Try to imagine this scenario. You’re driving home when suddenly your car dies. The dashboard goes dark and the engine is silent.
You try to check your phone and see what’s going on, but your phone is dead too. Then you start to realize that all the other cars on the road have stopped too.
In the case of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, all unshielded electronics will go dark. The short burst of electromagnetic energy can disrupt or destroy electronic devices and systems. It can even destroy the electrical power grid.
The detonation of just a few of these high energy EMPs could wipe out all power grids in the United States. Commonly used in apocalyptic stories like One Second After or NBC’s Revolution, few survival scenarios have captured the imagination quite like EMPs.
Could you survive an EMP attack scenario? Here’s what an EMP attack would be like–and what you can do to survive.
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack Timeline
An EMP attack could lead to a significantly altered world. A post-EMP world might involve months and months of life without the power grid–and our favorite electronics.
This could radically change your day to day life, and it could put millions of lives in danger. From plane crashes to starvation, there are countless risks to an EMP attack.
Here’s what would go down in the case of an attack–from day one to months later.
So what would happen immediately after an EMP?
It’s likely that the first few hours and days after the attack will be chaotic and deadly. An EMP can create a surge in currents and voltage in all electrical parts. This means cars, trains, planes, televisions, computers, laptops, radios, phones, and more would stop working at the moment of the attack.
In addition, the electrical grid would be permanently fried. There’s no easy fix–it could take months or even years to get the power back on.
About 500,000 people would die in the first hour. This is mainly due to plane crashes. Without power, every aircraft in the sky would fall to the ground, killing everybody on board as well as those on the ground or in buildings hit by the plane.
Car crashes would also be likely, especially on highways where cars are traveling over 60 miles per hour. Vehicles might run into oncoming traffic, drive off the edge of the road, or strike pedestrians.
Elevators would quickly become death traps–anyone inside would be trapped in complete darkness and would have to find a way out before dying of dehydration.
Anybody living near nuclear plants could be in serious trouble too. As backup generators stop working, plants would melt down and release large amounts of radiation. The 99 reactors in the U.S. would kill anybody within 100 miles.
While the first few days will ramp up a high death toll, anyone who survives the initial wave will be facing new challenges.
With no power, people would have no running water, refrigeration, heat, A/C, lights, communication, or access to monetary funds.
After losing these vital technologies, many people would not be able to survive for long. In the first few weeks, shops would be looted and vital supplies would run out quickly. Soon, hordes of people would take to the streets to steal any supplies that they can find–even resorting to violence to do so.
Prisons would shut down and inmates would escape. Without police, criminals would be free to roam the streets.
In addition, hospitals and nursing homes would lose breathing machines and other devices, leading to more deaths. Without access to needed prescriptions, many more would die in the coming weeks.
Two to Three Months After
By this time, those that survive will have learned to live off the land. The country will essentially descend into a second Stone Age.
With shops and stores out of business, small communities may start to develop. These people may survive off of farming, hunting, and trading with other families or communities.
However, it’s likely that many will still die from lack of access to clean water, food, or medical treatment. And not all communities will be peaceful–people may still resort to violence, stealing, and looting out of desperation to survive.
Furthermore, going back to the Stone Age means suffering from diseases that humanity once eradicated. Without access to medication, vaccinations, or clean water, it’s likely that disease will become a major issue.
With no power, water filtration plants will go down. Humans can only survive about 3 days without water, and survivors may turn to any water source they can find.
This could lead to cholera, which develops from drinking tainted water. Ultimately, cholera could kill thousands of people in the months after an EMP attack.
Six Months After
Six months to a year after the EMP, the consequences could be severe.
A major EMP strike could shut down power for up to 10 years. It would take about 2 trillion dollars in just the first year to try and rebuild the grid.
Millions would continue to die from disease, dehydration, starvation, and more. Furthermore, the U.S. would be susceptible to mainland attack from missiles, helicopters, and ships, which could cause more deaths. It could even lead to a forced military occupation by another country.
It’s likely that in the first year or two following the pulse, 90% of Americans would die.
Tips for Surviving an EMP Attack Scenario
The timeline of an EMP attack might seem bleak. But with the right preparation, you could be one of the 10% that would be more likely to survive an EMP attack.
Here are some tips to get you on the right track towards survival.
1. Act Quickly
At the beginning of an EMP attack, there’s likely to be widespread confusion and chaos. Take advantage of the first few hours and act quickly.
Take all the cash that you have in the house and spend it all on food. Try to find items that won’t perish without refrigeration. Canned soup, canned fruit, dried meat, nuts, peanut butter, rice, pasta, and even candy bars can give you vital energy to keep you alive.
If you have time, you can also stock up on other useful items like water purifiers, medication, or warm clothing.
After stocking up, you can head home. However, if you live in an urban area, it might be a good idea to migrate away from the city. Without law and order, it won’t be safe or sanitary to remain there.
If you have any firearms or self-defense weapons, keep them on hand. As people start to become desperate, they may turn to violence to take your food, water, and hard-earned supplies.
2. Protect Your Electronics
One of the ways you can prepare for an EMP attack is to protect your electronics.
A Faraday cage, box, or other container is designed to protect any electronic equipment from an electromagnetic pulse. This shielding device can protect all your electronic essentials.
Keeping items like battery-powered radios, solar powered chargers, LED flashlights, mp3 players with music, small generators, a laptop with ebooks or personal pictures, a small DVD player, inverters, and electronic medical equipment.
Don’t know how to build a Faraday cage? Check out the Tech Protect Faraday Bags for a convenient way to protect the vital electronics you’ll need after an EMP attack.
3. Start Rationing Food and Water
Once you’ve survived the first few days, it’s time to start rationing the shelf-stable food and water that you have.
Keep your refrigerator shut as long as possible to preserve the cold air, but you should eat all perishable foods as soon as possible. Stock up on foods from the store, but know that the grocery stores will likely be empty in three days.
If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard space or private land, start planting seeds to prepare for food shortages later down the line. You can also start putting together hunting equipment like traps, spears, and bows.
As soon as the EMP hits, fill every available surface in your house with water. Fill bathtubs, sinks, containers, pools, and more. Soon, the water pressure will shut off and you won’t have access to clean water from the pipes, so stock up on it as soon as possible.
Put containers or barrels outside to collect rainwater and start seeking out nearby rivers or streams where you can draw water. If you don’t have a water pump or iodine drops to purify the water, try boiling the water or putting it in a plastic bottle and leaving it in the sun for 6 hours or more.
Are You Prepared For an EMP Attack?
While there might not be an EMP attack right on the horizon, this threat could move from fiction to reality sooner than we might think. Whether it’s from a solar flare or a nuclear attack, it pays to be prepared for an EMP attack scenario.
Survivors of an EMP attack scenario will need to think quickly on their feet, prepare for the worst, and learn to adapt to the new world.
Do you plan to survive an EMP attack? Check out our life tips section to read more articles on how to be prepared for the worst.