Saturday, April 4, 2009



If you don't want to buy a wealth of batteries for every appliance you own use a radio set up with longer than 30-inch antenna, then you'll need to use equipment that is "hardened" against EMP. The trick is that it must REALLY be hardened from the real thing, not just EMP-proof on paper. This isn't all that easy; the National Academy of Sciences recently stated that tailored hardening is "not only deceptively difficult,but also very poorly understood by the defense-electronics community." Even the US Military has equipment which might not survive a nuclear attack, even though it is designed to do just that.That said, there are some methods which will help to protect circuits from EMP and give you an edge if you must operate ham radios or the like when a nuclear attack occurs. Design considerations include the use of tree formation circuits (rather than standard loop formations); the use of induction shielding around components; the use of self-contained battery packs; the use of loop antennas; and (with solid-state components) the use of Zener diodes.

These design elements can eliminate the chance an EMP surge from power lines or long antennas damaging your equipment. Another useful strategy is to use grounding wires for each separate instrument which is coupled into a system so that EMP has more paths to take in grounding itself. A new device which may soon be on the market holds promise in allowing electronic equipment to be EMP hardened. Called the "Ovonic threshold device",it has been created by Energy Conversion Devices of Troy, MI. The Ovonic threshold device is a solid-state switch capable of quickly opening a path to ground when a circuit receives a massive surge of EMP. Use of this or a similar device would assure survival of equipment during a massive surge of electricity.Some electrical equipment is innately EMP-resistant. This includes large electric motors, vacuum tube equipment, electrical generators, trans-formers, relays, and the like. These might even survive a massive surge of EMP and would likely to survive if a few of the above precautions were taking in their design and deployment. At the other end of the scale of EMP resistance are some really sensitive electrical parts. These include IC circuits, microwave transistors, and Field Effect Transistors (FET's). If you have electrical equipment with such components, it must be very well protected if it is to survive EMP.


One "survival system" for such sensitive equipment is the Faraday box. A Faraday box is simply a metal box designed to divert and soak up the EMP. If the object placed in the box is insulated from the inside surface of the box, it will not be effected by the EMP traveling around the outside metal surface of the box. The Faraday box simple and cheap and often provides more protection to electrical components than "hardening" through circuit designs which can't be (or haven't been) adequately tested.Many containers are suitable for make-shift Faraday boxes: cake boxes,ammunition containers, metal filing cabinets, etc., etc., can all be used. Despite what you may have read or heard, these boxes do NOT have to be air-tight due to the long wave length of EMP; boxes can be made of wire screen or other porous metal.

The only two requirements for protection with a Faraday box are: (1) the equipment inside the box does NOT touch the metal container (plastic, wadded paper, or cardboard can all be used to insulate it from the metal) and (2) the metal shield is continuous without any gaps between pieces or extra-large holes in it. Grounding a Faraday box is NOT necessary and in some cases actually may be less than ideal. While EMP and lightning aren't the "same animal", a good example of how lack of grounding is a plus can be seen with some types of lightning strikes. Take, for example, a lightning strike on a flying air-plane. The strike doesn't fry the plane's occupants because the metal shell of the plane is a Faraday box of sorts. Even though the plane, high over the earth, isn't grounded it will sustain little damage. In this case, much the same is true of small Faraday cages and EMP. Consequently, storage of equipment in Faraday boxes on wooden shelves or the like does NOT require that everything be grounded. (One note: theoretically non-grounded boxes might hold a slight charge of electricity; take some time and care before handling ungrounded boxes following a nuclear attack.) The thickness of the metal shield around the Faraday box isn't of much concern, either. This makes it possible to build protection "on the cheap" by simply using the cardboard packing box that equipment comes in along with aluminum foil. Just wrap the box with the aluminum foil (other metal foil or metal screen will also work); tape the foil in place and you're done. Provided it is kept dry, the cardboard will insulate the gear inside it from the foil;placing the foil-wrapped box inside a larger cardboard box is also wise to be sure the foil isn't accidentally ripped anywhere. The result is an "instant"Faraday box with your equipment safely stored inside, ready for use following a nuclear war.Copper or aluminum foil can help you insulate a whole room from EMP as well. Just paper the wall, ceiling and floor with metal foil. Ideally the floor is then covered with a false floor of wood or with heavy carpeting to insulate everything and everyone inside from the shield (and EMP). The only catch to this is that care must be taken NOT to allow electrical wiring connections to pierce the foil shield (i.e., no AC powered equipment or radio antennas can come into the room from outside). Care must also be taken that the door is covered with foil AND electrically connected to the shield with a wire and screws or some similar set up.Many government civil defense shelters are now said to have gotten the Faraday box, "foil" treatment. These shelters are covered inside with metal foil and have metal screens which cover all air vents and are connected to the metal foil. Some of these shelters probably make use of new optical fiber systems--protected by plastic pipe--to "connect" communications gear inside the room to the "outside world" without creating a conduit for EMP energy to enter the shelter. Another "myth" that seems to have grown up with information on EMP is that nearly all cars and trucks would be "knocked out" by EMP. This seems logical,but is one of those cases where "real world" experiments contradict theoretical answers and I'm afraid this is the case with cars and EMP. According to sources working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, cars have proven to be resistant to EMP in actual tests using nuclear weapons as well as during more recent tests (with newer cars) with the US Military's EMP simulators.One reason for the ability of a car to resist EMP lies in the fact that its metal body is "insulated" by its rubber tires from the ground. Thiscreates a Faraday cage of sorts. (Drawing on the analogy of EMP being similarto lightning, it is interesting to note that cases of lightning striking anddamaging cars is almost non-existent; this apparently carries over to EMPeffects on vehicles as well.)Although Faraday boxes are generally made so that what is inside doesn'ttouch the box's outer metal shield (and this is especially important for thedo-it-yourselfer since it is easy to inadvertently ground the Faraday box--sayby putting the box on metal shelving sitting on a concrete floor), in thecase of the car the "grounded" wiring is grounded only to the battery. Inpractice, the entire system is not grounded in the traditional electricalwiring sense of actually making contact to the earth at some point in itscircuitry. Rather the car is sitting on insulators made of rubber.It is important to note that cars are NOT 100 percent EMP proof; some carswill most certainly be effected, especially those with fiberglass bodies orlocated near large stretches of metal. (I suspect, too, that recent cars witha high percentage of IC circuitry might also be more susceptible to EMPeffects.)The bottom line is that all vehicles probably won't be knocked out byEMP. But the prudent survivalist should make a few contingency plans "just incase" his car (and other electrical equipment) does not survive the effects ofEMP. Discovering that you have one of the few cars knocked out would not be agood way to start the onset of terrorist attack or nuclear war. Most susceptable to EMP damage would be cars with a lot of IC circuits orother "computers" to control essential changes in the engine. The very prudentmay wish to buy spare electronic ignition parts and keep them a car truck(perhaps inside a Faraday box).

But it seems probable that many vehicles WILL be working following the start of a nuclear war even if no precautions have been taken with them.One area of concern are explosives connected to electrical discharge wiring or designed to be set off by other electric devices. These might beset off by an EMP surge. While most citizens don't have access to such equipment, claymore mines and other explosives would be very dangerous to be around at the start of a nuclear box if they weren't carefully stored away in a Faraday box. Ammunition, mines, grenades and the like in large quantities might be prone to damage or explosion by EMP, but in general aren't all that sensitive to EMP.A major area of concern when it comes to EMP is nuclear reactors located in the US. Unfortunately, a little-known Federal dictum prohibits the NRC from requiring power plants to withstand the effects of a nuclear war. This means that, in the event of a nuclear war, many nuclear reactors' control systemsmight will be damaged by an EMP surge.

In such a case, the core-coolingcontrols might become inoperable and a core melt down and breaching of thecontainment vessel by radioactive materials into the surrounding area might well result. (If you were needing a reason not to live down wind from a nuclear reactor, this is it.)Provided you're not next door to a nuclear power plant, most of the illeffects of EMP can be over come. EMP, like nuclear blasts and fallout, can besurvived if you have the know how and take a few precautions before hand.


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