A Green Beret’s Guide to EMP: Practical Steps to Prepare for a “Lights Out” Scenario (Part 1)

Jeremiah Johnson is a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne) and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).

lights-out-th lights-out

This series is dedicated to Ben Raines, one of SHTF’s readers, who wrote:

“If the power is out for more than 2 weeks I will have some serious decisions to make.”

Ben, I’m doing this article for you as I promised, and I hope it will help you (and others) to make those decisions in the critical moments and days following an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) event.  Although I had plenty of science courses in college, I am not a scientist.  Certainly someone with a scientific background will comment on this article.  Let me state this:  Scientists, I welcome all comments, positive or negative, but please make them proactive.  These articles are forums where the writers are “emcees” that introduce topics for discussion and present some salient points.  You guys and gals are the ones who pick up the topics and run the football in for the TD.

We need to be “SME’s” as we called them in the Army: Subject Matter Experts.  One of my personal goals for SHTF is not just to draw a large readership base; it is to help readers develop themselves and also develop one another.  Let the site become an ORP (objective rally point) where everyone can plan, exchange ideas, and attain better levels of awareness and preparation for the times to come.  In this light, there is a lot of knowledge out there awaiting use.  Take the knowledge you amass, step up to the plate, and take the swing: do the best you can with what you have.  And if it isn’t perfect, so what?  You give it your best shot and then adjust fire from there.

So here it is.  Scenario 1 finds you on your way to work.  You just dropped the kids off to school and you’re out on the freeway heading toward work at 8:05 am, armed with a cup of coffee and your local radio station.  All of a sudden the radio crackles and all of the power in your vehicle cuts off and you drift (hopefully safely!) to a halt.  You do a head check: all of your fellow commuters on the road are experiencing the same problem, except one guy in a ’54 Ford pickup truck who passes right by you.  You look at your wristwatch and it is blank.  Your cell phone is off, and out.  You notice a traffic light ahead of you is out, and the convenience store and its sign on the corner are devoid of lights.  Somewhere in the heart of the American Midwest, about 200 miles above the ground, an ICBM just went off and delivered an EMP to the U.S.

This article and the series are going to focus on some basic things we can do to help us prepare beforehand for such a scenario.  Almost all of the readers here knows about what an EMP is and some basics about it.  We are not going to delve into all of the properties of the EMP.  For those who haven’t heard of it, an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is a high-density electrical field that can damage or destroy electronic devices.  EMP can affect cars and trucks, computers, electrical appliances, aircraft, power transmission grids, and anything unshielded from it.  This can be delivered by a missile or a satellite and would have devastating effects on the U.S. power grid and infrastructure, as mentioned in this citation:

Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, CRITICAL NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURES, April 2008: Page 45: “It is not practical to try to protect the entire electrical power system or even all high value components from damage by an EMP event. There are too many components of too many different types, manufactures, ages, and designs. The cost and time would be prohibitive. Widespread collapse of the electrical power system in the area affected by EMP is virtually inevitable after a broad geographic EMP attack …”

Readers, I think you grasp the concept.  Now let’s discuss what we can do about it.  The first thing I propose to you:

“Low tech” your supplies as much as possible as your “base.”

Rely on your basics that do not rely upon electricity or technology.  I have mentioned some items in previous articles that we’re going to stress here, as it is all interrelated.  This list is neither in order nor exhaustive:

  1. Lensatic Compass: good old-fashioned GI equipment; durable, reliable, and affordable.  If you must carry your wrist compass (electronic), make sure your Lensatic is available for backup, and make sure you know how to use it.
  2. Hand-crank flashlight: has its own little generator and doesn’t rely on batteries
  3. A Good Automatic Movement Watch: You need to keep time and coordinate things with your family after the event.  You’ll have to really shop and find one with a good warranty.
  4. Slide Rule: Yes, you may find the need to make complex calculations in a hurry.  The “Uncle Caveman” abacus just won’t do the trick on some things.  Pick up a slide rule and go online or find references on how to use it.
  5. Optics not requiring batteries: Those rangefinders and Steiners just lost their tech, and that wonderful laser crosshair reticle with range-tab vanished.  Any scope for a weapon needs to not be dependent on any batteries, electronic optics, or laser devices.
  6. Security devices: In this case, locks, safes (guns, valuables, etc), automobiles (touch pad entry), and anything requiring electricity or electronics to enter…make ‘em manual.  What good is a gun safe that works electronically and then you have to blow the door to retrieve the weapons?
  7. Vehicles: How high-tech is your vehicle?  The ’54 Ford truck in the example will probably still be good to go; however, the Lamborghini may have just become a lawn ornament in memoriam.  We’ll cover more on this later.
  8. Well Water: The water pump isn’t going to work unless you have a genny, and even then it may not.  What do you do?  I ordered a kit from a guy name John Tatman: the EZ Water Well Hand Pump that has a special valve he supplies you and you build the pump out of PVC.  The guy is great; he lets you talk to him directly on his cell phone if you have a problem.  The kit works to wells up to 175 feet deep, at 4-5 gallons per minute; you can order it online.  The whole kit and kaboodle will run you less than $250.
  9. Food: Yes, food.  How are you going to save what is in the fridge?  Prepare by having adequate supplies of charcoal and a couple of grills (I recommend a Brinkman).  Also, now is the time for canning supplies.  Pick up a green two-burner Coleman camp stove that works on dual fuel (Coleman/white gas, and gasoline).  You can use this to fire up the pressure canners and water-bath canners at a controlled rate[Note: If you want to read about a “mad scramble” with food, go to Tess Pennington’s Ready Nutrition site and find my articles on how my wife and I made it through Hurricane Katrina]  I strongly recommend visiting your local County Extension Office or the local Community College for a Canning Course.

An Additional note on food:  Keeping in the fridge only what is necessary for about a week and putting the lion’s share into canned food, dry goods, or long shelf-life (dehydrated, mylar packed) foods is probably your best bet to safeguard your food supply in the long haul.  Make sure to FIFO (first in, first out) your stock to keep the freshest/most recent purchases in storage.

  1. The Bathroom: Yes, #1 and #2, always there! I highly recommend (if you don’t already compost) at the bare minimum a portable potty of the type that many seniors and those with health issues utilize.  There are 4-gallon bags available in a roll in Wal-Mart for the bucket liner that are about $3.50 and have 75 bags to a roll.  They last about a week.  When all is said and done, you can do a controlled burn of them and save your water supplies/space in your septic tank.

We have covered a short list of what you need for low-tech equipment starters.  But what about what you already have?  How do you protect your gadgets and gizmos from the EMP?  In the reference section at the end of this article, I have cited some works that will give you more EMP information and a site that you can research to find more information on Faraday Cages, which most of you guys and gals have heard about already.  But just in case: What is the Faraday Cage?  It is a device enabling objects stored within its confines to be shielded from EMP and other types of charges.  The scientist Michael Faraday expostulated its theorems back in 1836.

Copper and aluminum are the two best metals (in order) to use for your cage structures; however, steel will work.  The main point is you must have a little background knowledge of what is needed.  Maxwell’s equations relevant to a conductor are relevant here.  The efflux (the waves: radio, gamma, etc) originating with an EMP is a broad-banded grouping.  Regarding Maxwell’s equation:  Any resident excess charge whether fixed or time-varying must reside on the conductor’s effective surface; an excess disturbance would flow around a continuous conductor’s surface from one end to the other.  The interior of such a conductor would not experience this flux.

The equation shows that a solid object that can be closed off (such as an ammo can or a metal trash can with tight fitting lid) without gaps can be effectively employed for a Faraday cage.  This also illustrates how a grounding rod would not be needed if the gaps are closed off correctly (or if you are going to enmesh a whole room/structure and the wavelengths are not smaller than the apertures). As I mentioned previously, I’m not a scientist; however, the information is out there and there is no need to “reinvent the wheel.”

There is a rule that I use for myself.  You will have to gauge your budget and availability of equipment to see if you can apply it for your situation.  Here it is:

Rule:  Any electronic equipment should be bought in pairs/two (2) of each, with one out for use and a second in a Faraday Cage.

This may seem a “no brainer,” however, this insures that if you lose something?  You may only lose one and have a backup for later.  In addition, if there’s time to forsee it coming, you may be able to take that operational piece and stick that in a cage prior to it hitting the fan.  Here are a list of indispensibles and important items, non-exhaustive, for the cages:

Radiological Survey Meter, a.k.a. Geiger counter

Night vision devices

Scopes/red-dot sights/laser sights/electronic optics/range finders

Laptop computer (worth its weight in gold post-event)

Motorolas and hand-held communication devices

Batteries and chargers (solar and/or plug in’s)

Battery-powered IR/movement sensors

Calculators/wristwatches/battery testers…small electronic aids

***ANY medical device to maintain or sustain life (diabetes testers, hearing aids, etc)

Win the game with your backups.  Stick them in cages and forget about them until you need them.  We’re going to cover cages and other protective measures in Part 2.  This will get you started, especially regarding your planning.  Assess your stance and what is in place right now.  What do you and your family require in terms of specialty gear?  Do your research and find out about EMP’s and begin to formulate a plan.  I wholeheartedly welcome any and all discussion on this topic and look forward to reading your comments.  Seriously, we have some real experts out there, and those comments are a gold mine for everyone (yours truly included).

Everyone have a great day and I’ll have Part 2 ready for you soon.


Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published May 27th, 2015
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21 Responses to A Green Beret’s Guide to EMP: Practical Steps to Prepare for a “Lights Out” Scenario (Part 1)

  1. StevenC says:

    I have read for years that steel ammo boxes provide EMP protection. However, the rubber seal creates a gap between the steel box and steel lid. Wouldn’t that compromise the protection?


    What good would a laptop be without internet?

    • MikeJY says:

      I personally do not store much on a computer but I know people that store all their knowledge on these things. Even with out the internet your laptop and it’s stored knowledge would be like having an encyclopedia at your fingertips. I personally have a library of books that an EMP would not hurt. Yes you cannot pack them and run but unless my BOL is burning to the ground I will stay anyway.


        If an EMP hits your laptop would be fried, and you would not be able to power it anyway.

      • MikeJY says:

        Not if you kept it in a faraday cage. They make solar chargers to recharge your laptop battery so you would not need the power grid. But you would have to keep all this electronic equipment in a faraday cage. So you would actually need to have two laptops, one you store vital information on and one you use in everyday life. You would keep the one with vital information in a faraday cage to protect it.

  3. Andrew Mango says:

    Extreme non sense and just a gimmick to sell MRE i.e. meals ready to eat. The wicked spirit which manifested itself into those who embrace evil for the destruction of souls are in complete denial of the Word! meaning The Lord God, Jesus Christ; and seek to rule and own the world. So why would these agents of Satan seek to destroy it beyond repair? But, that being said I would inform readers of this. Back in 1913, I think that was the year, the Miracle of the Sun occurred at Fatima Porturgal. This was an actual phenomonon where it was witnessed by nearly 100,000 eye witnesses. The sun it was witness danced in the sky and turned like a firey pinwheel. Then, it appeared to fall from the sky. This, it turned out, was a final warning to the world from the Blessed Holy Mother of Lord God who sent her to deliver to three shepard children this warning. Lord God will punish the world for its wickedness and Russia will spread her errors throught the world. Blessed Mother said that Russia, which is the Lead Satanic home of Jewry, must be consecrated to Her Immaculate heart. It never was. So Lord God will chastise the world in what is known as the three days of darkness. This is reported fact and actual history. So here’s your actual bottom-line ” He is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by FIRE! Lord God is and will always be one step ahead of wicked evil men. Take that to the bank. And they know this.

    • James120756 . says:

      If anyone knows “non sense” it’s certainly you with your moronic bible babbling. My fondest hope is eventually idiots like you will die off and receive your “just reward.”

    • Joan Camara says:

      Oh wow, what is this babbling? Doesn’t deserve to be here..has nothing to do with this article. I believe in our Lord, but you are in la la land somewhere. Please don’t speak anymore. You turn people against us christians with your nonsense,

    • L. A. McDonough says:

      The CAtholic church is apostate and there are other apostate denominations. Home church (unaffiliated) in small groups off gov. radar makes sense today. I have heard about EMP’s for some time. Anyone have a timeline or appr. dates?

      • Andrew Mango says:

        Home church? You mean Shrine.
        If you do not embrace the faith which Christ has for His Father in Heaven most likely your supplication will not be accepted by Jesus who is the Christ.

        That’s the power of a traditionally ordained Priest.

        Think back to Eden. Able’s offering was embraced by God. Crain’s wasn’t.

      • Andrew Mango says:

        And that Faith is Holy Roman Catholicism.

  4. Richard Wahd says:

    And thus it is written that when the great and mighty one legged chicken
    returns – all shall bow their knee and all will profess divine reverence to the great and mighty one legged chicken
    . And thus it is written that on every December 21st – the length of daylight shall be very short – for three days – then will increase on the 25th – and that is why we celebrate every gods birthdays on December 25th.
    And thus and thus it is written that six months after, at June 21st – the daylight shall be longest – and thus three months before and three month after – March 21 & September 21 – the length of day and night shall be equal..
    All shall fear and revere the great and mighty one legged chicken.

  5. Cognative Dissonance says:

    For “Pooping” get a 5 gal bucket, fill it half way with ash from a fire, use anything as a toilet seat and dispose of in a hole. The fire ash hides the poop smell well and will help in disposal.

  6. SteveF says:

    How is this possible, I thought the pulse from nuclear or the sun are long waves and that being the case won’t effect tiny circuits. Maybe a pulse could effect transmission wire and whats connected to them but cars are well shielded also from long waves.

    • R_of_the_H says:

      I’d like to know also. I’ve been inside power plants for 30 years and have designed, installed, and commissioned many of the control systems including generator regulation and protective relays.
      We survive lighting strikes, earthquakes, floods and anything else you can throw at it with minimal downtime and only localized damages.
      So WTF is this and why does none of the oversight and/or regulatory organizations even mention it to us?

  7. genann59 says:

    When will part two of this report be ready and available?

  8. Stephen McPherson says:

    OK, this is NOT A REALISTIC SCENARIO! The Cold War is over and has been since the mid 1970’s for anyone who would care to notice.The probability of a nuclear event is extremely low. A far more probable event for most on us – let’s say 1 standard deviation or about 80% of us – is having the electricity go out fro a prolonged period of time due to a weather event or perhaps a terrorist event. Let’s say the power grid goes down for 2 plus weeks across a wide area from an Ice Storm maybe.

    Set your priorities:

    1. Shelter – most likely you are either at home or work when this happens. Stay there until it’s safe to travel.

    2. Food – it’s an Ice Storm! Use chunks of ice to keep your fridge/freezer contents cold. Eat up the most perishable food items first. Leave canned or packaged goods until necessary.

    3. Water – it’s an Ice Storm! Collect melt water from the eaves of your house once it’s safe to go outside if you are not on city water.

    4. Heat – if you have an alternative heat source that’s great. If not, get into a small room wherever you are to conserve heat.

    So while I may not have all the whiz bang military credentials – I’ve been there, done that and survived quite comfortably.

    • carlos says:

      Knowing the established mindset of the Ayatollah and his minions in Iran, there is no doubt in my mind that, as soon as they have the technology, they would try to launch a missile from offshore US to detonate an EMP configured nuclear weapon.
      They are more committed than anyone to their apocalyptic scenario and we have been very careless in not watching for the obvious. Israel intends to survive, but under Obama we appear to care less.

  9. John Howell says:

    Good advice, but be prepared for the fact that a potential enemy who can detonate a high altitude EMP device could also repeat the attack at unknown intervals to prevent the target country from ever properly recovering.

    • L. A. McDonough says:

      If another country was going to do that, they would have already done so, as I have been reading about this subject for some time off and on. How ’bout this country doing an EMP on enemy countries like the middle east and N. Korea?

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