New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Friday, February 1, 2013

CME? EMP? Faraday Cage? – Oh My!

Holy cow! What does all this mean?

Well let’s start with some explanations and definitions …

Solar Flares, Storms and CME or Coronal Mass Ejection:  

A solar flare isn't just an explosion of hot gases. It pushes out waves of light all across the spectrum. That includes light we can't see -- including radiation in the form of X-rays and gamma rays. These rays can be dangerous to humans. Fortunately, the Earth's atmosphere absorbs most of these high-energy rays.

That's not to say everyone is in the clear after a solar flare. Humans in space or at high altitudes -- on board an airplane, for example -- could risk exposure to intense radiation. Short-term damage could include skin irritation. Long-term consequences might include an increased risk of developing skin cancer. But it's likely that any affected human would eventually recover from the exposure.

Electronics are also vulnerable to these rays. If high-energy rays were to hit a satellite, they could strip electrons from the metal components, ionizing them. As electrons break free, they could short out the electronics within a satellite. They could also create a magnetic field that would damage the satellite's systems. Some satellites have shielding to protect them from these rays, but many are still vulnerable.

Because our atmosphere absorbs most of these dangerous rays, terrestrial systems are fairly safe from solar flares. But another solar event called a coronal mass ejection (CME) can cause serious problems for electrical systems here on Earth.

A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields rising above the solar corona or being released into space.

During a CME, the fluctuations of the sun's magnetic fields cause a large portion of the surface of the sun to expand rapidly, ejecting billions of tons of particles out into space. Sometimes CMEs accompany solar flares -- but not all solar flares produce CMEs and not all CMEs accompany solar flares.

Unlike a solar flare, a CME doesn't produce intense light. But it does produce a magnetic shockwave that extends billions of miles out into space. IF Earth is in the path of that shockwave, our planet's magnetic field WILL react to the event.

While a solar flare alone might not be enough to cause problems on Earth's surface, a powerful CME is another story. In fact, massive CMEs have affected the Earth in the past. But we weren't as advanced in electronics and electricity, nor did we depend upon them as heavily the last time a CME really smacked us around.  The magnetic forces of a powerful CME would induce electricity in any large conductor and or conductive material. That includes power transformers and the power grid itself.

That's not the end of the bad news. The power grid in North America operates at near capacity. It wouldn't be able to handle the increased electrical load from a solar super storm. Power lines could sag and even snap as a result, especially in the older components of the grid. Massive power outages could affect much of the continent. The magnetic fluctuations would interfere with radio signals and communication and satellite systems would collapse as well.

It could take weeks or months to repair the damage. During that time, people would have no way to find out what was going on. Emergency services would face serious challenges. While the magnetic fields would probably not short out individual electronics devices like cell phones or computers as severally, communications systems could fail regionally. In other words, some small devices may still work but would lack the services they require to be useful.

It's possible that a CME could even affect your computer and cause glitches or short out circuits. In most cases, a simple reboot would solve the problem. But with the loss of the power grid, you'd be limited by your battery's charge. Once that ran out, you'd be stuck.

Even in these worst-case scenarios, the super storms don't wipe out ALL electrical systems across the planet. Some regions would remain relatively unaffected. It would require a solar event of the 1859 Carrington type or greater magnitude, to wipe out the electrical systems across the entire planet. But even a modest CME could demonstrate how vulnerable we are to the sun's magnetic temper tantrums.

ElectroMagnetic Pulse or EMP:  

This is humankind’s way to mimic nature or a CME and of course it is considered a weapon of mass destruction or WMD.  An electromagnetic pulse (commonly abbreviated EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. The abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation usually results from certain types of high-energy explosions, especially a nuclear explosion, or from a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field.

The resulting rapidly changing electric fields and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.

In military terminology, a nuclear warhead detonated hundreds of kilometers above the Earth's surface is known as a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) device.

Effects of a HEMP device depend on a very large number of factors, including the altitude of the detonation, energy yield, gamma ray output, interactions with the Earth's magnetic field, and electromagnetic shielding of targets.

It is possible that either a CME or an EMP can strike and play havoc with our ‘Techno Bubble’, this society that we have built around electricity and all of its various digital components.  IF one of these events should happen:

  • ALL non-protected electronics will be affected by an EMP or Carrington sized CME.  It doesn’t make any difference whether or not your electronics are plugged in, how long of an antenna you’ve got on something, what voltage it is, or whether or not they operate with batteries.
  • Batteries will be affected, usually in the form of “shorting”, even in the package on the store shelf.
  • Electronic phone systems will also be damaged - landline, cell, cordless or satellite
  • Surge protectors are useless in the event of an EMP or Carrington CME type exposure.
  • Computers anywhere, including motherboards in a warehouse or the little chip in your vehicle will be damaged.
  • Anything that conducts electricity will, even if it is just a nail.
  • Gamma radiation is common and expected with these events and we humans don’t deal with it well.
  • Electrical shorts are known to cause fires, with no phone service, these fires can become major firestorms – urban, suburban or rural. 
 Thankfully a CME of the magnitude of the Carrington Event in 1859 (aimed at the Earth) only happens about once every 500 years, according to historical records in glacial ice cores.   

Not so thankfully, we humans are very unpredictable.  All it takes to trigger an EMP attack is for one wacko, one unbalanced or arrogant government, to get a hold of the technology and have the stupidity to actually send and detonate one of these things somewhere.  

The “experts” say the chance of an electromagnetic event (human or natural) is slim.  Yet governments, utilities and IT technology corporations, as well as, industry heavily laced with technology to produce their product or service, seem to believe the chance of such an event is high enough to create and implement ‘protection’  tools and protocols for at least parts of our ‘techno bubble’.  If these entities haven’t actually implemented these tools yet, they are least in the project planning phase.

The Worlds Electric Grid Reality Check

Don’t get fooled by all the political mumbo-jumbo on how a ‘Smart Grid’ will ‘protect’ against an EMP or CME or ‘fix’ any existing grid problems. 

  • Remember the Electric Grid is basically a string of physical hardware components; like transmission lines, poles, transformers, conductors and the like.  
  • A ‘smart grid’ is merely a specialized computer program that can process and react faster than us humans; however it CANNOT fix or prevent any physical hardware problem.
  • A CME (Carrington sized+) or EMP will cause such a surge in electromagnetic and ferromagnetic energy on the Earth that it creates a ‘short’ in the grid, enough to fry transformers, etc., and the grid will go down from hardware failure.  

What protection is there?  A Faraday (Farady) Cage or Electromagnetic Shield

In 1836, English scientist Michael Faraday conducted an experiment on electrostatic charges that resulted in the creation of the container that bears his name. He was not the first to experiment with this concept; his work was based on research performed by Benjamin Franklin nearly one hundred years earlier, in 1755.

A Faraday cage is an enclosure made of conductive material that blocks both static and non-static electrical fields and is grounded. The first such ‘cage’ was made of a fine ferromagnetic metal mesh or screen.  When constructed properly, this can protect devices from a weapons EMP strike, a solar CME event, or a lightning strike.  The key here is enclosure, meaning all 6 sides of the ‘box’ or ‘cage’.


The top 6 conductive materials (stick to the cheap ones) are:  copper, aluminum, iron, steel, brass or bronze.

Aluminum can work, however, remember that just as aluminum wire generated house fires when overloaded, so to can any Faraday Cage made of aluminum.

Some Key Points:

  • Just because your car has rubber tires, it will NOT be impervious to the effects of an EMP of CME.  A car is NOT a Faraday cage sufficient to withstand an EMP incident. It has some similar components, yes.  Most cars made today consist of fiberglass and disjointed parts, not a continuous metal material.  In addition to that, they are on tires.  Tires on a car do NOT serve as grounding.   IF you had an old fashioned car that was made of metal, that had its tires removed, that was also attached to an Iron or copper pole and that was ALSO on dirt—not  gravel—then  yes, you may have a car that doubles as a Faraday cage.
  • Rubber containers are insufficient protection against an EMP or CME.
  • Faraday cages DO need to be grounded.  If it’s NOT grounded, then the Faraday cage merely becomes a reflector or an amplifier.
  • Faraday cages do NOT have to be solid, but they do have to be constructed continuously without gaps between the protective material.  Thus the name “cage” instead of the oft misused term—“box.”  In fact, many of them that you can build yourself or will see on the internet will resemble a bird cage or a very finely meshed chicken coop wire.
  • Contrary to what you may see on the internet, a sheet of foil on a box will not protect you.  It’s not thick enough to withstand the pulse. However, you CAN protect your foil insulated items if they are buried a couple of feet underground in every direction (up, down and sideways).
  • Unless the material is also ferromagnetic, that magnetic fields are NOT blocked.  Low-frequency radio waves are primarily magnetic waves (although with an electric field component), and may penetrate a Faraday cage because the varying magnetic field induces an electric field on the other side. Ferromagnetic materials are those substances, which when placed in magnetic field are strongly magnetized the direction of the magnetizing field.e.g.: - Nickel, Iron, cobalt, rare earth metals.
  • The cages must be grounded, continuously connecting, and the openings of them cannot be too large. Chicken coop wire would work, but only if you double or even triple layered it as the opening are too large. For a reference of opening size, look at the front of your microwave door.  It’s a small mesh.  Just a like a snake can slither its way through the right sized hole, so can an electronic wave.  

A Faraday cage is NOT fool proof.  The higher the frequency of the magnetic pulse, the faster and stronger it is. This is what causes the burn out.  

What should you store in your Faraday cage? 

Anything that you don’t want to live without post-EMP and anything that you can charge in an alternate manner is a good candidate for residence within the container.

Why protect items that must be plugged in if the entire electrical grid is down?

  • If the grid does come back up at some point, a person with devices that have been protected will be in the vast minority of people to possess a working unit. If the device has been unprotected, even with the return of electrical power at the flick of a switch, the item cannot be repaired and used in the future.
  • If you have planned other sources of power (such as solar or wind power) then the items that you have protected can be used with those power sources. If this is the case, also be certain to protect the proper inverters or solar chargers to be used with the stored devices.
  • If you have a ton of digital How-to documents that you didn’t get a chance to hardcopy, then even though the internet is down you and still access and read those documents.
  • If you have children that may seem lost without a TV or video game and you have alternative energy generation items that were protected along with the playing device, you can give ‘entertainment’ treats with your still working devices.

Note: Faraday Shield or Cage protection is NOT protection from the possible radiation (gamma rays) from CME’s or EMP’s; rather this protection is from the electromagnetic effects of these things on our technology.  Hence, you will still need some kind of radiation protection for you and yours.

Basically a Faraday Shield can be any conductive metal ‘container’ that has 360 coverage or encompasses all 6 sides of the enclosure, is substantial enough to take the projected electromagnetic energy and is large enough to hold your insulated electronic device in it.

Important Things to remember besides having a conductive metal container:
  • It is vital that none of your electronics directly contact the metal of the container. Insulate items by lining the container in a non-conductive material, like cardboard, foam, Styrofoam or wrapped in several layers of newspaper. You can also make cardboard sleeves for your devices.
  • Technically any make-shift or purchased Faraday cages should be grounded in order to disperse the energy.  The easiest way to do this is to have a wire lead from the metal skin of the ‘cage’ to the ground (good ol dirt) or the wire can go from the metal skin of the cage to a conductive metal pole that is stuck in the ground (like the old fashioned lightening rods).

So how does one go about making one of these ‘shields’?  

An easy way to make a Faraday cage would be to acquire some 2 x 4 brass mesh sheets (Mythbusters did this on the Discovery Channel).  Make a box frame with the 2 x 4′s and staple the brass mesh to the outside. Create a securely attached/connected access entry within the frame. Solder a ground wire to one of the corners and ground the cage.  Scrap metal and mesh wires can easily be obtained in junk yards, on E-bay, the clay modeling section of a craft store, or at your local hardware or  “farm and feed” store.  

The important aspect of this to remember though is that mesh or sheet metal only shields magnetic fields if the frequency is up in the RF range. To properly stop the wave, you need some iron, steel, or some slabs of thick copper.  Most electronics are useful in the VHF/UHF/SHF range today and will need more substantial protection.


You can make your “cage” as small or as large as you’d like.  It wouldn’t be out of the question to continuously line a basement storage room or hole in the ground with copper mesh wire and a grounding rod.

Bottom line, with an appropriately constructed Faraday cage, you can likely protect that which is inside it from the electromagnetic attack of an EMP or CME incident, thus preserving the function of all that is contained therein (provided you have an alternate power source).   

What are the odds of an Electromagnetic Event?

For a solar flare, storm or CME – it is not a question of IF; it’s a question of WHEN.  At least the massive events of this kind (that can cause us problems), with the Earth in their cross-hairs, only occur about every 500 years.


For the human-created EMP type event, well as I have said – we humans are way too unpredictable.  The ‘experts’ (mental, social, political, economic) on this type of thing seem to be torn 50-50 that it is WHEN and not IF – so your guess is as good as mine or theirs.


Let’s face it folks we haven’t had a Carrington sized CME event or an EMP attack since our world has become electronic (Thank you Lord!).  No one really knows what will happen if one of these electromagnetic events should hit.  Most of the information being related is based on educated guesses, that are themselves based on small scale experiments or ‘logical’ assumptions of the issues endured from past similar events (at least where CME’s are concerned)Yet isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Read on for additional information on:  Past solar events, Everyday uses of the Farady Shield principle, Everyday household items that can be used as a shield, How make a Faraday Cage and more ... (includes Electromagnetic Spectrum Frequency & Radiation Charts) @

Be Prepared - Not Scared ;-}


If you would like some technical info on EMP's see:Boeing’s new missile takes down electronics without touching them 10/26/2012 &
CHAMP - lights out 10/22/2012
Lights out, Boeing creates the first working EMP bomb Dec 4 2012 & with a Video @
Another video recently declassified by Boeing @,AAAAukPAlqE~,oAVq1qtdRjwBrIkHYj2MSytJiEK9s5fy&bctid=1913200772001
Boeing Non-kinetic Missile Records 1st Operational Test Flight Oct. 22, 2012 and
Boeing CHAMP Missile Completes 1st Flight Test Sept. 22, 2011

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