Will An EMP Fry The Electronic Lock On My Safe?

February 29, 2012, by Ken Jorgustin

emp-and-electronic-locks

Reader Question:
Saw the two articles on EMP (my biggest fear). In a moment of stupidity I bought a gun safe with a electronic lock instead of a dial lock. I just can’t get it out of my head that this will be a epic disaster if an EMP hits. I was looking to place some sort of protection over the keypad and have seen an article that a cage resting over it may be of some protection, but I have also seen some EMP protection bags which I thought if you sealed over the keypad would accomplish the same thing. I think they are like Antistatic bags you get computer parts in. So my question is would this work, or would the metal of the safe channel the pulse into the backside of the keypad and fry it anyway? Is anything kept inside a gun safe also proofed against an EMP? I would think it is, but curious.

Answer:
I would suspect that yes, the electronic locking mechanism of a safe could be at risk due to an EMP. Although electronic locking mechanisms can be real convenient, they also make me nervous because they all need a power source. Remove the power source and you’re stuck. Unless of course the safe also has a physical key that will override the electronic lock. Some do…

I also suspect that if you were able to cover the exposed portion of the electronic lock (keypad) with conductive mesh or solid metal, and as long as the metal is electrically connected with the surface of the safe with no gaps, then you will probably be OK. Remember though that the connectivity will need to mate with metal on metal, not metal on painted or enameled surface. This could be a challenge.

Another concern is ‘how’ the electronic lock is fastened to the metal door itself. Are any of the electronic circuits inside actually touching the metal for example… probably not, but who knows…

You mentioned Antistatic bag material. This may be an interesting solution. If you use the conductive ‘metalized’ or ‘aluminized’ mylar along with some eclectically conductive tape (they do make such a thing), you could tape the mylar to the surface of the safe, which would give you the required electrical bond, as long as you’re not taped to paint or enamel.

The things inside the safe would only be protected if they were insulated from the metal of the safe – not touching it. The interior could be lined with cardboard, or the electronic device inside could be wrapped in a heavy material or simply kept in a box inside.

You could theoretically transform one of your closets into an EMP-friendly closet by lining the walls, ceiling and floor (and door) with conductive material. Being sure that all walls are electrically tied together, you could keep your safe inside this room and feel fairly ‘safe’ against EMP.

Next time, just buy a good old fashioned safe with a combination lock or key ;)

Be aware that Mylar is a polyester film and an electrically insulating material. Metalized mylar is what emergency blankets are made from, as well as most food storage bags (although their thickness varies).

Polymer Science Metallized Fabric EMI Shielding Tape, 1″ x 50′
Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10)

 

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