“EMP 101” A BASIC PRIMER & SUGGESTIONS FOR PREPAREDNESS

In preparation for tonight’s show American Blackout on NatGeo, we thought we would share this information from a well known source on the effects of an EMP blast. While it is not clear as to why the power goes out in American Blackout, we figure this may be one cause of what happens on the show. So we hope you are able to tune in tonight and see NatGeo’s perspective on an event like this.

WHAT IS AN EMP?

 
            EMP is shorthand for Electro Magnetic Pulse.    It is a rather unusual and frightening by-product when a nuclear bomb is detonated above the earth’s atmosphere.   We all know that our atmosphere and the magnetic field which surrounds our planet is a thin layer which not only keeps us alive, but also protects us from dangerous radiation from the sun.    On a fairly regular basis there are huge solar storms on the sun’s surface which emit powerful jets of deadly radiation.    If not for the protective layer of our atmosphere and magnetic field, those storms would fry us.    At times though, the storm is so power that enough disruptive energy reaches the earth’s surface that it drowns out radio waves and even shorts electrical power grids. . .this happened seve ral years back in Canada.
            View the detonation of a nuclear bomb, two hundred miles straight up as the same thing, but infinitely more powerful since it is so close by.     
            As the bomb explodes it emits a powerful wave of gamma rays.    As this energy release hits the upper atmosphere it creates a electrical disturbance know as the Compton Effect.    The intensity is magnified.  View it as a small pebble rolling down a slope, hitting a larger one, setting that in motion, until finally you have an avalanche.
            At the speed of light this disturbance races to the earth surface.     It is not something you can see or hear, in the same way you don’t feel the electrical disturbance in the atmosphere during20a large solar storm.   
            For all electrical systems though, it is deadly.
 
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THIS “PULSE” HITS THE SURFACE?
 
            Those who might remember ham radio operators, or even the old CB radios of the 1970s can recall that if you ran out a wire as an antenna you could send and receive a better signal.    The wire not only transmitted the very faint power of a few watts of electricity from your radio, it could receive even fainted signals in return.    As the Pulse strikes the earths surface, with a power that could range up to hundreds of amps per square yard, it will not affect you directly, at most you’ll feel a slight tingling, the s ame as when lightning is about to strike close by, and nearly all the energy will just be absorbed into the ground and dissipate.   The bad news, however, is wherever it strikes wires, metal surfaces, antennas, power lines it will now travel along those metal surfaces (in the same way a lightning bolt will always follow the metal of a lightning rod, or the power line into your house.)     The longer the wire, the more energy is absorbed, a high tension wire miles long will absorb tens of thousands of amps, and here is where the destruction begins as it slams into any delicate electronic circuits, meaning computer chips, relays, etc.    In that instant, they are overloaded by the massive energy surge, short circuit, and fry.    Your house via electric, phone and cable wires is connected, like all the rest of us into the power and communications grids.    This energy surge will destroy all delicate electronics in your home, even as it destroys all the major components all the way back to the power company’s generators and the phone company’s main relays.    In far less than a milli second the entire power grid of the United States, and all that it supports will be destroyed.
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