Nov 29

The EMP threat, Microwave Ovens and Faraday Cages.

If you’ve read the book One Second After by William R. Forstchen you know all too well just how devastating an EMP attack would be if carried out on the continental United States.  Mass chaos, horrific violence, millions of deaths and years to recover are just some of the hardships the book describes in vivid detail  While the book was a work of fiction it nonetheless has many ties to reality, the most prominent being that the US is still vulnerable to an EMP attack and the consequences of such and attack would be utterly catastrophic   Don’t take my word for it, look not further than The Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (thanks to Lux for the link). This report was published by a commission in 2004 and lead by Dr. William R. Graham, Chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack.   The overview is entitled EMP IS CAPABLE OF CAUSING CATASTROPHE FOR THE NATION and includes the following text:

Depending on the specific characteristics of the attacks, unprecedented cascading failures of our major infrastructures could result. In that event, a regional or national recovery would be long and difficult and would seriously degrade the safety and overall viability of our Nation. The primary avenues for catastrophic damage to the Nation are through our electric power infrastructure and thence into our telecommunications, energy, and other infrastructures. These, in turn, can seriously impact other important aspects of our Nation’s life, including the financial system; means of getting food, water, and medical care to the citizenry; trade; and production of goods and services. The recovery of any one of the key national infrastructures is dependent on the recovery of others. The longer the outage, the more problematic and uncertain the recovery will be.

On September 12, 2012 Brandon Whales, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center, had the following to say while testifying before the House Committee on Homeland Security when describing the potential impacts to critical infrastructure.

Overall, EMP in its various forms can cause widespread disruption and serious damage to electronic devices and networks, including those upon which many critical infrastructures rely, such as communication systems, information technology equipment, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) modules. SCADA modules are used in infrastructure such as electric grids, water supplies, and pipelines. The disruptions to SCADA systems that could result from EMP range from SCADA control errors to actual SCADA equipment destruction. Secondary effects of EMP may harm people through induced fires, electric shocks, and disruptions of transportation and critical support systems, such as those at hospitals or sites like nuclear power plants and chemical facilities.

While words and quotations are great, videos are even better at getting the point across .  Check out this video which was originally aired as part of the Future Weapons series, which shows in detail how quick and lethal an EMP strike would be.  Imagine if you were in a car when a strike occurred, or even worse if you were at 30,000 feet in an airplane.  One EMP expert in the video was asked: “What do you think would happen in the first 24 hours after an attack?”  His response:  “Uh, the word that comes to mind is chaos.”

While there isn’t much the average citizen can do to prevent an EMP from being detonated high in the atmosphere, there are a few precautions one can take to protect (shield) sensitive electronic devices from EMP’s.  2 way radios, weather radios and other communication devices can be protected by simply using an old microwave. Simple instructions over on detail how quickly this can be accomplished.

Use a nonfunctional microwave oven as an EMP safe. As long as the oven is intact physically, with no gaps between the door and the body, it will function as an EMP shield. While it will protect against some threats, for better protection, solder a braided copper grounding strip from the metal body of the oven to a cold water pipe (ground). This will protect against interior arcing from an extreme event.

If you have something more substantial to protect than small radios, check out this page on the Do’s and Don’ts of building your own Faraday Cages.   Or check out this video on YouTube on how to build a simple Faraday Cage out of an old shelf.


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    • Ranger W on November 29, 2012 at 3:31 PM
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    I have read the book and highly recommend it. It’s good knowledge and its also decently written fiction. It’s important for people to know that the US government actually takes this threat seriously. We haven’t prepared nearly enough as a country but we have a pentagon department that solely focuses on this. That shows that at the highest levels at least someone in our government knows this is a real threat.

    • Lux on December 3, 2012 at 2:32 AM
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    My main faraday cage looks like this one:

    I check it a couple of times a year to make sure both doors and the main cabinet have continuity to ground through a cold water pipe. My other faraday cages look like metal file cabinets because they are. It‘s good to know that car batteries will probably make it through an EMP event. I hope solar panels will too. I have a couple of spare panels in the faraday cage.


      • PJ on December 3, 2012 at 8:43 AM
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      Nice looking cage, simple but effective. While we would love to shield our homes in 2 inch steel it isn’t possible, so we do what we can.

    • Lux on February 12, 2013 at 10:11 AM
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    Here is the instructable for a faraday cage that is easy to make (modify) and will look good in the house. No longer will people need to have a galvanized trash can in their den to have the convenience of having a faraday cage in the house. It also doubles as a file cabinet


    • Semper Paratus on February 13, 2013 at 5:55 PM
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    I took a box which originally held reams of paper. Putting the lid aside for the moment, I wrapped the box in aluminum foil, two layers. Along the top of the box I ran a strip of that spongy 1/2″ wide foam insulating tape, like you would use to insulate around an air conditioner, something like that, the foil went over the top of this. The reason I did this was to make the layer of foil bump out a bit so I would be able to make good contact with foil on the lid. I took the foil right up to the top edge of the box. I then took the lid and wrapped it in foil. I made sure I pressed the foil tight against the cardboard and made it sure was nice and smooth where the inside of the lid would contact the top outside of the box so it would slide fairly easily. The insulating tape bumped out the foil so that the fit was snug between the foil on the box and the foil on the lid, but because the foil was smoothed out and pressed tight I am still able to take the lid off and put it back on without too much trouble. Next I took a thin layer of bubble wrap and taped it against all the inside surfaces of the box. Now I have a Faraday cage, but I took another step. I built another cage, a long rectangular box made of 2″ x 2″ lumber with a hinged lid at one end. I wrapped it in one layer of aluminum screen, then a layer of foil, then another layer of screen. The hinged door I again used the 1/2″ insulating strip so that I made good contact between the metal on the box and the metal on the lid. I lined the inside of this cage with a layer of cardboard, then a layer of thin bubble wrap, then another layer of cardboard. Now I’ve got a cage where I can nest two of my aluminum foil wrapped paper ream boxes sitting end to end. Nesting adds extra insurance. There is conflicting literature out there on whether grounding is needed, but one thing is clear: I checked and there was zero radio or cell reception inside the nested boxes so clearly no electromagnetic signal was penetrating. I believe my electronics inside are well protected.

      • PJ on February 14, 2013 at 2:51 PM
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      Thanks for sharing, looks like a very cost efficient way to construct a Faraday Cage. It certainly is better to have your electronics in there versus leaving them out in the open.


      • Carla on September 25, 2016 at 9:49 AM
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      What can be made to offer protection for a pacemaker

    • Michael McGhie on February 24, 2013 at 3:20 AM
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    Thanks for the great information. Your research answered every one of my questions and now I feel comfortable in the protection of my devices in the event of an EMP. Thanks a lot

      • PJ on February 24, 2013 at 7:08 AM
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      Thanks for the comment Michael, lots of good collective knowledge around here for sure.

    • James Woroble Jr on May 26, 2013 at 9:53 PM
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    The modern day Orwellian tyrannical government is nearly ENTIRELY reliant on its infrastructure of electronic surveillance and communication. A major EMP event would effectively bring it to its knees, like a blind and limb amputated giant, despite the few isolated enclaves of protected technology. For those awaiting an optimal time to initiate revolutionary change, this would be it. As a matter of fact, such an event would be the ONLY hope of success.

    • kurt on March 9, 2014 at 12:52 PM
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    Funny how these video clips are “not allowed in my country” (USA)

    • Scott on May 2, 2014 at 6:11 AM
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    Will a large gun safe work as a Faraday cage? Also, will batteries; AAA, AA, etc.. be affected by EMP?

    • Rich on June 12, 2015 at 8:22 PM
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    You know what is funny after years of being empty NORAD is moving back in to Cheyenne mountain and uping the emp protection

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