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What’s an EMP Bomb and What Does It Have to Do With Your Electronics?

In a widely publicized hearing on October 12, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives received a warning from military experts about the threat posed by EMP bombs.

And you may have since heard about this threat, too. If you’ve ever wondered, “What’s an EMP, and what do I have to worry about?,” then keep reading because we’ve got your answer.

Happily, according to the latest research, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. While an EMP could fry your phone and cause minor mishaps for those driving, it doesn’t represent the fourth horseman of the apocalypse.

That said, you should still understand the impacts associated with an EMP so that you can protect your electronics.

Read on for a breakdown of how an electromagnetic pulse works, how it could impact your devices, and what to do about it.


What’s an EMP?

What is an EMP bomb? An EMP bomb explodes well above a target in space. It results in three types of electromagnetic pulses:

  • E1
  • E2
  • E3

During an E1 pulse, high-energy gamma rays collide with air molecules up to 20 miles above them. This results in a “rain of electrons” that get pulled down into the Earth’s magnetic field.

An E2 pulse is characterized by high-energy neutrons that shoot out in all directions. Finally, an E3 pulse affects the Earth’s magnetic field, a direct result of the nuclear fireball associated with the blast.

In other words, an EMP’s three pulses create a radius of destruction. The size of its radius gets determined by the height at which the blast takes place.

For example. a blast that occurs 60 miles in the atmosphere can impact a 700-mile radius of the Earth’s surface. Because of the Earth’s magnetic field, there is also an unaffected area directly below the blast.

How an EMP Causes Destruction

How does an EMP work? Unlike nuclear bombs detonated on the surface of the Earth, EMPs don’t kill outright.

That’s because of the great distance of the blast from the people it affects. Nonetheless, people won’t long ignore its effects.

EMPs affect electronic equipment by disrupting it, interfering with it, or outright destroying it. In other words, an EMP could trigger massive power grids to go down.

They could also disable planes and cars in mid-travel and cause computer systems to go haywire. And when organizations and institutions turn to their emergency backup systems to power things? They might find these non-functional, too.

While these thoughts prove terrifying, don’t head for the hills, yet. These ideas are grounded in theory and speculation.

What We Do Know

What do we know about EMPs and the damage that they could cause? The three different pulse types–E1, E2, and E3–each impact electrical systems differently.

For example, E1 pulses are known to damage:

  • Short cable runs
  • Antennas
  • Equipment inside buildings
  • Communication systems
  • Integrated circuits
  • Protective systems
  • Computers

When it comes to E2 pulses, they are somewhat similar to lightning strikes. As a result, it’s easier to deal with their after-effect because we already deal with lightning. E2 pulses impact:

  • Vertical antenna towers
  • Aircraft with trailing wire antennas
  • Longer conductive lines

Finally, E3 pulses destroy:

  • Power lines
  • Long communications lines (e.g. underground and undersea cables)
  • Landlines
  • Commercial power

By far, the most disruptive parts of an EMP would prove the E1 and E3 pulses. But would these pulses lead to the end of the United States? Absolutely not!

How Worried Should You Be?

Predicting the impact of an electromagnetic pulse bomb proves difficult because it involves many variables, some of which are unknown. From the height at which the blast occurs to where it happens, there are a lot of unknowns.

But what we do know is that an EMP attack is more likely than a direct nuclear attack from North Korea. And since it doesn’t have to be that accurate to have a major impact, it could disrupt our daily lives and defenses.

What’s more, it’s far more difficult for the military to repel ICBMs that occurs at a higher altitude than ones that happen closer to the ground.

Although our Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Missile System (GMD) can reach space, other systems can’t. These systems include our Aegis and THAAD systems.

Of course, all of this said, the consequences of an EMP have been greatly exaggerated in the media and pop culture. How do we know this? From historic events as well as the latest research.

Real-Life EMPs

What we do know is that in 1962, a weapons test known as STARFISH PRIME gave us our first insights into an EMP event. It involved detonating a 1.4 megaton nuke about 250 miles above the Pacific.

We know that electromagnetic surges traveled up to 900 miles away causing damage to telephone company equipment in Hawaii. These surges also messed up people’s garage doors and caused streetlights to flicker.

That said, no power outages occurred, no phone lines went down, and no radio interference ensued.

In a later test on 37 cars and 18 trucks conducted by the EMP Commission, they found that the effects were far less devastating than previously thought. Just six of the 55 vehicles exposed to the highest EMP levels had to be restarted.

And that’s just it. They could be restarted. A few other cars experienced some annoying after-effects such as flashing dashboard lights.

But total electronic destruction? Nothing along those lines occurred.

Having your favorite electronic devices fried, however, represents a real threat. But you can avoid these risks, too, with simple affordable precautions such as Tech Protect.

Protect Your Tech Devices

What’s an EMP, and will it destroy life as we know it? It’s a high atmospheric nuclear blast that causes electromagnetic pulses. But it won’t send us back to cave-dwelling and hunting with stone arrowheads.

That said, taking steps to protect your tech devices is never a bad idea. Fortunately, this proves easier than ever with the right equipment.

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