Poor Man Survival
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The EMP Risk & DIY Protection-Nothing is Scarier than an Electromagnetic Pulse
Just a few weeks ago a Sherriff’s office in Maricopa, AZ, confirmed, “Due to a cyber-attack, our 911 dispatch center received hundreds of hang up calls within minutes today. The volume of calls put the responders and authorities in immediate danger of losing service to their switches.”
Police said the hack affected services in the Phoenix metro area, parts of California and Texas.
The guy responsible was arrested on 3 counts of computer “tampering.”
2 of those counts are class 2 felonies as they involved critical infrastructure.
Who was the dangerous felon responsible for nearly taking out the 911 system in 3 huge states?
Was it a hacker from a major terrorist organization set on crippling our national grid?
No… not even close.
It was an 18-year old in his bedroom.
An 18-year old boy discovered an iOS vulnerability, and was able to cause mayhem in dispatch centers within minutes.
If someone barely out of school can cause so much damage, how hard do you think it would be for a terrorist to do it?
It’s time to face facts. A cyber-attack on a massive scale is imminent. It’s not a matter of IF but WHEN it happens.
And it doesn’t matter whether it’s ISIS, Russia, North Korea, or some random terrorist splinter group.
If the lights go out, our country will be in chaos instantly. 911 systems down. Traffic robots down. Financial systems destroyed. Cell phone networks gone. Electric non-existent.
There’s a natural phenomenon known as an “electromagnetic pulse” - or EMP.
The pulse could come a natural occurrence or be man-made. They’re essentially a burst of energy that fries electronic circuits within a blast radius.
If you’ve seen Ocean’s Eleven, one knocks out a casino’s power supply during a heist.
Director of the EMP Task force, Peter Pry believes that in real life, however, EMPs are a potential threat to national security.
Most modern day appliances, the hand-held technologies that we use daily and even the power grid all have sensitive circuits built-in.
During a normal blackout, you don’t have any lights, heating, or internet.
But an EMP black-out is permanent and further reaching.
Even A Small-Scale EMP Attack Would Breeds Fear, Confusion & Stress
Think about everything we suddenly wouldn't have access to if an EMP on the power grid occurred and the power was out indefinitely.
- Any money you have in the bank would be inaccessible indefinitely. ATMs, credit cards, debit cards... They'd all be useless.
- The stock markets would shut down just like they did during Hurricane Katrina…and all of your investments would be tied up…without any way of getting them out.
- And what happens to the food stamp system during an electric outage? Imagine 46.5 million American’s who need food stamp entitlements to eat who suddenly get cut off.
- Your refrigerator would slowly lose it’s temperature and all of your food spoil.
- Your cellphone would quickly run out of battery and become obsolete.
In a widespread blackout caused by an EMP, you’d be out of luck. Everything we take for granted would be turned on its head.
The Faraday Cage
In the simplest of terms, a Faraday cage is any shielded enclosure that surrounds your electronic devices and protects them an EMP blast. Commonly used enclosures include galvanized metal garbage cans, popcorn tins, and even tightly sealed metal filing cabinets. In all cases, the metal container is lined with insulating material to prevent the contents from having contact with the metal. Examples of insulating material are cardboard, Styrofoam, and even carpet scraps.
More elaborate structures can be custom built from sheet metal but for the home user, why bother? As a matter of fact, I suspect that wrapping your devices in plain, ordinary, aluminum foil will work as well.
Factoid: Faraday cages are named after English scientist Michael Faraday, who invented them in 1836.
What About Using a Microwave Oven?
In my research I read that a microwave oven, new or used, can be used as an effective Faraday cage. On the surface, that seems logical since, by design, a microwave oven keeps the energy it creates confined to the interior which likewise, should prevent strong electrical pulses from getting back inside.
This was easy enough to test. I put a cell phone inside my microwave oven and tried calling it. It rang. Oops. On the other hand, I wrapped my cell phone in aluminum foil and called it. Nothing. Nada. No Michael Buble ringtone; the call went straight to voicemail.
Granted, cell phones operate at various radio frequencies so while one cell phone may not work, another one will. Still, with this being so easy to test, why chance it?
Testing the Faraday Cage
Aside from calling a cell phone, you can test your homemade Faraday cage by putting a portable radio inside the shield after tuning it to a strong FM station. If you can hear the FM station while the radio is inside your Faraday cage, then you need to go back to square one to ensure your shield is properly sealed.
Sealing your garbage can with duct tape will help tremendously.
A Second (Expert) Opinion
I asked my friend George Ure to comment and to offer his perspective on Faraday cages since EMP preparedness is something he covered in-depth on his subscriber site, Peoplenomics ($40 a year but worth it for the technical information on the many topics he covers.).
He was quick to point out several things about EMPs. The definitive public information is contained In the 2004 Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report “High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) Devices: Threat Assessments”. The following diagram shows how an EMP causes the complex systems we rely on to provide everyday essentials for living, to fail in a cascading manner.
So, a quick inspection of the EMP failure modes, George offers, is one way to build a list of items to put in your Faraday cage.
He also told me some personal research he’s done that seems to indicate that about 90% of cars will continue to operate after an EMP event of moderate size. The problem, he points out, is that with an EMP, the grid is likely to fail, and with that, power transformers will likely fail, along with the supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) control systems for railroads, power, water, and other utility distribution.
George’s personal Faraday cage is a 33 gallon garbage can. He considers his metal garbage effective by itself because the metal lid overlaps the can itself by an inch and radio waves don’t like to go around corners, too well. Still, the ultimate prepping device would be a metal garbage can which has the top cover sealed to the bottom of the can with aluminized duct tape such as the type found at Amazon, Lowes, Home Depot and other hardware stores.
What to Put in the Faraday Cage
The equipment you store in a Faraday cage should encompass those devices that will help you communicate with the world following a devastating loss of the grid. Short-range communications will be critical. A good starting list would include:
Multiple GMRS radios and chargers along with cables to plug in for solar charging.
Multiple 2 meter and 440 MHz ham radios (such as the portable Baofengs), again with charging cables and solar power adapters.
A laptop computer with a fresh battery, a charger, solar adapter, and all the key software on CD so if you need to bring up a fresh copy of the operating system, you’ll have the product key and then any prepping articles or references you might need.
An AM/FM/Shortwave/NOAA Weather radio that includes a solar panel charging mechanism.
High-capacity USB thumb drive holding pertinent financial information including past year tax records, scanned copies of birth certificates, passports, marriage licenses, deeds, vehicle registrations and medical records.
George also recommends simple insulation for your electronics, so that units do not touch each other, He uses low tech insulation: a combination of cardboard and bubble-wrap works well.
Protecting Small Electronics Day to Day
This article would not be complete if I did not mention the availability of small, shielded metalized bags that can be used to provide EMP protection on a daily basis. I am currently testing this type of bag from Mobilsec and an quite impressed. While my phone is in the bag, it reads “no service”.
If a cell signal cannot be detected, I can only assume that an EMP would also not touch it. Good to know and certainly an option, especially for a laptop that could be placed inside a properly sized bag when not being used. Couple the Faraday bag with a solar charging system and if there was an EMP, you would still have a working computer.
One other thing. You may find sources online that say that when a device is turned off, it will not need EMP protection. I reached out to Joel Ho, the developer of the Mobilesec Bags
asked him about that. Here is what he said:
I’m assuming you are referring to the part about devices being off not needing protection – it’s simplified a bit – essentially, devices that are off are extremely difficult to damage because there’s no existing current to piggyback on.
Imagine that an EMP is a tidal wave. If it approaches a full reservoir (electricity and current) it can keep going. If the reservoir is empty (no juice), the tidal wave loses energy navigating the reservoir.
There are hints of this in the article Electromagnetic Pulse Protection by Jerry Emanuelson.
The major reason [most sources] don’t say “your devices are safe if off” is because most devices are usually still connected to power lines and thus susceptible – but if devices are in EMP bags (which by definition are almost always disconnected as the filters are expensive), AND the devices are off, it is unlikely, given the relatively high FCC shielding regulations to prevent excess energy from bleeding OUT into the environment, that enough can get IN to damage those electronics.
This is NOT true for every device – more like a guideline than a hard 100% rule. Different devices have different levels of built-in shielding – a computer has much more than a $10 Radio Shack timer, for example
The Final Word
Should a massive EMP occur, stores won’t be open, credit cards won’t work, and the gas you have in your car may be all the gas you’ll ever have for months or even possibly years. When you think about it, an EMP will become the “Ebola virus of electronics”.
That said, you know that I am not a doom and gloomer. Quite the contrary. I am an optimist to the nth degree. Yet even the optimist is sobered at the ramifications of an EMP and especially at the prospect of a weapon-based EMP. If nothing else, I would like to have a mode of communication following a massive EMP.
Will the DIY Faraday cage work? It is speculation to say for sure. My own research plus my limited understanding of electronics tells me it will, but this premise will remain unproven until an actual EMP event occurs.
The bottom line is that I hope a catastrophic EMP never happens. But if it does, I want to be ready to fend for myself without electronics. Sure, having communication gear and other electronic gizmos in a working Faraday cage will be a wonderful thing. But even if it doesn’t work, the goal of preparedness is to prevail, even if that means living in an off-grid society for weeks, months, or even years.
Behrens 10-Gallon Locking Lid Can
: This 10 gallon can
would make a perfect Faraday cage from small electronics. The locking lid
is a bonus although I would still seal the edges with 2” duct tape. This price,
by the way, is less than my local Ace Hardware store. Also available in
this larger size 20 Gallon size.
3M Duct Tape
: A good quality duct tape is an absolute
necessity when sealing your DIY Faraday cage. For slightly less, you can
purchase 3M Utility Grade Duct Tape
Midland 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios
: These are the
handheld radios that I own. There are lots of good uses for the these radios.
Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner
while out shopping. Just be aware that getting a 36 mile range out of any
handheld FRS radio is a myth.
Pofung/Baofeng UV-5R Ham Two Way Radio: Redundancy is the name of the game. I also have two of these inexpensive HAM radios. Keep in mind that if you are just planning to listen, you do not need a license (I am still working on mine). The price is right. Also consider the NAGOYA Antenna for BAOFENG UV-5R and the USB Programming Cable for Baofeng UV-5R UV-3R+. Note: the Pofung was formerly known as the Baofeng UV-5R).
SunJack Portable Solar Charger
: SunJack® helps
mobile users stay charged on the go anywhere the sun shines. The SunJack® is
able to fully charge its internal battery pack in about 5 hours of direct
sunlight, or directly power any USB device. When the sun isn’t shining, users
can still energize their devices from the powerful SunJack® battery, which
holds enough charge to power up to 4 iPhones.
Kaito Voyager Trek Solar/Crank AM/FM/SW NOAA Weather Radio with 5-LED Flashlight
: This simple to
operate radio can be powered by three AAA batteries or the built-in
rechargeable Ni-MH battery which in turn can be charged by hand cranking, by
solar panel or even by a PC. . The 7-weather channels are pre-programmed and
numbered from 1-7, you can easily and conveniently tune into the stations by
adjusting the switch. Note that not all emergency radios include the
NOAA weather band so this is an important feature.
Cell Phone Faraday Cage Bag: This is the bag I have been testing. It is also stops hacking and the tracking of your phone. Mobilsec also has a laptop sized Faraday Cage EMP Shield
FREE: DYI Personal EMP Defense System
Yours for another revolution,
Bruce ‘the Poor Man’
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