EMP Blast and Your Radio: What Will Work After An EMP Attack

In an increasingly connected world, the concept of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack has emerged as a significant concern. These fears have gained prominence in pop culture, academic research, and military strategic planning, reflecting the severe impact such an event could have on our heavily digitized society.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of what might continue to function after an EMP attack, examining the scientific basis behind these phenomena, its potential aftermath, and how we can better prepare for such an occurrence.

Understanding EMP Attacks

An EMP, or an electromagnetic pulse, is a powerful burst of electromagnetic energy. It has the potential to be naturally occurring or man-made. Solar flares are an example of a natural source of EMPs, while nuclear explosions and specially designed non-nuclear devices can create artificial EMPs. The concern lies in the fact that these high-energy bursts can severely disrupt or even destroy electronic systems, making EMP a potential threat to technological infrastructure.

There are three types of EMP waves that can occur during a nuclear detonation: E1, E2, and E3. Each of these has different characteristics and implications for electronics and infrastructure, with E1 having the highest energy and E3 lasting the longest. This forms the basis for understanding why some devices might survive while others may not.

The Aftermath of an EMP Attack

The aftermath of an EMP attack depends on its severity. A small-scale event could result in temporary blackouts and electronic disruptions, but a high-altitude EMP (HEMP) could potentially cause widespread, lasting damage. Infrastructure systems such as power grids, telecommunications, transportation, financial systems, and even water supply could be affected.

Moreover, the cascading effect of these systems failing can lead to further complications. For instance, a power grid failure could hamper emergency services, disrupting hospitals and law enforcement agencies. This makes understanding and preparing for EMP attacks crucial for both individuals and governments.

Items Likely to Survive an EMP Attack

Not all electronic devices would be incapacitated by an EMP attack. Many smaller, battery-operated devices, particularly those not connected to the power grid at the time, could likely survive. This is because the energy in the EMP wave might not be enough to damage these devices directly.

Moreover, vehicles may also survive an EMP attack. Despite popular belief, most vehicles do not immediately fail during EMP events, as per the U.S. EMP Commission. Older vehicles with fewer electronics are even more likely to survive.

The Impact of EMP on Radios and Communication Device

Communication devices such as Citizen Band (CB) radios, walkie-talkies, HAM radios, and other radio systems play a crucial role in post-disaster scenarios where conventional means of communication are down. Their potential resilience in the face of an EMP attack is therefore of high importance.

An EMP attack may severely impact these devices due to their reliance on electronic components. However, various factors such as the strength of the EMP, the proximity of the device to the EMP source, and the device’s protective measures can influence the level of impact.

CB radios, popular for short-distance communication, could be disrupted by an EMP, especially if connected to an external power source or antenna at the time of the event. The damage to these radios could range from minor disruptions in functionality to complete failures.

Similarly, walkie-talkies could also be affected by an EMP. Despite being small, portable devices, their electronic components make them vulnerable. But, as battery-operated devices, they may stand a better chance of survival than devices plugged into the power grid.

HAM radios, favored by many for disaster communication due to their wide range of frequencies, may also be at risk. However, many HAM radio operators often employ protective measures, such as disconnecting power and antennas when not in use, or using protective enclosures, which can increase their chances of survival.

Regular radios, particularly older, simpler analog models, might survive an EMP attack if they’re not connected to an external power source. Battery-powered radios may also have a better survival chance.

In summary, while all these devices are vulnerable to an EMP attack due to their electronic components, various factors, including the device’s design, the use of protective measures, and the specifics of the EMP event, can influence their level of impact.

Preparing for an EMP Attack

Being prepared for an EMP attack involves creating an EMP protection plan, which includes measures to protect your electronics, essential services, and supplies. Faraday cages, for instance, can be constructed at home using readily available materials, and can safeguard electronics like radios, flashlights, and medical devices.

Other preparations may involve building up a supply of essential items, such as food, water, medical supplies, and other necessities. Additionally, consider strategies to maintain communication and transportation in the event of an EMP attack.

Restoring Functionality after an EMP Attack

Restoring functionality after an EMP attack may involve numerous steps. This includes checking and repairing essential services like power, water, and communication systems. Simple devices may be repairable by replacing damaged components, while more complex systems might require professional services.

It is crucial to have a pre-prepared plan for restoration efforts. This plan could include having a stock of necessary replacement parts, a list of local resources and repair services, and the knowledge to diagnose and repair basic electronic devices.


An EMP attack could potentially be one of the most disruptive events in modern times, causing severe damage to our infrastructure and technology. However, understanding the nature of EMPs, their potential aftermath, and the steps we can take to prepare and respond effectively can reduce their potential impact.

This guide provides a comprehensive look at the potential survival of certain devices and technologies after an EMP event, highlighting the importance of preparedness and resilience in a digital age. While it is impossible to predict the specific outcomes of an EMP attack, knowledge and preparation are key to navigating such a situation.

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