EMP Disaster Timeline

March 25, 2015

in Negative Events

EMP stands for Electro-Magnetic Pulse and it describes an effect that occurs when gamma rays from a nuclear explosion hit an atmosphere. The energetic gamma rays strip electrons away from atoms and create a cascade of electrons that form the pulse. This pulse has the potential to wreak havoc with both electronic and electrical equipment.

For more detail on EMPs (including the nature of the three pulse components) see: Scenario: ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) and Solar Flares

This article attempts to describe the potential for damage caused by an EMP.

Zero hour – a High altitude EMP (HEMP) occurs, with three discrete pulse components:

  • E-1 – Most integrated circuits are burned out by induced current that is well beyond their tolerance range. This includes:
    • Computers, tablets, phones, networking equipment, monitor and control circuits and systems, ignition circuits, any other fragile integrated circuits designed for small voltage ranges.
    • Batteries and generators may still work, but the modern control circuits won’t, so most backup power supplies fail. Surge protectors are burned out because this part of the pulse is too fast for their tripwire circuits.
    • Most vehicles stop working: cars, trucks, planes, trains, boats. Any moving vehicle that relies on integrated circuits for ignition timing or some other critical element of control will fail to operate normally. Older vehicles with older ignition timing components may continue to work or might be easily repaired.
  • E-2 – With no surge protection left, most remaining electronic and some electrical components are fried by induced surges similar to lightening storms.
  • E-3 – Long conductors (mostly power lines) induce large surges that destroy power transformers, taking down the entire power grid.
    • Lights go out, TV and radio silent, networks don’t work, heating and cooling systems are off.
    • Public utilities are no longer being refreshed, mainly water and natural gas.

1 Hour later

  • Most people assume that they are experiencing a routine power failure and as usual, sit back and wait for power to be restored.
  • All commerce, industry and business that depends upon using electric power or communications or transportation is halted.
  • Roads are mostly impassable, clogged with vehicles that don’t work.
  • Some military units instantly know out what has happened, others take longer to react.

4 hours after the EMP

  • A few people begin to sense that something is unusual, but most are still simply waiting for the power to be restored.
  • Some people decide to start walking somewhere, but most stay where they are.
  • People use water as though the supply is endless, allowing it to run down drains and flushing the toilet with every use.
  • As dusk falls, people light candles and lanterns and use flashlights if they still work.
  • Military posts with hardened communications get the word about what has happened and activate contingency plans.

In the morning:

  • Natural gas supplies have been losing pressure over night and now are completely off.
  • Most municipal water supplies come from local neighborhood water towers. They may have a 24 hr supply, but smaller towers run out and in those areas, there is no running water and toilets won’t flush.
  • People who spent the night away from home start walking home, businesses are not functioning.
  • People walk to nearby stores to replenish critical supplies and when they find the stores mostly abandoned, they take what they need – looting has begun.
  • Military posts have established perimeter control with armed guards.

In the evening:

  • Most municipal water towers run dry, no tap water available, no toilet flushing. Water hygiene starts to become an issue when people start defecating outside.
  • Word of mouth spreads news of EMP, most don’t understand what it means.


  • Health problems
    • Fragile (sick, elderly) and intensive care patients that are dependent on equipment and meds struggle and begin to die.
    • Dehydration begins to take a toll. Most people are not aware they are becoming dehydrated, but their behavior is increasingly irrational.
    • First deaths from dehydration occur.
  • Water panic begins
    • All utility water has stopped running.
    • Water stores in homes is running out.
    • People begin drinking water where ever they find it.
    • Bad hygiene is pollution open water sources and runoff.
  • Looting continues and gets worse.


  • Looting escalates, armed gangs begin to roam the streets.
  • Deaths increase, mostly from dehydration.
  • Military units try to respond to pleas for help from local municipalities, but fail because:
    • Traffic jams of abandoned cars still clog the roads.
    • Fuel is in short supply and must be conserved for generating power and critical missions only.
    • They have to defend themselves against the armed gangs.


  • Dehydration becomes a critical problem, but most people are still unaware of how serious and dangerous it is.
  • People have begun to run out of the food they have stored in their kitchens.
  • Stores have been stripped bare by looting.
  • The streets are not safe.
  • No help is available, no help is coming.
  • Deaths continue to increase.


  • Dehydration is the #1 cause of death.
  • Drinking water becomes highly valuable and is being hoarded and fought over.
  • All public infrastructure is shut down and abandoned, including hospitals and medical care.
  • Armed gangs and neighborhood patrols clash.


  • Death and disease have become rampant
  • Fires burn out of control
  • Looting has morphed into home invasions

DAY 8++
The infrastructure of society has nearly disappeared and won’t be returning anytime soon. Communications, commerce, industry, agriculture and all forms of business are effectively dead and won’t be repaired or restored for years. Survival becomes a matter of family and neighborhood groups working together to collect and purify water, to forage and hunt and garden for food, to provide makeshift medical care, and to defend what is valuable.

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