EMP Attack: How to Protect Electronics

We recommend storing a backup set of important electronics inside closed EMP Cover bags. EMP Cover material is very similar to what is used in space suits, protecting astronauts from solar radiation. Our bags have even been tested at NASA to verify their EMP protection.

EMP Cover bags shield your electronics with a special layer of metal sandwiched inside strong layers of boPET polyester film. The polyester film protects the metal so that your shielding stays intact. The boPET film also insulates your electronics from the metal layer, a key part of the protection. The EMP's E1 energy hits the metal layer and cannot touch your electronics.

The special film also resists moisture, but still lets corrosive gases escape. (Electronics release these gasses over time.)

The Details
To protect your electronics, you need to defend against two energy surges: a surge that arrives like radio waves (E1 phase) and a second surge that arrives over power and phone lines (E3 phase). Defending against these two surges will let your electronics survive.

E1 energy reaches any device not buried deep, deep underground. The more circuits and wires, the more EMP energy caught. Antennas, power cords, and computer circuit boards catch for the EMP energy, which then damages the electronics.

E3 energy arrives over power lines, phone wires, and cable TV connections. These very long wires collect the E3 energy, which floods into connected equipment. This power overload can destroy your equipment.

Faraday Cage Shielding
To be sure your backup electronics will survive, they need to be inside a "Faraday Cage" environment. The metal layer in EMP Cover bags creates this Faraday shielding. This is the best option for most commercial and home situations, because it is difficult to create a working environment that is fully shielded.

Even militaries have to prioritize. Generally, the military only protects critical command and control systems and selected battlefield equipment. US forces, for example, have fully hardened the M1 Abrams tank, but not the Humvee. They have hardened the control facilities that can order and launch nuclear strikes, but not most areas of military bases.

Protecting Daily-Use Electronics
There are some steps you can take, however, to increase the survival of your main-line equipment. These steps also protect your electronics from lightning strikes, which makes them a good investment.

  1. Buy quality surge protectors for your key electronics.
    This is the most affordable first step, costing between $10 - $125.
    You'll want a surge protector that is UL listed to comply with UL1449 3rd edition, has a clamping voltage of 330 volts or below, and has a very fast response time (< 1ms or instant is best).
    For computers, buy a device with an Ethernet slot, or buy a dedicated Ethernet surge protector.
  2. To increase protection, add a quality uninterruptible power supply (UPS) behind the surge protector.
    This level of protection is great, but more expensive. Basic models cost about $120 - $200. Better models can cost between $250 to over $1,000.
    If you have the money, buy a double-conversion UPS tested to UL standard UL1778. It should also have built in surge protector meeting the standards listed above.
  3. Use the shortest power cable possible between the surge protector/UPS and the equipment.
    Tying up the cable to make it shorter won't make a difference. The total length of the wire is what counts.

Protecting Vehicles
Vehicles are getting more complex, but the majority will survive an EMP attack. Tests show that between 60 to 90 percent of vehicles will survive an attack up to 25 kV/m. For most people, the most practical choice is to accept this level of risk.

Some people, however, either have critical responsibilities or feel more comfortable prepared for the worst case. In this case, there are three options.

  • If you can repair cars and know electronics, you might buy backup modules for your vehicle's key electronics. You can store these replacements in EMP Cover bags. This, however, would require you spend time repairing the damaged car.
  • You can also buy EMP shielding devices that zip or wrap around your car's wiring. These may help, but they are expensive and hard to attach to all the key wiring. You won't know if you got things right until after the attack.
  • The best option is probably buying an extra vehicle. Make sure it is a different make and model. This will increase the chances that you will have at least one functioning vehicle.

Again, these last suggestions are for those preparing for the worst case.

"Widespread functional collapse of the electric power system
in the area affected by EMP is likely."

US EMP Commission's Report to Congress, Volume 1: Executive Report