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The Faraday Cage From a Prepper’s Point of View

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The Faraday Cage is an oft-discussed topic in survivalist forums and tackled in prepper blogs all over the Internet.

What is a Faraday Cage?

Invented by Michael Faraday in 1836 and developed further by Benjamin Franklin, the Faraday Cage is an enclosure that acts as a shield which blocks static and non-static electric fields, essentially preventing electric signals or waves from passing through. It protects different kinds of electronic equipment from electronic discharges. It is made up of materials like wire mesh, metal plates, and aluminum foil. The size of the Faraday Cage varies and depends on what it will be used for.

How exactly does it work?

The Faraday Cage is a hollow conductor. It takes electrostatic charges, distributes them around its exterior and cancels out charges or radiation within its interior. This means that the electricity moves around and along the external sides of the Faraday Cage, but cannot pass through it.

If you like to further understand the science behind the Faraday Cage, watch this video by Techquickie:

The Faraday Cage technology is adopted in many electronic applications today such as the following:
  • Microwave oven – the metal shell of the microwave oven functions as a Faraday Cage which traps the radiation inside and prevents it from leaking out.
  • MRI scan rooms – the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Scan Room is a very good example of a Faraday Cage. It prevents external radio frequencies from interfering with the data collected from the patient.
  • Line men protective suits– The protective suits that line men use are also an example of a Faraday Cage which keeps them from getting electrocuted.
  • In engineering– in the field of engineering, larger versions of the Faraday Cage are often used. These large cages are used to effectively block outside interference most especially during sophisticated electronic device tests.
  • In spy prevention– the best example of this was during the selection of a new pope at Vatican City in 2013. The Vatican used a Faraday Cage to shield the entire Sistine Chapel to block any electric spy devices that may have been secretly placed inside the chapel.
  • In the prevention of RFID skimming – RFID skimming is a form of digital theft that enables information from RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) based smart cards to be read and duplicated. In the case of a credit card, for example, all data from the credit card such as card number, card holder’s name and card expiry date can all be duplicated or stolen through RFID skimming. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are also susceptible to RFID skimming.

But from a Prepper’s POV?

From a prepper’s point of view however, a Faraday cage is most useful in protecting various electronic devices from the threat of EMPs.

EMP or electro-magnetic pulse is a short burst of electro-magnetic energy. EMPs occur on a daily basis but since these are negligible – i.e. they are not occurring in short enough bursts to produce wide-scale effects – we do not even notice them.

We still need to prepare for the possibility of large scale EMP occurrence though which could happen in one of the following two ways:

Act of Nature

EMPs occur whenever lightning strikes. But the biggest EMP generator is our sun. Regular explosions occur on the surface of the sun which in turn creates electromagnetic outbursts. Most of these outbursts are not powerful enough to have any real effect. However, from time to time, super solar storms can occur which produce massive solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CME).

When energy stored in the sun’s corona is suddenly released during a solar storm, it would launch a solar flare, which causes the sun’s plasma to heat up by millions of degrees. This reaction would then spur radiation outward. If the storm is large enough, it could also trigger a CME which is a massive billion-ton cloud of electrons and protons.

It has already happened…

This phenomenon actually already happened, in the event historically known as the Carrington Event of 1859. A series of powerful CMEs hit the Earth directly, causing telegraph networks in Europe and North America to fail. If such an event would happen today, with our technology far more advanced than 159 years ago, the result would be truly catastrophic.

More recently, in 1989, a massive CME hit Earth again. This one knocked down Quebec’s power grid, causing 9 million people to lose power. The storm also affected power grids all over North America and destroyed a transformer at a New Jersey power plant. Power grids in northern Europe were also affected.

Near miss!

In July 2012, a Carrington-like CME erupted and reached the Earth’s orbit. But luckily, the Earth wasn’t there. Instead, NASA’s STEREO A satellite was hit. “In my view, the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado, who along with colleagues published a seminal study of the said storm, “The only difference is, it missed.”

Lucky us! But we really cannot count on luck to happen several more times in the future, can we?

Caused by Man

A high altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon can generate photons that travel down the stratosphere. The effect will be similar to a solar flare or CME, but the power will be much greater since the EMP is generated closer to earth. The resulting electromagnetic pulse can knock down power grids and destroy everything electronic from gadgets to appliances to vehicles to life supports. A well-planned EMP attack can disrupt our way of life so much that it would be like being flung back to the dark ages.

The effects of EMP include:

  • no electricity for weeks to months depending on damage to the power grid and lines
  • no long distance communication for weeks
  • limited transportation
  • threats to water safety
  • quickly dwindling fuel and gas supply
  • limited food supply due to lack of power, disruptions in production and limited transportation
  • immediate deaths (planes possibly malfunctioning, falling elevators, road accidents due to malfunctioning vehicles, life supports failing)
  • cell phones, house appliances and almost anything wired will be rendered useless

As there is really no way for us to tell when an EMP might hit, it is best to start making some preps now and secure the electronic devices or tools you think might be useful after a major EMP event. And the best way to do this is to get a Faraday Cage. You can either buy one or make one.

What Goes in your Faraday Cage?

Faraday cages come in various sizes. So before you buy or build one, you need to first decide what should go in the cage.

Here are the things you need to consider:

Communications devices

When EMP strikes, one of the first things to be affected will be the communications infrastructure. However, there will likely be other places that would be unaffected. It is important to have a way to know what’s going on and gather news and information. 2-way communications devices like i.e. GMRS, FRS, MURS, CB radios are important for direct, two-way comms between family or group members. These devices do not rely on external systems to operate and are battery powered. Shortwave radios and ham radio receivers/transceivers can provide a means of getting information from unaffected regions.


There is an on-going debate on whether or not it’s necessary to put batteries inside your Faraday Cage. Some say no, since batteries are well-protected and are unlikely to get fried during EMP (unless it’s connected to the grid, i.e. being charged). Others say batteries are susceptible and should be protected. But to be safe, if you have enough space in your Faraday cage, go ahead and include some.

Charging equipment

Most of your devices post-EMP will obviously be battery ran. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to think of charging materials as a necessity. Since there will be no electricity for a while to power your devices, you would be relying on solar chargers. Much like batteries, there’s a lot of debate on whether or not you should “Faradize” solar chargers.

According to the people who actually know all about solar panels, these will probably not do well if they are plugged in and working at the time of the electromagnetic pulse. The solar panels do not contain a lot of electronics on their own that can be affected by EMP. However, they are usually connected to wires which act like antennas that gather the EMP signal, making the solar panels susceptible to damage.

With this in mind, and considering that EMP events are unpredictable, keeping a spare solar charger inside your Faraday Cage, with charging station plus all cables and converters is your best bet.


The old fashioned battery-switch-incandescent bulb type flashlights will be ok but if you have a spare, throw it in your FC, with the batteries removed. LED flashlights are not safe during an EMP so make sure they are well nested in a Faraday Cage. Don’t forget to include charging cords for rechargeable flashlights.

Resource materials

With the advancement of our technology, information is just a Google search away. But when the grid goes down, everything that relies on electricity will be rendered inoperable as well – including the Internet. Reference materials are necessary especially about food preservation, foraging/identifying edible food and first aid. If you don’t have books or other printed materials, and you don’t have the right knowledge or know someone who does, then you’d be at a loss. Consider adding in your Faraday stash electronic storage devices like smartphones or tablets containing soft copies of these reference materials. These gadgets can contain a huge number of different survival ebooks and manuals that can be reliable resource when the internet goes down. Plus, these devices are small enough to be portable. Do not forget to throw in all charging cords and other cables.

Other things you may include

Rechargeable hand tools, watches and their batteries, headphones, electronic medical devices that you or family members need such as blood testers or oxygen machines, electronic optics like night vision, and music player and DVD player if you have space.

Again, what you will be putting g in your Faraday cage will depend on what you think you will be needing post-EMP. Make a list of all the things you need and then you can decide on the size of the Faraday Cage you will be purchasing or making. You should also consider the cage’s portability in case you need to evacuate.

Build a Faraday Cage

It’s very simple to build a Faraday Cage. What you’re looking to build is something a little different than Faraday’s original design. It should be completely closed and the outside should be made of conducting materials to be truly effective in shielding our modern devices.

Below is a video by LDSPrepper showing how he built a Faraday Cage using only a garbage bin and some cardboard.

After building your Faraday Cage, make sure to test it. Take a portable radio, tune in to the strongest station, and put it inside the cage. If after putting the lid on the shield, you cannot hear the radio, then your project is a success.

Final Thoughts

As a prepper/survivalist, do I really need a Faraday Cage, is it worth it? Is a simple Faraday Cage effective enough against the effects of EMP? What use would these electronics be when an EMP caused by a major solar storm or intentional nuclear detonation could potentially bring the grid down anyway?

These are the three biggest questions when it comes to the usefulness or necessity of Faraday cages, and here are my answers…

I’d need it more than not.

First off, as a prepper, I don’t like leaving things to chance. An electromagnetic pulse event is something I cannot control, but being prepared is. And one of the ways I can prep is by securing potentially useful devices in the aftermath of such an event as an EMP. So the answer to the first question is yes, a shield is worth it. Besides, it’s cheap and easy to make.

Sometimes, science can be so simple, yet effective enough.

Would a simple shield made out of a garbage can be enough? Maybe, and maybe not. It’s really hard to say because there are still some factors to consider like how powerful the EMP source would be and your area’s proximity to the event. These are things that are hard to pinpoint. What you can be sure of is the science behind the shield. As a hollow conductor, the cage can offer a level of protection for your electronic devices. Nesting your devices, as mentioned in the above video can also help. Some survivalists also say sealing your garbage can with duct tape can up the effectiveness of your shield. Others even suggest a Faraday cage within a Faraday cage.

It pays to have foresight.

As for the last question: again, an electromagnetic pulse event is not likely to bring everyone down. There would be regions that are unaffected and these will be your best source for news and information. You wouldn’t want to be in the dark, not knowing what’s happening around you, would you? Communications devices that are not reliant on the grid or towers will also be crucial for your team. And so will the wide range of resources stored within your electronic devices. Remember, though the grid is down and can take days to weeks to months to rebuild it, there is still the sun which is a great and free source of solar energy to power your salvaged electronics post-EMP.

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below.

The post The Faraday Cage from a Prepper’s Point of View appeared first on Survival, Prepping, Homesteading Skills For Everyday Folk.




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