There is a great deal of information out there regarding electromagnetic pulses (EMPs), manmade or naturally generated, and their potential effects on civilization. The notion of EMPs knocking out the power grid and subsequently sending the world as we know it into chaos is a solid fixture in American pop culture. There are plenty of Hollywood flicks out there that use EMPs as catalysts for end-of-the-world scenarios. While that makes for good cinema, and most die-hard survivalist love a good EMP-end-of-the-world movie now and then, these fictional portrayals of EMPs can spread some harmful disinformation. Disinformation regarding a topic that is dead-serious in a very nonfictional way, can get people killed. Below, we’ve taken the liberty of dispelling a few quick EMP myths. Let’s set the record straight. Time for some EMP fact vs fiction.
Fact or Fiction- An EMP will render all phones/tablets completely useless.
This is only partially true and depends on both what you use your phone for, as well as your definition of the word “useless.” The large majority of these devices such as iPhones and iPads have internal EMI shielding. Manufacturers have this already put in place, in order to protect the device components from affecting each other. What this means, is that you have a decent chance of using your iPhone or iPad after the event of an EMP, however using it to call anyone or check the internet will not be possible. This is because telecommunication antennas will be out. The exception to all of this, is that if your phone is charging, it will be fried because of its attachment to the larger power grid.
Fact or Fiction- An EMP will cause planes to fall from the sky.
This is true. However, it is a little dramatic to state that planes will “fall” from the sky. First off, old planes will be just fine. This is because they use hydraulics that are actually attached to the pilot controls. These planes will still have somewhat functional flight controls. Newer planes will have their electronics fried and therefor rendered inoperable, which basically makes them giant gliders. Sure, it will be incredibly stressful and borderline impossible for a pilot to find a way to land a 747-sized glider someplace below him in a world without runway lights (or anywhere that doesn’t have enough space), but planes will not tailspin and hurtle to the earth.
Fact or Fiction- EMPs will fry batteries.
This is false. Batteries will not be damaged by EMPs. This is because they do not contain a diode junction, which is the electronic part that allows EMPs to fry electronics. But don’t get all hopeful yet, keep in mind that anything you will need a battery for will be effected by the EMP.
Fact or Fiction- The US government has a congressional committee specifically tasked with protecting America from the threat of EMPs.
True. In 2001, congress did in fact establish the EMP Commission under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2001. The goal of this bi-partisan committee was to reach an independent assessment of EMP threat level, pertaining to the United States. But don’t start feeling too safe yet, on September 30, 2017, The Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat of Electromagnetic Pulse to the United States of America was shut down indefinitely by the current administration.