Camping & Survival

Prepping: EMP Strike While You’re at Work — Are You Ready?

EMP over power lines

If you were at work when an EMP hit, would you be ready? How would you get home? Do you have an office, work in the field, or travel for work? This article examines the difficulties you could face if an EMP hit while you were at work, and covers some of the basic SHTF supplies you should have with you or stashed at work.

EMP over power lines
The effects of an EMP are directly related to its strength.

Whether you work in a big city or small town, odds are you spend a major portion of your week at work (away from home). If you work at a grocery store or Walmart Super Center, your employer’s shelves may leave you well prepared in the event of an emergency such as an electromagnetic pulse. For the rest, prior preparation is a must.

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume you work as an IT specialist at a small manufacturing facility in a town of about 100,000. Your office is about 15 miles from your home. Suddenly, the lights and computers suddenly go black. You wait for the customary five or so seconds, but the backup generator has not kicked on. A solar flare just caused an EMP that will change the lives of millions, including you. How will you survive?

You are stuck in a cube farm in the basement of your building. You feel around for your $1,000 cell phone to use its flashlight function. You tap furiously at the screen, but it will not come on. While mashing at the buttons, trying to get it to restart, someone yells from a neighboring cubicle, “Can anyone get their cell phone to work? Mine is dead.” A sick feeling settles in the bottom of your stomach. You know this is more than a simple power outage and help will not be arriving any time soon enough to matter.

Once the EMP hits, it will be too late to get prepared. People across the country will be stranded. Government services will not be forth coming. Everything will stop. Have your prepared for such an event?

Workplace Emergency Items

The first thing you’ll need to do is make a mental emergency assessment of your surroundings.

Do you have any items on your person that may aid in survival? What is in, or on, your desk? Do you have a locker? If so, will you be able to open it? What tools do you have access to? Does your workplace have first aid kits, or vending machines you may be able to raid for supplies? What is the demeanor of the people around you? How will you egress in the dark?

Let us examine some of the items it would be beneficial to have available for easy access in an emergency.

survival supplies
So what do you need to do before hurricanes, or pandemics actually happen? First, you should compile an emergency kit for your house that includes water, food, and other supplies. Then prep your car and workplace.
  1. Flashlight (with extra batteries) – This is great for many emergencies, but after an EMP, it could be useless. Plan ahead with a lighter or matches and candle.
  2. Multitool – The various implements incorporated into a multitool allows you to carry a single small item with a host of potential.
  3. Pocketknife – Many workplaces have policies regarding weapons. Some even cover items as small as a pocketknife, but I’d still want to have a one available.
  4. Matches or lighters. These are cheap and easy to store, but could be invaluable in the scenario described above.
  5. Chemical light sticks – You can get between six and 24 hours of light from a single stick that can be picked up at most any $1 store. This si a no brainer to throw into a desk drawer.
  6. Firearm – Putting this on the list is a wobbler for me. Yes, I subscribe to 24/7 carry, so I would be very likely to be armed. However, while prepared to face a mob mentality scenario, a firearm would actually be low on my personal list. I do not find it likely that chaos would break out immediately, so I could easily walk 10 miles before the desperation of other set in.
  7. Batteries – This one is another wobbler. Batteries that are not connected to an electronic/electrical device would likely survive an EMP. However, the devices they would power would likely not survive. I suppose it is better to be over prepared.
  8. First Aid Kit/IFAK – Injuries are going to happen. People will panic. Whether you are rendering aid or simply carrying the supplies so someone can give you aid, a kit is essential.

Emergency Egress

You may simply want to get outside, but you may also need to go deep. An EMP might not knock out all cars. You should have an emergency kit in your car—parked on the forth floor of the subterranean parking structure. Make a plan to escape or get to your supplies.

Workplace Gear

What do you normally keep at your desk? I always have a junk food drawer, because I like to snack. In a SHFT scenario, this is food I would want to pack with me. Living in the Midwest, I keep an extra jacket in my office. Even when the temperature is in the low 20s, I often leave the house without a jacket. I have an attached garage and there is a heated underground garage at work. However, if I ever had to walk home in winter or other severe weather, I would be unprepared without additional clothing. Plan for the worst.

The vending machine won’t be working after an EMP, but after breaking a bit of glass those prepackaged food and drinks would be great emergency supplies. Being prepared requires more than simply your supplies in a bag. Think about your surroundings.

Vehicle Kit

For those who do not live in a metropolis such as New York where most ride the subway, your vehicle is probably your best bet. You should keep emergency supplies in your trunk or the back of your SUV. Therefore, all you’ll likely need to do is transit from your position when the EMP hits to the supplies in your vehicle. Why make two kits when one can serve double duty?

It Is Your Responsibility

Ending the article at this point, I can already hear the scoffs and complaints that there is nothing new here and this article does not cover every situation, scenario, or aspect of survival. I agree. However, it would be impossible. Every person’s work situation is different. Their distance from work to home varies. The strength of an EMP is variable, so the equipment that would work after an EMP and the effort required to resume normal utilities and services would be different. Besides, if believe a 1,000 word article is going to prepare you, perhaps you should study a man named Darwin.

So, what is the purpose of this article? It is not to give you a “feel good” list of 10 items that give you a false sense of preparation because you have a multitool and flashlight. Instead, it is to scratch the surface and get you thinking about your responsibility for your own survival in a SHTF scenario such as an EMP or other emergencies when you are away from home. Good luck!

Have you prepared for an EMP? How would you plan to get home after an event such as an EMP? Share your answers in the comment section.

Build Your Own Bug Out Bag

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Comments (31)

  1. EMP is always treated as either “total shutdown” or “you never know”. Why isn’t there better information? Shouldn’t there be a test whether a Faraday box is good enough, or a formula for whether X level of pulse at Y distance will kill a car? Planning for a nebulous unknown event is like packing for a trip when you don’t know whether you’re headed for Hawaii or Antarctica.

    1. Because people don’t take the time to do basic research and learn what it is, what it can do, and how to properly defend against it. Look up the books written by Dr. Arthur Bradley or view his videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/disasterprepper/feed They will be quite enlightening.

      Also, I think we have gotten to a point where people prefer to overreact and drama queen things rather than rationally dealing with a situation because there isn’t as much notoriety in the latter as there is the former.

  2. Well anybody who has thought thru this stuff will have a small solar battery charger in the faraday bag as well. I use my old smart phone as a portable CPU for my shooter app, a long with NVGs, IR laser, Wind meter and weather station and etc.

  3. Well…faraday cage or bags. Or any home made version.
    I have one of my older smart phones full of photos, music, copies of important info, and the like. Its in a faraday bag in my B.O.B. In fact all my sensitive electronic devices are in faraday bags. Now whether or not they’ll work remains to be seen, but at least I tried.
    Getting home. Now that’s a different story. I’m often more than 30 miles from home, working wherever. I carry a two day get home bag in the van. Which could be easily stretched to 4 days. I always have my Canik and 4/ 18 round mags., so that’s 91 rounds with 1 more mag in the pistol, and 1 in the tube. Plenty to get home.
    The worry is, in the time it takes me to get home, will home still be there, and will my stuff still be there. Although its reasonably secure, locks are for honest people.
    My jeep is in a shed I built, which is your basic faraday cage. So from there I will be mobile, and on my way to my prep. The wrangler is already partially packed and ready to bug. 2 weeks of supplies, in case the roads are blocked or turn into ambush points. Off road isn’t an issue.
    So, be it an EMP, or terrorists, or solar storms, natural disasters, or zombies. Or hell, even rabid socio-democrat-leftists. I say BRING IT.
    I say to the rest of you, at least get a basic prep started. A B.O.B. etc. You may be very glad you did.

    As always
    Carry on

  4. Would vaCcuum tobe radios still work? I recal in the early 70s some folks were still using vacuum tabed CB radios.I realize vacuum tubed receiving or transmitting radios require more power and how one could wire them into a solar or hand cranked charging device could take some effort,ditto rechargable batteries for vintage receiving radios e.gZenith Trans Oceanic.
    Any one have this information?

  5. Not much use in protecting your cell phone unless you are concerned about info. stored on it. Even if you have a working phone. You will not be able to use it as a communication device. All the cell towers and land lines will be down. Thumb drives will be wiped clean unless protected. And then you will need a working device to read the drive.

    1. I have an older smart phone in a faraday bag, with a solar power bank. It has all my photos, music, important documents, local, as well as, nation wide maps, ham frequencies. Tons of useful stuff. All stored IN my phone. You can store any number of survival guides, food prep guides, its endless man.

  6. The concept of the article was good, but the author needs to really research EMP, what it is, what it can do, what and how it will effect things, and what can be done to protect electronics. I almost stopped reading when he said that “flashlights wouldn’t work”. This is the type of article that does nothing by spread disinformation and will do more harm than the moderate amount of good that it tries to do.

    Being in the basement, especially in an IT department, will provide shielding for devices that aren’t connected, and even those devices that are connected, if the business has done even rudimentary work to condition their power lines should either be slightly or not damaged.

    Again, seek data from competent sources who not only explain but also backup the explanations with repeatable scientific experiments. Even reading the EMP Commission’s report will help.

    Intent: A
    Accuracy of technical content: F

  7. So first how do you get into your vehicle when the electric locks are frozen shut? Not a lot of key holes anymore.
    How are you going to carry stuff and make it 10 miles to the house?
    How is your wife going to get home from the store?
    How about the kids at school? Have a plan and a backup plan and train on them. Great game with kids. Kids will have a loose lips sink ships brag factor, be sure to train against that.

    Think about portable faraday cages, nice for folded e-bikes, or your PVS-14 and IR lasers to go with your CCWs. How about a folding wagon instead of a back pack, easier to pull than a direct burden.

  8. Something that’s seldom mentioned, but commonplace in the military, is EMP/RF shielding… It’s actualy a fairly simple proccess, & can leave you with the only can running.
    It runs about $100-$200 to put basic shielding on a vehice, lining the interior of the hood & dashboard with 22-36 guage copper sheeting. Or a couple layers of copper screen will work as well.
    There are more advanced & expensive materials, but for solar flares and distant strikes, plain old copper flashing from Home Depot is adaquate. It won’t save you from a direct overhead burst, but then, not much will… 😉
    Batteries, a portable CB radio, and other electronics can be shielded in a copper lined trunk. Personaly, I have a big vintage steamer trunk that I store all my gear in… Sheet iron over wood, lined with copper, multiple solid locks, and Xray proof storage bags for added peace of mind…

  9. Aside from being prepared with a good preparation bag, be sure and improve your level of physical fitness. If some type disaster were to happen which makes driving impractical or impossible, you must be fit enough to travel via bicycle or foot. People often focus on putting together the knowledge and SHTF bags, etc., which is great, but often neglect their bodies and mental toughness. Consider starting a physical fitness program as soon as possible, and of course, check with your doctor before doing so. On the subject of travel, a bicycle would definitely be a good idea, especially if outfitted with racks.

  10. I wonder where the EMP damage assessment came from. I doubt very much that ANY EMP would disable a cellphone when working in the basement of a modern building. The concept that a flashlight would be disabled is ludicrous, you’d almost have to be next to the EMP generator to disable a flashlight…..FACTS are sticky little buggers!!!

    1. Remember many flashlights are not using LED Bulbs, which are affected by EMP because they run on a diode.

  11. I actually notice spelling and typing errors 🙂

    You speak the truth, but the one thing I want to mention and share is the idea came to me that it would be a good idea to have a metal ammo box or a multi-layer bag designed to work as a Faraday Cage or box.

    With a small EMP proof box or bag, there is a way to have backup flashlights, batteries, flash drives, radios, or even a cell phone. If you have some kind of warning, maybe you can slip your cell phone into a bag, but for many people that would not be possible and chances are you might receive a call or make one and be talking when the power goes out.

    As you basically covered, kits can be specialized, and bags of supplies can be stored, kept or stashed in vehicles and other locations. I am rarely more than 3-5 miles from home, but if I had to walk and need to hide out along the way, I would add a few items, but would rather travel light since I live in a warm climate. We all have our own unique situations based on combinations of same common variables and concerns.

    1. Don’t throw away your non working Microwave. They are a good quick Faraday cage for radios and batteries

    2. Does a microwve oven really make a good faraday cage. Place your cell phone inside a microwave oven and call it. It will ring. If it was a decent faraday cage wouldn’t it block the call ?

  12. Hope you’ve got extra water and a suitable “defense tool”.With the hoplophobes in NJ,NYState,and especially NYC ! you’re REALLY screwed re firearms.

  13. Everyone talked about perhaps having to walk some distance. No one mentioned a good pair of broken-in boots. Easy to keep a pair at your office. Even a good idea for when the weather gets bad during the day and you’d otherwise have to walk to your car or the train/bus in dress shoes or, worse, loafers. So, don’t throw away those old boots; keep them where and for when you might wish you had them.

  14. I really enjoyed simply seeing an article like this written. It touches on something I’ve felt to be extremely important and even more so overlooked. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve seen or people talking about EVERYTHING thus have in their “bug out bags,” and that’s good to be prepared. My question to those people who’ve put so much emphasis on that “Bug out bag ready for the zombie apocalypse!” is: Who says you’ll be at home (where that bag is kept) when you need to bug out? So, better question is “what’s in your, ‘I need to get to my bugout bag’ bag?” or as I’ve started calling mine, my “Get home bag!”

    It’s rather similar to a SHTF bag but, usually a little more inconspicuous and you/I like having as little of as much as I need. My side arm’s always on me so that’s a check. Extra mags, knife, check. And actually I do have two bags technically. One is in my truck at all times for those items I may need but, don’t want to bulk up the bag with such as 500yds of 550 Paracord, 24hr glow sticks, trauma kits, latex gloves, hard knuckle gloves, couple extra knives, solar charger, etc). So, in my get home bag which you’ll find on me no matter where I am, and it just looks like a regular old work bag we’re also prepared with: 6 extra mags, extra ammo/100rds of FMJ, flashlight, batteries, small pieced together first aid/trauma kit, lighters, Pack of waterproof matches, flint fire starter, LifeStraw, zip ties, about 30yds of Paracord, waterproof pen & paper pad, charging cables for the solar charger unit, and for a little extra protection if need be while in public or driving home, why not throw a couple rifle plates in between the interior lining and a few other items I’m just forgetting. Oh yeah, I do have some work items in there as well that I actually do use on a regular basis since it is my “work bag.”

    It’s not something I bought all at once. I like having a bag for work and did stock it with some very basic items initially, the rest just over time as I’d see things I felt it should have or things I did find I needed and didn’t have (luckily not in an emergency) and over about a year’s time put together something I can honestly say I do feel a little more comfortable having with me at all times.

    Would it be great if I always was where that SHTF bag is? Yes. Would it be better if I had that SHTF bag with me at all times? Yes. Is it logical, reasonanable or, really even somewhat easily doable? Not at all. So, we use the get home bag to get to what we really do need for longer survival and more options while trying to survive.

    Good stuff????

  15. I went thru the 1989 Bay Area California earthquake on a *motorcycle*! That was an e-ticket ride. I was glad I had my 1911 in the saddlebags. But if I had been in a car the 44 mile trip home would have taken over 12 hours die to landslides and downed trees. Plan ahead. Plan for bad weather. Plan on lots of walking (good walking shoes).

    EMP likely means no vehicles for a long while (weeks/months). A severe “Carrington event” means welcome to 1892! LED lights may not work. Keep an incandescent mini-Maglight in your car kit. Some kind of hat is an all-weather item and ponchos are too. Water is a must. So are unsalted snacks. In addition to a multitool, I’d add a boot knife or large folder. A pistol might never be needed, but it should be discrete. Combat lights & lasers might survive if inside a metal box in the trunk. Keep your load light so you don’t tire out and can be very mobile.

  16. Would a vehicle even work during/after an EMP strike?? They all have so much computerized garbage[e.g.electric windows,door locks,etc]?
    Further ,if you had a pre-computerized vehicle would you be able to get LEADED gasoline for it?
    Non computerized watches too.

    1. You do not have to have leaded gas to run older cars. They just will knock and ping a lot!

  17. Wondering if you hire writers or editors. Some pretty obvious typos and a couple wording issues here. Love the blog and would love to work for a great group.

  18. The idea of a get home bag is most important. I travel for work often, and the thought of having 200 miles between myself and my girls is terrifying. That 3 hour trip turns into a 20 day trip with a 6000 ft elevation climb. No bueno. At any rate. Couple things. Build a small faraday cage for an emergency radio and a couple walkies. I also have all my documents and pictures on an SD card with an old phone in the box. When packing a kit think about what doesn’t have micro circuits. Most simple flashlights and batteries should be fine. If you have a pre 80’s vehicle, much better chance of still working. Make sure you have extra fuses.
    The most important thing is to have a plan A and B. If I am away for work, I know my wife knows the plan. She knows how to get the BoBs, get into the safe and where the rally point is, if it came to that.
    Other than that, I would recommend never burning bridges when you don’t have to, and don’t advertise your prep to anyone.

  19. Retired now. Live in Montana. Most of stuff mentioned is now used for bug out preps in my old blazer should I decide not to bug in. Caches and UG stashes in place along bug out routes – 3 by 3.

  20. Some good ideas here, but someone should make a better full list. I had one back in the late 80’s early 90’s but lost everything in my divorce.

  21. Good article, and I don’t think covering the basics is a waste of time. There’s always another angle to think about. The only additional suggestion I would make is to keep a pair of good boots or walking shoes at your desk, or in your car trunk with these other supplies. Especially for women, fashionable dress shoes may be just the thing for work, but if you’re going to be walking any distance you need good shoes.

  22. I work outdoors in NYC and I usually have the appropriate, seasonal clothing with me. My hike would be about 20 miles to home in NJ. I do drive in but my vehicle is parked in northern Manhattan and my work area is lower so it wouldn’t make much sense to go out of my way to pick up a get home bag unless things were really dicey. I carry a bag with some basic edc items at all times .

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