In the early days of prepping, nuclear war was the danger most people were concerned about. That’s easy to understand; not much could be as destructive as a full-scale nuclear exchange. That danger has receded a bit now, although it certainly hasn’t gone away – and, with Russia led by the hard-liner Vladimir Putin, it might even be rising again. Still, it’s not what’s at the front of everyone’s minds when they think of a EOTWAWKT situation.
There’s a wider range of threats to worry about these days, but potentially one of the worst is an EMP attack. A small number of nuclear weapons, detonated in the upper layers of the atmosphere, would produce a huge and devastating electromagnetic pulse that could potentially blanket the whole country. In the affected area, most electronics would be instantly destroyed – and anything with wires in it would experience current spikes that might even be able to burn out simpler electrical systems.
An EMP attack would instantly obliterate most of the services and communication systems modern society depends on, and when you take away the things that hold a society together, it falls apart. That’s going to trigger one of the worst-case prepping scenarios – being thrown totally on your own resources, and potentially having to protect what you have from crowds of desperate people.
We asked 14 preppers what they thought of the EMP threat, and how they planned to cope with it:
Robert, Georgia – “After civil disorder, an EMP attack is the most likely SHTF scenario I can think of. There are just too many rogue states that either have nukes or could get them in the next couple years. And if you want to hurt America a bad as possible, EMP is the best way to do it. It’s the worst-case scenario I plan for; I figure if I can survive an EMP, I can get through anything else that’s likely to happen.”
Shane, Texas – “Learning what EMP can do was a real eye opener. Now, whenever I buy something, I always ask myself two questions – is this going to survive an EMP, and how will I get by without it if it isn’t?”
Neil, Virginia – “I had a few reasons for emphasizing pioneer-style tools and skills in my preparations, and EMP was a big one. 19th century technology is a lot easier to make or repair yourself, and it’s also guaranteed EMP-resistant. I have some radios, LED flashlights and other electronics stored in Faraday cages, and if that all survives it’s a bonus, but I’m aiming to be able to survive with no electricity at all if I have to.”
Martin, Alabama – “I can see the panic growing quite slowly after an EMP. At first a lot of people are just going to think the power went out or something. Without their electronics they have no way of knowing the whole country is affected. It’s going to take some time for that to sink in. I want to know it’s happened right away, so I can get myself out of the city and head for somewhere safe.”
Leslie, Texas – “I don’t think an EMP is going to be that much of a hardship for me personally. I already have my own well and I’m pretty self-sufficient in food. I have an old truck for as long as the fuel lasts, and horses for the long term. What I’m worried about is other people and how they’re going to react. For city folk an EMP is going to be devastating. Concealing what I have as well as I can, and defending it if necessary, are the big challenges I see.”
Jess, Maine – “When I learned about EMP I went through everything I’d done to prepare and looked at how it would stand up to the pulse. I was horrified at how much I planned to depend on electronics. In any other crisis they’d be fine, because I have the power to charge them, but the EMP risk made me look for more mechanical solutions everywhere I could.”
Floyd, Virginia – “What scares me the most about EMP is how thoroughly it would mess us up. It’s going to hit everybody. Emergency services will be in at least as big of a mess as the rest of us. It really is going to be every man for himself.”
Jay, Montana – “If we get attacked in spring or summer I think we could pull things back together pretty well inside a few months. Trouble is, if the bad guys are smart and hit us with EMP in winter, people are gonna start dying real fast. And how smart do you have to be to work that out? That’s when I’d do it.”
Kyle, California – “I live in the tech capital of the world, basically. People here can’t cope without WiFi for five minutes. After an EMP they’ll all go crazy. I’m bugging out if EMP even seems likely.”
Richie, South Dakota – “When I first heard of EMP I thought, fine, I can get along without the TV, and I have my own generator for when the power goes down. Then I learned a bit more and realized just how bad it would be. It’s not just the power we’ll lose; it’s gas, probably water, all communications. All that stuff is controlled by computers, and they’ll be toast. To get through the few months after the attack is going to need pretty much total self-reliance.”
Sue, Maryland – “I’m pretty sure an EMP wouldn’t impact me much directly – looking around my home, there isn’t a lot for it to damage. What scares me is the effect it’s going to have on a lot of other people, and how desperate they’re going to be when food disappears from the stores. My two priorities are self-defense and expanding my vegetable plot.”
Paul, North Carolina – “EMP wasn’t something I thought about much until a couple years ago. Since I learned what its effects would be I started to take it a lot more seriously. It’s meant a few changes in my plans. The truck I planned to use for my bugout was a late model, and probably wouldn’t have survived. I’ve now replaced it with an old but low mileage one that doesn’t have electronic engine management – another benefit is I can do a lot more work on it myself. I’ve gone back to navigating with map and compass, too, just to keep my skills sharp. GPS is great as a backup, but we can’t rely on it.”
Related: Affordable Vehicles That Can Survive an EMP
Terry, New Jersey – “Maybe an EMP wouldn’t be the absolute worst thing that could happen, but it scares me because it’s more likely than a full-on nuclear war. It’s the kind of thing some crazy leader might think he can get away with.”
Claude, USA – “A few people have noticed that this site talks about EMP a lot. There’s a reason for that. It’s the simplest way for someone to cripple the USA. A few countries are already capable of doing it and more are getting there – some of them are run by pretty unstable folk. It’s hard to think of anything else that could cause so much chaos across so much of the country – even a single weapon could cripple multiple states, and that’s enough to overload anything the federal government and local emergency services could throw in. EMP is a serious SHTF scenario, and if you want to be prepared, you need to be prepared for EMP.”