Can You Feel an EMP: The Deadly Truth

The EMPs are coming! At least, that’s what it seems like with all the news stories lately. How can you tell for sure? You’d expect to feel something if a blast big enough to darken your part of the world went off. However, the science behind EMPs might just have something else to say about that.

Can you feel an EMP? There are some people with devices inside them that could potentially have enough wiring to feel an EMP. Sadly there’s no conclusive evidence either way. Most people wouldn’t know the difference. However, in theory, a powerful enough pulse might temporarily disrupt some cognitive functions.


People Who Can Feel EMP’s

Most of us would be totally in the dark if an EMP went off in the upper atmosphere. That may sound like a joke, but it’s not. Indeed, the power would go out, but physically we wouldn’t feel a thing.

Electromagnetic Pulses (EMPs) aren’t detectable by nerve endings. Unless you’re standing near enough to a lightning bolt or a nuclear strike to feel the shockwave, you’d have no clue what happened. Of course, if you’re that close when it happens, you probably have other things on your mind than the power grid problems.

No Real Proof

The effects of an EMP on devices inside the human body has not been studied conclusively. Doing a study like this would be incredibly inhumane and unethical. However, what we know about the way EMPs work leads to some interesting questions about whether specific medical devices might not react inside our bodies. It could cue us off to the problem.

Unfortunately, medical implants like tens units for pain control in the spine and pacemakers are critical. If these devices did react to an EMP, pain, and probable unit failure would occur. There are even people with modern prosthetic limbs who might feel the burn as it were. However, I have to stress that no real-world testing exists to prove or disprove this theory.

Could it Hurt

Anyone wearing a headset or similar complicated piece of technology with any internal wring might notice the subsequent blowout. It bears mentioning that these things would not catch fire or explode like they might on TV. Rather, they might make a small noise and die suddenly.

The effects of this would likely be more alarming than painful for us. There’s no reason to suspect that we’d feel much beyond our frustration. If your electronic watch or smartphone dies suddenly, it’s not going to kill you.


According to one researcher who did the math, the following can be said about tooth implants and other devices in general:

“…Using the worst-case value of 1 μs, the energy dissipated around the implant is 250 μJ or 0.25 mJ. This is not a significant amount of energy, and therefore, tooth implants should not pose a major hazard to those having them during a nuclear EMP event.

Similar calculations could be carried out for larger metallic implants. At the least, an implanted person would experience a brief jolt at the implant site from the high voltage. Heart pacemakers and hearing aids – devices with electronics – would pose a more severe problem, especially if they are life-critical.”

That’s a Lot of Big Words

What that says can be summed up easily. Even those with implanted devices may survive the failure in the event of an EMP. However, if your life depends on a device like a pacemaker, surviving the blast isn’t the issue. Surviving without the implant functional would be the real challenge.

Many people aren’t a hundred percent dependent on their pacemaker to survive. A pacemaker does not pump your blood. Your heart does the work. A pacemaker tells the heart when to do its job so you can feel your best.

Just as a hearing-impaired person would no longer have assistance hearing, a person without their pacemaker would revert to the condition it was helping to prevent. Neither of these is automatically a death sentence. Sadly, heart patients might have a lot of discomforts and a shorter life span.

If your life depends on a pacemaker or other medical device, you should look into better protection for your life. A company like EMP Shield can help bring you peace of mind. They can install a whole-home protection system. As long as you’re in the house when the SHTF, your belongings and your internal device are protected from the worst.


How Do You Shield Against Something So Fast

Part of what makes EMP’s so dangerous, and the reason we wouldn’t typically feel them is speed. In layman’s terms, an EMP is so fast it wouldn’t have time to mess with your internal systems as it passed through you. Humans conduct electricity well because our cells are surrounded by excellent conductors like sodium ions, potassium ions, and chloride ions.

What that means for us is that the charge passes right through our bodies. The pulse from any electromagnetic event would move on before we noticed. It should leave our bodies undamaged. It leaves us with the alarming question, how do we protect susceptible systems against something so fast?

What The Government Is Doing To Help

If the world ends and society collapses tomorrow, we may still see some minor benefits from what the government has been doing to handle EMP attacks. In light of the genuine danger such an event could cause, our government has worked to help better understand and take steps to mitigate EMP threats.

The DARPA researchers on Plumb Island got a lot of press last year over some experiments they conducted. These are widely misunderstood and misquoted. The tests were to establish what to do in case of a cyberattack, not an EMP. Regardless, the government has at least looked into the problem back in 2013.

Sadly all the talk didn’t create any real solutions on its own. In the end, major utilities are privately owned and operated. Most power companies dismiss the idea that the system needs addressing. Handling EMP threats is a high cost, low benefit project for them.

Those Who Help Themselves

You know what they say about getting things done right. Don’t wait around for big brother to save you with a cunning plan. Roll your sleeves up and get to work yourself. If your preparedness plans include any form of electronic device or wiring, then you need an EMP plan.

Choose manual redundancies where possible. For example, you can plow a field of wheat with a hi-tech machine, but a sling blade works just as well. Look into building some small personal faraday cages to keep a few things safe. Better yet, get a whole-home protection system form EMP Shield and keep the lights on when the world goes dark.


When Will You Know It’s Coming

We have all sorts of high tech methods of detecting incoming problems. From radio to radar, satellites, and more, it seems like we can predict and respond to everything. Whether the problem is a storm, an invading force or a nuclear warhead, we can spot it, stop it and even retaliate.

Whole cities can be evacuated ahead of hurricanes, so surely we’ll have some warning if an EMP goes off right? Well… maybe. We might detect a nuclear weapon headed for the sky over America, but it’s not as though we could evacuate the whole country. Even if we had enough ships, there would be nowhere to go with almost three hundred and thirty million people.

Would You Tell

Honestly, not causing mass panic might beat telling the whole country they have about ten minutes until they get thrown back a century. Announcing to everyone that their fridge, heaters, cell phones, and credit cards are about to become obsolete could spark more rioting than sudden mass darkness.

When the power goes out, people call the utilities. When the phones go out, they head outside and talk with the neighbors. If your communication is cut off from the rest of the world, you probably stay put and wait for the lights to come back on. Alternately, people who have just learned there’s no rescue coming can become savage very quickly.

If our governing body were to find out tomorrow that we were about to go dark, they’d have a serious dilemma. Is it going to cause more death to warn people, or to let darkness fall without warning? I’m not so sure that you would be notified in the event of an impending EMP.

Are You For Real

It’s easy to retreat into disbelief when something is scary and overwhelming. People naturally fear the unknown. This is why so many people have no level of emergency preparedness at all. Many people feel more comfortable in denial than they do facing uncertainty.

As depressing as it is when you realize that about half the country has no form of emergency supplies, it also helps. Having some perspective on people’s cognitive dissonance about their vulnerability reminds you why it’s essential to be truly prepared.

Providing for your own needs and those of your family is crucial. Whether or not you find a single scenario believable isn’t the issue. Emergencies happen every day. Whether it’s EMP’s, Zombies, or simple overpopulation and competition for resources, you will need stored resources and a way to protect them.

Anyone Can Become an EMP Threat

Using EMPs are illegal in the US except under particular circumstances, like officially sanctioned testing. If you believe that merely having laws is enough to prevent criminals, then there’s not much point in telling you to be prepared for emergencies. Refusing to consider a problem seriously doesn’t make it go away.

For everyone else, a simple google search will show you that, successful or not; people are trying to build home EMP weapons. Once information gets free, someone is bound to use it. Whether or not that person has good intentions isn’t a thing you should stake your life or family on. Even the best plans in the world can get stolen and perverted to a wrong cause.

Why Can’t I Build a Personal EMP for Self Defense

According to AVVO, a respected legal advice site EMP devices are illegal. One of the lawyers there, Mr. John M. Kaman who is a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco the reason has to do with what EMPs interfere with. His answer states the following:

“Federal law prohibits the operation, marketing, or sale of any type of jamming equipment, including devices that interfere with cellular and Personal Communication Services (PCS), police radar, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and wireless networking services (Wi-Fi).”

Are EMP Jammers Legal

This question is a little murkier. There doesn’t appear to be any specific prohibition against blocking EMPs. Perhaps this is because a faraday cage will handle that problem and faraday cages are legal to own. However, if your EMP solution violates the federal laws or FCC restrictions on blocking wireless communications, then you may be in trouble.

  • Section 301 of the Communications Act: “No person shall use or operate any
    apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by
    radio…except under and in accordance with [the Communications] Act and with
    a license in that behalf granted under the provisions of this Act.” 47 U.S.C. § 301.


  •  Section 302(b) of the Communications Act: “No person shall manufacture, import,
    sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or
    use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this
    section.” 47 U.S.C. § 302a(b).


  • Section 333 of the Communications Act: “No person shall willfully or maliciously
    interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station
    licensed or authorized by or under [the Communications] Act or operated by the
    United States Government.” 47 U.S.C. § 333.


Final Thoughts

Good emergency preparedness is having a goal. Great emergency preparedness is having a plan. The closest you can get to ‘perfect preparedness’ is when you have skills, backup plans, and redundancies. Then add alternate gear caches, vehicles, and locations, plus protection for all of it and a whole team to work with.

It’s okay if you’re not there yet. Preparing for emergencies is a journey, and even the best-laid plans can go awry. Work toward your goal every day and stay vigilant. You’ll know it’s working because an emergency will come up and you will be ready to handle it. The world doesn’t need to end for you to test out your preparedness plans.

EMPs are one of the scariest threats because they’re invisible. Fortunately, you can plan for things you can’t see with a little assistance and a lot of perseverance.

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