Emergency Preparedness

Preparing for North Korea’s EMP Threat

We’ve all seen a change in how our government is handling North Korea now that Donald Trump is president. Previous administrations quietly acknowledged that Kim Jong Un was a madman while publicly either ignoring him or politely tiptoeing around any threats he made.

Our current president has done quite the opposite. In President Trump’s recent speech to the United Nations, Trump called Kim Jon Un a “rocketman on a suicide mission.” News analysts have stated that President Trump is wading into dangerous territory. This is because the North Korean culture and particularly the god-like status that is given to its leaders does not allow a path for the leader to back down or retreat. If an attack by North Korea does happen, it is likely to be in the form of using electromagnetic pulses (EMP) as a strategic weapon.

They could employ a high-energy hydrogen bomb which would be detonated from a high altitude over the United States mainland. The result of all that power being released would be burning out the high-voltage transformers that link the US’s electrical grid. According to this article on the Huffington Post, there’s no replacements readily available for the transformers that would be destroyed in an act like this. Only one plant in the US makes them, but this plant makes smaller versions. The largest ones are made in Europe or China and there’s a multi-year backlog for them.

If you live on the Eastern seaboard, you are particularly vulnerable to an EMP attack because the country’s power grid on that side of the mainland is older and highly interconnected.  Just reading about what the experts predict could happen in a case of EMP attack is scary — major sections of the United States without electricity for potentially years, catastrophic death and suffering, no industry, no crops. The actual detonation would be far enough up in the atmosphere that it would not kill people directly, but the lack of infrastructure that would result would kill hundreds of thousands or millions, easily. “Riding out” an attack like this would be extremely difficult.

Protecting small electronic devices can be accomplished fairly easily by storing them in EMP bags, aka anti-static bags. If you purchase EMP bags, research them to make sure you’re getting high-quality bags. The shielding that these bags offers can vary widely, from  10 dB (a factor of 3 reduction in electric field strength) to >50 dB (a reduction of 316 in electric field strength). Choose the highest level of shielding, which is approximately 50 dB of shielding across the EMP frequencies, which range from 100 kHz to 1GHz.

Perhaps that should be the basis of another post! Most people don’t understand how frequencies work and what the actual danger is. For those that don’t, suffice it to say at this point that anything that plugs in (your electric drill, your toaster) or utilizes electricity (your car ignition, your generator) could be screwed to the point of non-function.

If the company is saying that you need to use or buy multiple bags or multiple layers, that means that their product is offering a minimal level of shielding. You can buy multiple high-quality bags for under $100, so that makes this a relatively easy item to add to your SHTF preparations.

For large items like generators or solar panels, these bags won’t work. For that there are fabrics that are called EMP cloths that can be draped over large items. People have made homemade Faraday cages out of metal containers like galvanized garbage cans. That’s beyond the scope of this article, but there are a lot of instructions out there for this type of structure.

Overall, the likelihood of this type of attack may seem far-fetched. But it’s safe to say that we’re closer to an event of this nature than ever before. While some things may work after an event like an EMP attack, it’s also a safe bet to assume that nothing will. Plan accordingly.

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Mark James

Mark James

Mark James lives with his family in Western Oregon, the area that Oregon's FEMA director said "will be toast" in the event of a Cascadian earthquake. He hopes to share information to help others protect themselves and their loved ones.

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