Will EMP Destroy Anything Electronic NOT Plugged Into The Grid?

Someone asked the following questions. “Can an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) destroy electronic devices if it’s not plugged in?” “What if it’s battery powered, and turned off, will an EMP still destroy the electronics inside?”

In my opinion, the short answer is, maybe, or I would lean towards – probably. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. You’re looking for a yes or no answer. However, it depends…

If you’re reading this right now, it means you’re concerned about the after effects of an EMP. I suggest that you read the following best selling novel. It exemplifies what might happen to society after an EMP. I guarantee it will motivate you into action:

(view on amzn)

One Second After by William Forstchen

It’s not a sole determining factor. Plugged in or not. It makes some difference. But it’s not necessarily a sole determining factor to the survivability of the electronic device. When the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) strikes, be it from a massive solar flare event (CME, coronal mass ejection), or a nuclear explosion at altitude (an EMP bomb), it does a similar thing… Emit a pulse of fairly broadband high energy (volts per square meter) which radiates outward from the source.

CME from the Sun, and Man-made EMP

A CME from the sun will be a fairly long duration event. Hours. The CME’s electromagnetic energy will interact and induce voltage and current into power lines above ground (the electric grid). And anything acting as a electrical conductor. One factor is the longer the conductor/antenna, the more induction of the radiated energy.

Whereas a man-made nuclear EMP is a very short duration event – although it produces a massive high voltage broadband pulse. We’re talking in the range of 50,000+ volts per meter. An extremely short time duration of only nanoseconds.

This energy will radiate outward while losing some strength as it travels further away from its source. You might look up the ‘inverse-square law‘ for specifics. Knowing this, we can conclude the following… The further away from the EMP source, the less potential damage. Though we’re talking long distances here – assuming a high altitude EMP detonation.

How far away? The specifics are complicated. Beyond the scope of this article. There are many factors. EMP strength. Its delivery. And others. For the sake of generalization, I would speculate the following… You’re electronics are much safer being ~ 1,000 miles away from a man-made high altitude EMP compared with only a few hundred miles.

However, the affects from a solar CME are different. The earth’s atmosphere and power grids interact with the CME energy during its many hours of duration. This has the potential to affect everyone.

Some of the EMP energy (from CME, or, high altitude EMP detonation) will be instantly induced into the power grid. Most of our power lines are above the ground. They behave like a giant antenna. The grid will soak up and distribute the pulse.

EMP Electronic Destruction – Plugged in versus Not Plugged in

Plugged in, and in range? Probably zapped. Most of our electric power grid is above ground. It will quickly absorb the EMP (or the longer duration ebb and flow from a CME). This will near instantly distribute throughout the affected portion of the grid. The result? Wide spread electronics destruction. Plugged in? More vulnerable.

Not plugged in certainly has an advantage. Though not impervious to electronic destruction. Battery operated? Turned off? (Doesn’t matter one way or the other if it’s on or off via battery) Here’s what matters most… Strength of EMP field at its location.

Even if the electronic device is NOT plugged in, it will still be vulnerable to the effects of EMP. The invisible high voltage pulse. It radiates outwards through the air. It envelopes everything in its path. Except for those items which are protected in a Faraday cage. The energy from the EMP pulse wave may melt down the transistor ‘junctions’ within semiconductor electronics.

You could have a portable shortwave radio sitting on your desk, not plugged into anything at all. As the invisible wave strikes it, it may fry (assuming sufficient EMP strength and the other caveats…). Again, the degree of damage will depend on your proximity, and other factors.

Ted Koppel gets in-depth regarding America’s EMP threat:
Lights Out, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

The Faraday Cage

By the way, a simple description of a Faraday cage. It’s basically a containment with an exterior comprising a conductive material (e.g. metal or conductive screen, etc.). A Faraday cage shields the interior from an external charge or electromagnetic radiation to an extent depending on its design.

Faraday cage effectiveness? It’s defined by the following… The cages design. And choice of construction materials. All Faraday cages take electrostatic charges, or even certain types of electromagnetic radiation, and distribute them around the exterior of the cage. Thus, protecting whatever is inside – within the limitations of its design.

In conclusion, just know that ALL electronics are vulnerable to EMP / CME. That is, unless specifically hardened against EMP or protected via a purpose-built Faraday cage. Electronics. They’re embedded in nearly everything we use today.

A major EMP would be the end of civilization as we know it.

There are no clear answers to the questions at the beginning of this article. However, in general, it may be safe to assume this… Electronics Armageddon. So, plan ahead accordingly.

[ Read: 5 Nanoseconds To Lights Out ]

[ Read: Nuclear EMP Components E1, E2, E3, and what they mean… ]


  1. A lot of modern electronics actually have some level of shielding already to protect them from other electronic devices. Your iPhone for example has shielding to protect it from RF and other sources that could interfere with or damage the electronics of the phone. However, the iPhone is at its greatest risked when it’s actually plugged in, because most expert agree the longer the pathway into the device, like being connected to the grid, greater the risk of damage. Smaller battery powered electronic devices appear to have the lowest risk of damage from EMP or Solar events verse grid connected. My former father-in-law was actually an engineer with E-Systems back in the day and his job was to EMP test equipment for .gov and the development of hardening technology for the equipment.

    1. The kicker is that while the individual units ‘might’ survive, the actual transmission grid would be fried – towers, relay stations, et.al.

  2. Ken,
    Please contact George Baker Phd. So you can correct some errors in your article, ie, volts per meter squared.

    1. @ No joke,
      Meant to say, volts per meter (not volts per meter squared). Actually, staff members of the United States EMP Commission have stated that there are nuclear weapons in existence that can generate 200,000 volts per meter below the detonation and 100,000 volts per meter near the horizon.

    1. You’re welcome. I guess the flippant talk from our “officials” regarding throwing nukes around, got me to thinking about it again. It would be so insane to actually detonate a nuke-EMP, one would think it would never happen. It’s so illogical to do something like that. For many reasons! However, some of these tyrannical “rulers” are seemingly insane. Psychopathic for sure, in my estimation. It is quite obviously known and up-front regarding the hatred from these globalists towards American Liberty, it gives one pause regarding the extent to which these monsters might go…

  3. If anyone remembers the made for TV movie “The Day After” from the 80’s it would be a great refresher for how bad a full Nuke exchange would be. Some of our idiot “leaders” could probably learn a thing or two from it. This article reminded me of the beginning of the attack scenes when KC was hit with an air burst EMP before the main strike. For the 80’s this was pretty intense!

    1. Wrenchturner,
      the movie “Threads” would be a good one also.
      take care and thanks

    1. – In answer to your question, guido, the answer is a definite maybe. The truth of the matter is, no one is completely sure. Small electronics are much more likely to survive than anything grid-tied. Simpler systems are more likely to survive, like flashlights with no ‘extra’ abilities (Blinking S.O.S, multiple brightness’s, etc.)

      Generally, flashlights are not horribly expensive. Why not wrap an extra with paper, then aluminum foil, then paper again and store in a popcorn tin and have some assurance of a working device put back, just in case?

      – Papa S.

  4. I agree with Papa Smurf.

    Depending on the variable factors mentioned in the article (e.g. proximity to EMP source, the high voltage field strength at your geographical location, etc.,) a small LED flashlight may or may not get zapped. Certainly the LED itself and the tiny bit of electronics inside are indeed vulnerable. Any silicon junction is.

    But yes, perhaps a good idea to keep a few of these cheap lights in a Faraday cage of some sort. I will be updating an article about the Faraday cage soon…

    1. In a small metal box I keep 13 various led lights, 3 chargers, one multi-meter.
      My safety box just in case emp happens, I love the dark
      but I also love the ability not to be limited by the dark.
      It can sit where it is till I die.

      Outside of that I have multiple other lights of various kinds not protected.
      And one green military right angle light with the old 3v incandescent
      + non alkaline D-cell batteries that will last years mounted on the gun safe.

  5. It seems to me than any power that can set off an EMP device, can and would set off more than one to make sure they get the job done.

    Followed by waves of whatever comes next.

    So if you are sitting in Miami, or Boston, or Anchorage and you hear of a device going off over Wichita, it would be a mistake to breath easy. Kansas was just the opener.

    1. Bogan,

      Same would hold true for the region hit first…emp attack occurs…prepared folks affected break out their electronics stored in Faraday containers…just in time for second device to wipe out those.

      Sorta like terrorist planting bombs…first bombs go off…second and maybe even third bombs time delayed to kill first responders.

  6. Dennis,Bogan,
    you are both exactly right.
    give it as long as you possibly can to pull your electronics out of your faraday containers.
    me i have a few devices that i consider disposable in the house in large GI ammo cans for everyday use but in the event of a EMP strike i will not pull out my primary electronics and backups out for at least a month.
    i figure i’ll have many other things to contend with in the first few months, security for my community being first and foremost.
    i think that after the first month or two things will level themselves out and then we can get to work and concentrate on rebuilding. i have made detailed maps of our small community’s infrastructure (15 houses on a dead end road across a creek bridge). gas mains, water mains and valves. we also have land lines that may be put to use, like party lines. we can work off of that to start.

  7. So, was thinking..
    If anyone went the distance to hit the USA with emp wouldn’t the next moves to either let us kill each other off over a few weeks and then act or just invade right after an emp taking advantage of the mass chaos??

    Most will be thinking of the rebuilding, fixing and growing but really what is the poing of emp without invasion?
    That’s disregarding the mass invasion through out southern boarder.

    1. Horse,
      With the open borders, the border patrol can barely catch even a 1/4 of those coming across, well trained CCP operatives can come and go at will with their tech, if the cartells can use drones with thermal cameras to scout and pick a course so can trained military, easy infil/exfil, there are so many holes its not even funny,
      My.02, they are already sneaking and peeking and have the capabilities to hit at will.

      1. I agree with you Kula. I believe an army is already here, dispersed thruout the country, just waiting.

    2. Horse,
      i’m thinking that with the number of patriots (you know, normal people), and the ammo and firearms that are in this country that it would be a turkey shoot for us.
      the commies and those crossing our boarders would never get on the ground. rednecks would be betting dollars on shots. never doubt that.
      millions of people are ready for that to happen, just waiting for someone to pick a fight here on our homeland.
      people are mad as hell and trigger fingers are getting itchy.
      i wish i had a firearm, but they were lost in the lake, along with the boat, but i can borrow one from a friend.

    3. Horse,
      the point of an EMP from a country like Iran would not be for an invasion, but just to hurt us.
      all they know is hate for us. to bring us down to their level, a third world country.

      1. With that, china if they knew in advance might help or take advantage of the situation.
        I imagine if Cali was effected those commies might invite the cccp in to “help” and stay.

        Wouldn’t that be a mess, china with a base/foothold here in the USA and little reliable information could get out for a while.

        The possibilities, I can see someone taking advantage of the situation aside of our own government that couldn’t pass that up obviously.

    4. Well, its not an invasion if the President is letting them in, and he is! Having said that, strong borders make strong nations. There are devices by EMP Shield that will prevent any damage to devices that they are connected to like cars, trucks even entire houses! I have researched it and they really work!

  8. I don’t know if kamala has the balls for reciprocation, sending nukes/emp back at them.
    Have you ever seen pictures of their city’s? far larger than ours with millions upon millions
    truly scary things.
    That kind of society can only function with electricity, the hell it would be with no power.

    I can’t imaging ever living in a high-rise.
    So, they would be far worse off losing power than we would.

    ” CCP’s own statements have promised their soldiers the “spoils” (women) to do with what they want ”
    Our own men, the ones with penises, they don’t even want them so? most millennials are a lost cause.
    Not all but most.

    Neutron bombs are supposed to do minimal physical damage but are more limited is effected area, then all the bodies left behind and most infrastructure stays intact.

  9. I highly doubt China would ever just launch an EMP into the US. The land would be useless to them as it would take many years to get the grid up and running again. If China were to pull anything I believe it would be by hacking the power grid. Thereby maintaining stronger control of the land. The only ones who I believe would be, for lack of a better word, dumb, enough to try a nuclear EMP would be Iran simply because they hate us and being a third world country themselves they’d have no use for our land. They could care less about building an empire, unlike China.

    1. Or possibly NK, since their science consists of “report the results your dear leader expects.”

  10. If my home has an EMP Shield unit installed are my other electronics within the home, unplugged, be protected?

    1. To ‘fxcwngs’

      There is no simple direct answer. There are lots of “it depends” regarding the affects of EMP. With that said, and without getting into all that (you can search this blog for EMP related articles and comments)… Personally, I have a number of EMP / Lightning protection devices in my home. The way I figure it is… You might as well do the best you can to protect your ‘stuff’. And hopefully we never have to find out about EMP.

      I have protection installed right at my electrical panel at the Mains. Here are a few related articles:

      [ Read: EMP & Lightning Protection For Whole Home | EMP Shield ]

      [ Read: EMP Home Protection Shields Electronics From Voltage Spikes & Surges ]

      [ Read: EMP Shield Protection For Ham Radio ]

      [ Read: Lightning & EMP Vehicle Protection – Easy Installation – Peace of Mind ]

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