occured.

But newer electronics are tricky. The really sensitive parts found in most of today’s electrical equipment, like IC circuits, microwave transistors, and Field Effect Transistors (FETs) probably won’t survive. Given that most modern electrical equipment (everything from computers to cellular phones) have these components in them, you should be prepared to write off such equipment if it isn’t protected in a Faraday cage (keep your eyes open, we’ll cover Faraday Cages in an upcoming Ready for Anything Report).

P.S. – An EMP grid-disrupting event could be caused by more than a solar flare. Most major global powers (and some small ones too) have EMP weapons. All it takes is a small, low-yield nuclear blast in the atmosphere. The EMP wave would take out all power and tens of millions of computer microprocessors!

If you have a gas generator, you may think you’re ready for anything. Let me show you why that’s dangerous way to think. There is another alternative…

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