Identifying the systems that would probably fail if there were a strong-enough EMP from either a massive solar CME, a nuclear EMP weapon, or a tactical EMP bomb, is easier to speculate than items that might survive an EMP. There are some obvious items that would survive, but many are not that obvious.
An EMP, an ‘electro-magnetic-pulse’, is a side-effect of a nuclear explosion, a coronal mass ejection (from the Sun), or a purposed EMP bomb. An EMP is a near instantaneous and invisible ‘ZAP’ of electricity that surges through electrical wires and electrical semiconductor components. ‘IF’ the EMP is strong enough and the electronic components are close enough to the source, then these components could fry. Once they are fried, that’s it… they’re done. Only physical replacements will bring the systems back up and running.
So, while attempting to discover what items will survive an EMP, we need to know what is INSIDE the item… namely, if there are any electronic semiconductors (transistors, IC ‘chips’, microprocessors, etc.). It is the microscopic semiconductor ‘junctions’ themselves that are vulnerable to melting due to an excess of electrical current being forced through the junction (from the EMP).
Also, an EMP will be carried through overhead power lines (at the speed of light) and could instantaneously overwhelm power transformers along the grid with excess electrical current, causing the windings of the transformers to melt into a molten blob. The power lines will also carry the EMP (at the speed of light) far and wide into homes and businesses in search of semiconductors to fry.
Here’s another thing to know… an EMP’s energy will decay the further away from the source that you get. Electronic circuits that are further away will be less vulnerable to the EMP. How far away? Well that depends (of course). It depends on the overall strength of the EMP, the altitude of the EMP, the ‘line-of-sight’ distance from the EMP, and any protection that the device might have to protect it from an EMP.
After all that, the simple answer to what items might survive, are those items that do not contain semiconductors!
The problem is, nearly all devices today contain semiconductors!
If the device you are wondering about contains any digital interface whatsoever, then you can probably kiss it good-bye. Often it may be difficult to even know if there are semiconductors in a device. Even if there is no digital interface, there could still very well be semiconductors or electronic circuits somewhere inside.
Since winter is coming on, let’s talk Heaters.
Electric heaters… Fogetaboutit. The grid will probably be down.
Oil heat… The burner’s ignitor transformers, electronic control circuits, and electronic controlled pumps will fry. Plus, with no electrical power, the pumps won’t function.
Natural gas heat… The utility gas pressure will probably remain for awhile, but electronic thermostats or gas valve controllers may fry. Some basic-style natural gas heaters, such as wall units, could be lit manually though – until the pressure runs out.
Portable heaters… Most self-fueled heaters without electronic controls will survive – until your fuel source runs out. If it plugs in, it’s toast.
Wood Stove heater… Ding Ding Ding… we have a winner!
Let’s talk cars.
As most of us know, any new car today is jam packed full of electronics. Forget it. It’s dead.
Any car made with electronic ignition and fuel injection will probably stop in it’s tracks. Cars have been being built with these features longer than you may think (~1980’s). Depending on the exact vehicle, you may be somewhat ‘safe’ with a car built in the early 1980’s, 1970’s or earlier. It would take some significant research to list the vehicles built without these electronic systems, but suffice it to say that most any vehicle today is vulnerable to EMP failure (if close enough to the EMP source).
Let’s talk ‘general’.
Generally speaking, ranging from tools, to appliances, to heaters, to vehicles… if it has electronic circuits, it is vulnerable to EMP. This basically leaves hand tools, hand operated or primitive appliances, wood stove heat, and old vehicles. We’re talking living like the 1800’s or earlier.
While the threat of an EMP to the degree of mass outages is apparently slim, the fact is that it is not zero. A huge portion of the world population today relies on electricity for survival. It has enabled great advancements in civilization. The lack thereof could enable great setbacks to civilization.
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