When it comes to worst case scenarios, it’s hard to beat the Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and many people wonder how to make a Faraday cage to protect their electronic devices . From my book, Survival Mom:
I’m not ashamed to say that reading One Second After by William Forstchen scared the living daylights out of me. For weeks, I didn’t want to travel more than 15 or 20 miles from home. The novel details life in a small North Carolina town following an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse. An EMP can be caused by the detonation of a large bomb, nuclear or otherwise, in the atmosphere, miles above land. Its pulse wave can easily cover a continent and destroy electronic components in computers, engines, power plants, and solar panels alike. An event like this has never happened on a large scale, and there are differing opinions as to the exact consequences, but one thing is certain: In a matter of moments, life as we know it would be gone forever. Our closest star, the sun, could also do extensive damage in the form of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The results would be similar.
One of the latest hit TV shows, Revolution on NBC, portrays life 15 years following some type of EMP/CME event, and it isn’t a pretty picture. Life without modern technology would be deadly for tens of millions of people. This was recognized in the official government EMP report. Again from Survival Mom:
Some might describe a post-EMP world as going back to the nineteenth century, but I think in some ways it would be far worse. We no longer have the tools, skills, knowledge, and, in some cases, raw materials to make the most basic tools for survival. How many blacksmiths do you know? Do you happen to own a pair of oxen and a wagon for transportation? You might know how to sew, but can you create cloth from raw cotton or sheep’s wool? The moment of an EMP burst freezes time. The food, medications, supplies, and tools in our homes may be the only ones we have for a long time. If you have 9 bottles of Advil, that’s all you may ever have.
There are so many unknowns when it comes to EMP/CME, but one way to prepare is to build one or more containers to shield important items from the effects of 50,000 volts of power. These containers are called Faraday cages and were first invented by Michael Faraday, a top-notch scientist of the mid-1800’s. Fortunately for us, they’re pretty simple to make.
My friend Rob Hanus of The Preparedness Podcast and author of Surviving EMP, has spent a good deal of time researching the facts and myths of EMP/CME, and here are his simple instructions for making your own Faraday cage.
How to make a Faraday cage, step by step
The hardest part about protecting your equipment is simply doing it. A few rolls of heavy duty aluminum foil, some cardboard boxes and a galvanized steel trash can are enough to create your own Faraday cage and protect your electronics from EMP.
The simplest and cheapest way to build your own Faraday container is to use heavy duty aluminum foil. By completely wrapping an item in several layers of foil, you can protect that item from damaging effects of EMP. Keep in mind that every side of the item needs to have a minimum of three layers, so by the time you’re done wrapping it in the foil, some sides may have more than three layers. This is fine, so long as you have no less than three layers of HD aluminum foil between any part of the item and the open air.
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By itself, these three or four layers of foil are probably enough to protect your electronic gear, but when dealing with a TEOTWAWKI* scenario, there are no replacements, nor second chances, so it pays to do it right the first time. Simply adding more than four layers of foil to the device is probably overkill and may not add any more protection than the initial three or four layers. However, you can increase the effectiveness of your Faraday protection by layering, or nesting them.
For example, place your foil wrapped device into a shoe box or other cardboard box that is wrapped in foil, then place that box inside a galvanized steel trash can with a tight-fitting lid. For convenience, you may want to use several smaller steel cans with lids rather than just one large one. With your devices protected by three layers like this, they’re likely to survive even an enhanced EMP attack with a stronger electromagnetic pulse.
Gather together your supplies
To get started on your own Faraday cage/container, you’ll need these supplies:
- Heavy duty aluminum foil. You’re going to be using a lot of this, so be on the lookout for coupons!
- Either plastic wrap (Saran or something similar) or plastic bags for each electronic item you want to shield.
- Pieces of cloth that will be used to wrap items. This is a good way to re-purpose old t-shirts, jeans, and clothes the kids have outgrown.
- Cardboard boxes of assorted sizes
- Small, essential items that contain an electronic component, such as a clock radio, a hand-crank weather radio, walkie-talkies, ebook/Kindle, mp3 player, etc. Make sure these aren’t things you’ll be wanting or needing in the near future. If you don’t already have duplicates, make a list of what you want stored in your Faraday container and then look for inexpensive duplicates at garage and estate sales.
Protect each item
The procedure is very simple. First, wrap an item in cloth. This will add a layer that will isolate the item from the foil and will also help to keep any sharp edges or corners of the item from puncturing the aluminum foil.
Next, wrap the object with plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag and then wrap with at least 3 layers of foil. Use your hands to gently mold the foil each time, making sure there are no holes or rips in the foil. Every bit of the item’s surface should be covered with at least 3 layers of foil.
Place your wrapped items in the cardboard box and then wrap the entire box with two layers of foil. Layering for EMP/CME is just as important as layering for winter weather! Be sure that no foil used to wrap the outside of the box touches any of the foil within the box. When your box is wrapped and finished, store it off the ground.
If you want to store large items or have numerous items to store, completely line a galvanized steel trash with cardboard. Make sure there are no gaps. The foil wrapped items cannot touch the metal of the trash can. Make sure the lid of the can fits tightly, and you’re good to go.
Look for more information about EMP and Faraday containers right here on this blog.
Resources mentioned in this article:
- 10-Gallon Galvanized Steel Can With Lid
- Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack — download and read the entire, official report
- Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms by Arthur T. Bradley
- Kindle or other e-reader — Load that baby up with hundreds of books!
- One Second After by William Forstchen
- Survival Mom: How to prepare your family for everyday disasters and worst case scenarios by Lisa Bedford
- Surviving EMP by Rob Hanus
- Thrive Life freeze dried food
Want to enjoy some more EMP fiction? Try these books recommended by my readers!
- 77 Days in September by Ray Gorham
- Cyber Storm by Matthew Mather
- Dies the Fire: A Novel of the Change by S.M. Stirling
- Grid Down Reality Bites by Bruce Hemming
- Going Home by A. American
- Into the Darkness by Doug Kelly
- Land by Theresa Shaver — Watch my video review.
- The Last Layover by Steven Bird
- Last Light by Terri Blackstock — Christian fiction
- Lights Out by David Crawford
- Lights Out by Ted Koppel — Read my review.
- Outage by Ellisa Barr — We reviewed this book here.
- The Perseid Collapse by Steven Konkoly
- Post Grid: An Arizona EMP Adventure by Tony & Nancy Martineau
- The Wandering Highway by Ike W. Warren
*TEOTWAWKI: The End Of The World As We Know It
Article originally published October 9, 2012.