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How to Survive an EMP Attack: 10 Things to Consider

An EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, is a bit of a unique kind of disaster to prepare for, but any prepper worth their weight in salt would be well advised to do so. Unlike most other disasters, an EMP is one of the few where the overwhelming majority of people have little to physically fear from the actual blast–assuming you do not have a pacemaker. As such, the biggest problems will arise well after the fact and come from your fellow neighbors–not environmental threats.

Another consideration is the type of EMP blast. The two most likely sources are a nuclear blast and our sun. While a nuclear blast is devastating enough on its own, it is actually an EMP from the sun that poses the greater risk. This is because a nuclear blast’s EMP will be localized to its blast radius, whereas a significant enough coronal mass ejection, or CME, from the sun could potentially wipe out all electrical grids worldwide.

It is this second situation which raises the more permanent specter and could throw the human race back into the Stone Age without destroying a city or causing untold deaths–in the beginning.

Tip #1 – Shelter

Remote Cottage

Depending on how well prepared you are, you may already have a well-stocked, well-equipped bug out shelter on hand in case of an emergency. If you do, then the plan for your party to rally and move to that location should be enacted just as it would for any other disaster. However, the preparation for the move might be a bit more difficult since most, if not all, customary forms of communication would be taken out by the EMP.

Regardless, an EMP is actually one of the disasters that affords you a bit more time when bugging out. Granted, this does not mean you should dilly dally and poke along at a snail’s pace, but it will likely take at least 24 to 48 hours before the realization of no power sets the populace to panic. If your plan is well-devised, that should be more than enough time to rally your party and bug out–even without communication devices.

If you do not yet have a bug out shelter, your home will have to do until you make accommodations in a less populated location. Thankfully, the EMP will not damage the structural integrity of your home. So long as you practice survival hygiene, you should be relatively safe for the time being.

Tip #2 – Communication

Short Wave Radios

Speaking of communication, while many of us remember a time before instantaneous communication held within our pocket, most of us have still become acclimated to that convenience. Unfortunately, in the event of an EMP, pretty much all cellular service will be knocked out. Some high-level government towers may still exist, but their regions will be localized and their service restricted.

Still, there are other methods of communication that can remain viable. Long range two-way radios can be an especially effective method of communication that any good prepper should already have on hand. A CB radio is another effective means of communication that could still feasibly function after an EMP. Finally, an AM/FM radio powered by hand with a USB port is also advised.

However, these electronics may or may not survive the EMP blast. As such, it is best to keep all of your bug out electronics in a Faraday Cage. A Faraday Cage is a metal container with an insulated interior that will redirect the EMP around the electronics held within–similar to how you can survive a lightning strike inside of your car. While you can purchase one for hundreds or thousands of dollars, building one can be as simple as a set of plastic shelves and aluminum foil.

Also see: Propane Uses: Add The Power of Propane to Your Survival Plans

Tip #3 – Transportation

Old Truck

If you do plan to bug out and have properly protected your local electronic devices, your next issue may be transportation. Problems with this can take a few forms, but one of the biggest is whether or not your vehicle would start. Thankfully, if the vehicle was not running, there likely will be little issue. However, a sufficiently powerful EMP could still knock it out of commission.

That is why you may want to invest in a bug out vehicle that does not rely so heavily on electronics. Generally, these vehicles were manufactured prior to the 1980s. However, even modern dirt bikes can serve as a solid bug out vehicle after a powerful EMP. It is also a good idea to get one that runs on diesel fuel.

The fuel source is important because gas pumps run on electricity. In the event of an EMP, the gas pumps will not work. However, diesel fuel has a bit longer of a shelf-life than traditional gasoline–though to increase its longevity, you will want to treat it with fuel stabilizers and biocides.

Tip #4 – Travel


Of course, fuel is only one of the issues to consider when bugging out following an EMP. People will be the biggest concern and threat to everyone–including their own selves–following the collapse of the electrical grid. However, there are a few expectations that can help you deal with the inevitable societal collapse should the electric grid go completely dark.

For one, that 24 to 48 hour window mentioned earlier will provide you the same breathing room when traveling as it will when rallying. Essentially, people are liable to immediately seek to secure goods that will help them survive–even if it is unlikely to offer more than a few weeks at best. Still, this mad scramble is all the time you need to avoid attention.

However, once the stores and other caches of resources have been exhausted, the population will inevitably turn on each other. This is when things get far more dangerous. However, the best tactic for dealing with people following an EMP is to simply not. Avoid and evade human interaction outside of your party as much as possible.

Tip #5 – Currency


Should you engage with people–and chances are you will need to eventually sooner or later–it is always a good idea to do so from a position of cooperation if possible. The best way to accomplish this in survival mode is to ensure that you can trade with people. This will help present you as a potential long-term benefit to them and reduce the risk of them simply trying to steal your supplies.

Unfortunately, paper money is unlikely to retain its value if society crumbles. Moreover, whatever value you had stashed in a bank or cryptocurrency will similarly be wiped out. In this instance, the best currency will be goods that you can use to barter with. Of course, those goods are for your survival, but some goods are not survival based and can provide a hefty return on investment.

While many people might suggest converting cash into precious metals or gems, this can be difficult to carry, and there still is no guarantee someone will find them valuable in this scenario. Instead, a better bartering good will be those things which might aid in survival, but offer a brief respite of relief to the doomed: alcohol and cigarettes.

Also see: 41 Practical Tips to Survive Without Electricity

Tip #6 – Self-Defense

Revolver - Guns

Of course, just because you ensure that you are ostensibly an excellent trading partner does not mean that all people will be willing to engage in a civilized transaction. Some people may not have any goods to trade but will still require sustenance, medicine, and other items to survive. In this instance, these people are liable to try and take your supplies.

As such, it is vital that you know how to defend yourself–arguably more so than for other disasters which might be so far reaching and can inspire people to work together. While knowing close-range, melee self-defense is desirable, there is no substitute for the stopping power of a firearm. However, not all firearms are equal in this instance.

Because weight is a factor, you may not be able to load up on weapons, however, a pistol, rifle, and shotgun are all basic firearms for differing levels of engagement that are ideal to carry. The pistol and the shotgun are the most likely to be of use in self-defense, but the rifle–especially an assault rifle–can not only offer self-defense but be used for longer term survivability.

Tip #7 – Food

Canned Food

Most of the issues discussed so far have focused on the immediate concerns following an EMP. However, the long-term effects are liable to be just as dangerous if not more so. Furthermore, the collapse of society–and its systems for supporting people’s livelihood–will only instigate degradation of the social contract to the point of barbarism in many instances.

That is why you will need to ensure that your long-term survival includes a means of not only securing the necessities but producing them as well. Of course, even with the proper tools, maintaining a steady food supply will eventually become difficult. You may have a stockpile that can last years, but a total collapse of the electrical grid will likely take close to a decade to recover.

In that interim, food will be difficult to come by. However, by knowing how to grow, gather, and hunt for food, you can help ensure your survival for years following a societal collapse. Of course, growing food requires the land and supplies to do so. Gathering food often simply requires an understanding of the edible plants in your region. Hunting is where that aforementioned rifle will come most in handy.

Tip #8 – Water

Bottled Water

It may seem odd that we have not stressed water more than we have up to this point. However, it is arguably easier to get water in the long run following an EMP than it is food. This is because a well-prepared prepper should already have a number of tools for securing clean water even if none is readily available.

For one, water filtration will become paramount to survival. With the electricity shut off, clean drinking water will not be pumped to the comfort of one’s home. As such, a number of redundant water purification methods will allow you to remain hydrated even if your water source is contaminated. Mechanical water filters are excellent once you have reached a bug out shelter, but the short term–an immediate–relief of filtration straws should not be overlooked.

Of course, the ideal situation involves finding a fresh supply of clean drinking water. This is best accomplished by scouting your region for freshwater rivers and streams. Be sure to note where possible source of contamination along the water’s route is though as many of these sources may become polluted when nearby manufacturing plants or other industrial buildings fail.

Tip #9 – Medical


While the medical field, much like water, almost certainly deserves to be higher on this list, the unfortunate truth is that without electricity, medical supplies will not last long. This is especially true of prescription medications that require refrigeration. Diabetics will face this issue acutely as their medication supplies expire once they reach room temperature.

Still, it does not hurt to stock up on a number of basic supplies that will be necessary by pretty much everyone. A supply of clean dressings and antiseptic will likely save more lives than anything else. Moreover, clothing and the alcohol mentioned earlier can be used in a pinch if more traditional supplies run out. However, actual medication can be a problem.

Thankfully, most medication does have a basis in either common chemistry or plant life. While these medications are often the result of concentrating a specific chemical in the plant, the plants themselves have often been used for thousands of years to help alleviate the issue the medication dealt with. In this sense, herbalism is a good skill to have and a great first garden.

Tip #10 – Entertainment

Poker Cards

The last consideration will be the issue of entertainment. While this may seem like a bit of a superfluous issue, the science backs up this as a tertiary need for survival. Consider this: your life has been irrevocably changed such that everything you knew is now gone. The world is not coming back, and you simply have to make due and learn to carry on.

Sounds kind of bleak, does it not? The need for entertainment during an EMP and the ensuing societal collapse has little to do with simple pleasures and more to do with mental health. Depression is a real concern when leaving everything behind. Even those more adaptable will still have to deal with boredom and the risk impulsive actions present–idle hands and all that.

In this instance, a simple deck of cards can become a lifesaver. Cheap, small, and light, cards have been used for millennia to entertain people across space and time. Another excellent way of staving off boredom and depression is to develop a skill. While we may find the process a bit tedious in our current state of living, the threat of death and endless hours will make developing a new skill delightful in comparison.


Surviving an EMP attack is not terribly different than surviving many other types of disasters. In fact, in a number of ways, an EMP is one of the easier threats to survive–in the beginning. The fact that the EMP blast itself will not damage most people coupled with the fact that few will truly panic absent an imminent existential threat provides a bit of a cushion and even a degree of error many other disasters do not afford.

However, the real threat of an EMP occurs weeks or months following the event. Without electricity, society as we know it grinds to a halt. Food, water, medicine, and a number of basic necessities that we take for granted every day will be gone within days. Once that happens, the people unprepared will do whatever it takes to survive.

Ultimately, an EMP attack is easier in the beginning but more difficult afterwards. That is why it is important to prepare for the long haul when planning for an EMP. Shelter, transportation, and travel shine menacingly at first while food, water, and medicine are the long-term concerns.


1 thought on “How to Survive an EMP Attack: 10 Things to Consider”

  1. “Survivors Fortress”? The best way to “bug in” is to blend in with the local neighborhood until the riots have passed. Throw a bunch of crap in your front yard to make your home look like its already been searched or broken into and stripped. If you have to go into town, look like everyone else, smell like everyone else, look as hungry as anyone else, called “blending in”. Different is dead – or worse. Slavery is worse until you cannot work anymore, then cannibalism rears its ugly head – you get eaten.
    Never trade in ammo after the riots, your own ammo will be used to shoot you in the back to get at your stash, and family members if you have any. If you prep, never discuss it with neighbors – you will be the first one they will come to. You prepped for four for six months, yet you have 50 standing at your door, or more. Tell your kids to never discuss the preps you are making, but involve them too. That is one of the “family secrets” they can legally keep and not be ashamed of. Also, teach your kids EVERYTHING, from gardening to guns, you may get injured, and they may save you. If you are going to “bug out” then prepping is totally different. A state forest is your garden and meat market and hotel all together. After a while, it will get sort of crowded, and the groceries will get stripped out, be prepared to move on. Staying away from others will protect you from disease which will be the #1 killer in the first year.
    The article about EMP is very exact and descriptive, if you prep for an EMP event, you have prepped for all disasters.

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