The First 15 Things You Must Do Immediately After an EMP

Some of the links in this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I spent a few months researching EMP survival a couple of years ago. An EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, is a broadband burst of electromagnetic energy. This massively powerful wave has the potential to damage nearly everything electronic over hundreds of miles. So I wanted to discover how an EMP would affect the average household.

It wasn’t an easy task.

Much of what I found involved scenarios that have never happened or have happened only in third-world countries. It’s been challenging to apply those scenarios to the world I’ve grown up in.

In a weird way, this research was fun. It was a bit like Dr. David Livingstone venturing into parts of Africa that had never been imagined, much less explored. I asked questions like:

  • Given enough time and lack of food, will my lovely next-door neighbors really turn into cannibals?
  • Will the gangs and violent predators in the big city nearest me really begin going door to door, as a sort of perverse version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, robbing, raping, and killing? On the other hand, could they end up killing each other first? This SHTF article has a somber take on these first two bullet points.
  • Suppose well-prepared preppers have the perfect bug-out location, equipped with every survival supply possible. How will they get there if the electromagnetic pulse has destroyed the electronic-based engines in their vehicles?
  • How will you live if you are far, far from home when the worst happens, and there is no way to get home, ever? Or what if it’s a child or your husband? Do you know what options you, or they, have?

Answering these questions made me realize a few things.

Image: city at sunset lit by electricity; emp survival

The Difference Between EMP Survival and Surviving a Typical Natural Disaster, Medical Emergency, or Job Loss

My approach to preparedness and survival in my first book, Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family For Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios, was all about common sense. My goal was to equip the average mom and household with information, checklists, and strategies for surviving a typical natural disaster, medical emergency, or job loss.

However, my EMP research was different. It contained a lot of doom and gloom because of the nature of a post-EMP world. A world with months and months of life without the power grid and, for the most part, permanently damaged electronics.

Eventually, the information I learned and the conclusions I came to made me think twice about the predictions found in most EMP survival novels. Books like One Second After are compelling stories but contain scenarios that not all EMP experts believe will happen.

Instead, I believe that desperate times encourage and, in fact, create just the type of environment that breeds innovation.

In a post-EMP world, many communities will devise new and better systems. Old ones may no longer be needed or wanted. Time and again, we’ve seen communities and entire civilizations rebound after major catastrophes and long-term disasters, such as droughts and years of warfare.

Human beings are damn smart when they need to be.

EMP Survival for Moderate Preppers

That’s where you, the moderate prepper, play an important role.

Take practical steps now to prepare for everyday emergencies. However, also keep in mind that worst-case scenarios are entirely possible. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Each month, add new skills and knowledge
  • Save money toward buying the gear and supplies that are truly necessary. 
  • Prepare your body with exercise, training, and healthy eating so you are physically ready for difficult tasks, regardless of the crisis. 

The Advantages Moderate Preppers Have

I don’t believe that only Green Berets, Navy SEALS, and the most vicious, lawless predators will be the ones to survive.

In fact, moderate preppers already have many advantages over these groups. For instance, we recognize warning signs that have led us to take proactive steps to prepare. We’ve incorporated both the mindset and lifestyle of preparedness into our daily lives. By doing so, we blend in with every other household around us.

The “Gray Man“? Yeah, that’s us.

Above all, survivors of a worst-case scenario will need to think on their feet, quickly adapt and improvise, and be willing to connect with others to form communities.

Moderate preppers who continue to refine their skills and supplies, connect with like-minded people, and stay up to date with the world around them are excellent candidates for EMP survival.

Here’s a FREE EMP Survival Tool for You

My EMP research resulted in something longer than a typical blog post. Therefore, I compiled it into an EMP Survival e-book and a 4-email mini e-course. Click the red button in the box below.

image: abstract graphic depicting an EMP strike

Learn what you absolutely must do in the first critical hours following an EMP or other massive power grid failure.

Make every second count.
My EMP Survival e-book and 4-email mini e-course show you how.

As a mom and knowing the fears moms have for their kids, I’ve included information on when and how to retrieve your kids from school.

I‘ve also listed:

  • items that should be in everyone’s Get Home Bag
  • tips for informing neighbors about what has happened and why this is a vital thing to do
  • specific places to shop for last-minute supplies, even if you’re already well-stocked.

Additionally, you’ll find a detailed list of the first 15 things you need to do as soon as you realize an EMP has occurred. An abbreviated list is included here, however, I cover them thoroughly in the e-book and e-course.

The First 15 Things You Must Do Immediately After EMP

  1. Verify what has happened.
  2. Delegate tasks; there’s a lot to be done and the window of opportunity will have already begun to close. I’ve included a checklist of tasks in the e-book.
  3. Deal with electrical fires generated by the EMP.
  4. Address water needs.
  5. Try to start every motorized vehicle you own.
  6. Begin to gather your children. This may take some time depending on your transportation and the number of children. I give tips for this.
  7. If you aren’t at home, get there as quickly as you can. A Get Home Bag will make this easier and safer, so I provide a checklist for what the bag should include in the e-book.
  8. Determine a way to keep track of time.
  9. Acquire last-minute supplies. I explain why this is a controversial step in the ebook and list the first things you should consider acquiring.
  10. Continue shopping. Moving forward, and for an indefinite period of time, you’ll have five priorities. I’ve got suggested purchases for all of them.
  11. Check up on close friends and family members if they live within walking distance. Or, if you have a vehicle and can make the trip quickly, send someone to check up on them. You may even decide to bring them back to your house; I share some pros and cons of doing this.
  12. You can eat the food in your refrigerator and freezer before it becomes a health hazard or try one of the food preservation strategies I mention in the ebook.
  13. Inform your neighbors.
  14. Gather vital information.
  15. Take steps to survive the season in which the EMP occurs.

Again, I cover each of these points in great detail in my free EMP Survival ebook and four email mini e-course.

Video: The Golden Window of Time in EMP Survival

In this short video, I explain what your golden window of time is and why it’s so important to use it wisely.

In addition to the video and e-book, there are many EMP articles on my website.

More EMP Preparedness Resources

Do you want to learn more about preparing for and surviving an EMP? Check out these Survival Mom articles:

Above all, there’s peace in being prepared, and EMP Survival is possible!

How are you preparing to survive an EMP?

Updated 6/12/2022.

251 thoughts on “The First 15 Things You Must Do Immediately After an EMP”

  1. You posted this at just the right time! I’ve never had EMPs at the top of my danger list, but I’ve been thinking about them a lot lately. In the past, I’ve worked with hearty men who could look out for themselves. Now, I’m responsible for a small store that employs mostly older women and young kids, several of whom depend on me to get them back and forth. We had a major power outage recently that blew out some of our equipment, and it got me thinking about what would happen if this was widespread and I couldn’t just call our maintenance men. My GHB and EDC are always with me, but if something like this happens while I’m at work, a lot of people are going to be looking to me for guidance.

    1. You should prepare for the worst possible, then you will always be prepared for everything else. To me the worst possible is an EMP.

  2. Please send the attachment for one sec after. I have signed up for your newsletter but have not been able to find the article. Everything I click on routes me to sign up for the newsletter. Am I just doing this wrong? Thanks.

  3. Just finished reading it. Very good information in there (and the use of cash is one way that will be easier for stores to deal with as credit card/debit card usage might not work). Just one more idea to put in another book (or article), stocking up now on stuff you might not have a use for yourself, but would be great in a barter society. Alcohol, cigarettes, sanitary products, stuff of that nature is a great bartering item. Life post EMP will be difficult. For smokers/drinkers, it will be insane. Also, I took an emergency medical class and we were told to stock up on cloth diapers/all types of feminine hygiene products. They work great for what they were designed for, but also dressings, wraps, cleaning rags……. Download (and even more importantly, PRINT) instructions for doing stuff with them as your electronic devices might not work. Storing all your info in one spot on your Kindle is great, having your Kindle not work, a disaster. So looking forward to your book and love your information!

  4. dear survival mom: great site, thanks for all this work. two questions:
    a) i live in an apartment (just me and my wife). I inclined to shelter in place but i heard different discussions about having an actual bug-out location. what’s your opinion on this…bug out or stay sheltered?

    b) where can i get your attachment on emp?

    all the best, oj

  5. I would like a copy of the attachment on EMP also. Thank You for all this information. You are making all this scary stuff so matter of fact you are easing my worry!

  6. Please send 15 things after an EMP.
    Question: We have a standby generator (covered with a fairday bag to protect it) in case of EMP, but what about the solar panels? Won’t the electronics inside the panels get fried and thus the generator won’t be able to be recharged?

    1. The Survival Mom

      You are correct about solar panels being vulnerable to an EMP. If you are not using the panels currently, they should be shielded as well.

    1. The Survival Mom

      Keith, if you want a copy of the EMP book, you can sign up for it via email or I can send it to you directly. About 30% of my readers are men. 🙂

  7. > Any type of light source:

    Including your garden/footpath solar night lights.

    Bring ’em inside at night for illumination. Didn’t think of that and thought it was one cool approach.

  8. Please sign me up for the emails regarding the 15 things you should do first after an EMP – Thank you for all your useful information. 🙂 ♡

  9. Katherine Meals

    Hi, Could you resend the things to do after an EMP….to my email??? I must have missed it the first time. Thank you!!!

  10. Would love to have a copy of the 15 Things article, Lisa. I signed up and it said I’m already subscribed, but I haven’t received it. Great work, I’m back to being a weekly reader of the website again, and enjoying all the knowledge you so generously share. Hope you and the family are well.

  11. I would love a copy of your 15 things to do after an EMP. I tried signing up for your emails but for some reason have not received the confirmation email (it is not in my junk folder either).

  12. Linda Perkins

    I have not received a confirmation to my email. I don’t think my request went through. Thank you

  13. im already making plans for my wife to deal with it, without me! As there are a lot of us that have pacemakers or electronic devices to live. We thought of a room that’s emp safe, but you have to be in it when it happens. I will not stay in a room waiting for it to happen. Wish they made a A faraday jumpsuit! Ha. My life is in the Masters hands already. praise Him.

  14. Cindy Lovelace

    I read your list of things about you and was shocked. I could almost be you except for the Europe thing. Can you please send me the EMP 15 things?

  15. I’ve been working on this myself. I would really appreciate getting to read your 15 things. Good luck on your book. I will definitely be interested in buying and reading it.

  16. I know what most people will do PANIC !!! Other than running in the community or on a treadmill at the local “health” club most couldn’t run a hundred yards. Most wont know in which direction to go to get home or which would be the safest. The majority couldn’t tell you how long they can go without water or food. They dont know at what temperature you start to get a problem. Most do not have clothing that will provide protection to get them home. most will not have shoes that are used for walking any distance. Our lives are structured around style and no function. How many keep extra clothing at work to provide extra protection if stranded in fowl weather. Working in many industries I can answer, a rare occurrence is normal. The answer doesnt take a lot of trainning just mostly common sense and a small carry on bag with shoulder strap. walking shoes and slip on rubber boots. knee length nylons for both men and women regular socks and wool socks button down sweater and waterproof jacket. gloves or hunters mittens. packaged hand-warmers( replaced yearly) and lighters and waterproof matches a brand name knife that is kept sharp. A map and compass and learn how to use them A hat with ear covers with brim that hides the face. Watch the other people and try not to stick out and look as if you have something of value. Remove all rings ear rings and inserts to the face. The popular way is become grey! A steady pace with regulated steps will get you farther than running. This was taught in our military training. Dont wait until shit happens walk the paths you would take to get home to know what to expect. Know the largest streets and know the way to take to get away. sometimes rail road tracks provide the straightest rout out of the city. it will provide the easiest walk even with the rocks. in the middle of the tracks you can see someone coming for a long way for there is no place for ambush. lastly have a drop bag that looks full and keep lightweight useless stuff that will give a noisy landing like rocks in an empty can. When they stop to see what they have have it sewed shut so it will take them time to open. It will give you more time to put distance between you and the thieves. The best advice !!! Do your homework for knowledge weighs nothing.

  17. In case of emergency and there is no power, always be ready with your flashlights,( rechargeable or battery operated) and some candles too. I just wanted too ask, what does EMP means?

  18. Joyce Eikenberry

    Thank you so much, just for being there! I have a new young friend with three children, and she’s sort of my “project” for TEOTWAKI. She doesn’t believe it will be “that bad…” I know better! Having lived without electricity, running water and a car in the past, and knowing some folk (Amish) who live without those things every day, I can say I’m pretty much prepared. Yes, there are still “holes” but I’m doing what I can to “patch” them. We could all take lessons from the Amish…

  19. You would think the first thing you would do is, define what EMP is within your first two sentences. So what in the heck does EMP mean?

  20. I really like some of the comments so think the article will be great. Please send me the EMP first things to do.

    Thank you so very much

  21. 1. Get to family rendezvous point and make a plan based on everyone’s information for the next 12 hours. Do Not have a rigid plan for specific scenarios ahead of time. Adaptability and flexibility are key.
    2. Set plan in motion to get/stay safe.
    3. Take stock of your resources when everyone is safe. Plan for the next 7 days.
    4. Over the next week gather intelligence and make connections. Depending on scenario and likely timeline for things to get back to a new normal decide on a location that will maximize your chances of survival.
    5. Take stock of the personal skill sets within your group. Decide if it’s worth staying and investing your knowledge and resources to cultivate those relationships for long term survival. If not, move on. Quickly, quietly.

  22. Getting more serious with preparation now. Too many other immediate life crises have interferred.
    Thanks for a copy. And the best to us all.

  23. This might be an interesting read. Having said that, I don’t appreciate this “online ” marketing approach. I thought maybe you would share at least one little tidbit of useful information. If really good tidbit, I might be more inclined to bite for more. As it is, I’ve already wasted too much time on this. Mom NTY.

    1. The Survival Mom

      Whew! It’s a good thing I don’t run my site to gain your approval. Actually, if you would have read through this article, you would have found a link to the special report without any need to subscribe.

  24. I get your emails on my computer but ever time I try to apply for the info on EMP, it says My address is already in your mail list but I never receive the info on EMP’s.

    what am I doing wrong, how do I get that info. Once I get it and digest it, if I am doing anything different I will let you know so you can incorporate it as you like,

    Bob and Kay

  25. What happens if you do get yourself relatively established after such a disaster, but the “government” wants to come and take you away to a “safer” place? Are you obliged to go with them, or do you have the choice to stay where you are as long as you are sustaining yourself and your family?

  26. Some good basic advice there for any emergency situation 🙂

    BTW: A nuclear explosion high in the upper atmosphere will disrupt the Earth’s magnetosphere so after sundown Aurora Borealis will be visible at much lower latitudes. Google “Starfish Prime Nuclear Test”

  27. A great nonfiction book to read and add to your preparedness knowledge base is
    Ted Koppel’s LIGHTS OUT. Bottom line is: Don’t wait for your government to come
    in and help you. You are on your own. so it is up to you to save yourself and your family. Start today!

  28. I would also like the information that you have available. Thanks. I subscribe to your newsletters which are so informative.

  29. Hi, Lisa. I came across your 15-things-to-do list and I find it quite interesting. I have to admit, I’m quite fresh at the subject of preparedness but from I read before, now I consider some of steps disputable. For instance, I realy doubt if it is safe to commute easily throughout the town, let’s say 10 hrs past the event and to make shoping safely. There will be simply too much crime and violence. Taking out your firearm increases the probability you get shot or get it stolen by armed (much better, believe me) criminals. Later, spending priceless hours for gathering tons of stuff for ‘any ocasions’ at home may result a waste of time. No public safety means your home is no longer a stronghold, since you cannot defend it at all. Imagine an armed group comming in and throwing you out. Resistence is the dumbest thing you can do then. In one instance you loose all the storage that you counted on for your survival. Maybe the thing is about how long one’s house stays safe on particular emergencies. I hope I’m wrong but in but in my opinion it is better to prepare a couple of well equiped hiding places in less populated areas (wood, countryside, etc.) that would work for ANY emergency/conflict and try to harbor your family there FASTEST possible, rather than to rely on your walls, vehicle and guns because those are the first things that get violently robbed (or confiscated) in case of emergencies.

    1. You make some good points. Every single decision post-EMP/CME/cyberterrorism will have to be done on a case by case basis. Where my husband works, in no way would he be safe to stay. He might be lucky to get home alive. In our small town, yes, it will be safe for hours, if not a couple of days. Some believe there is a giant “zombie switch” that will be flipped once the power grid goes out and everyone will turn into killing machines. I happen to not believe that. There’s simply no way to compare Nacogdoches, Texas with St. Louis or Albuquerque or Spokane, and expect that people of all ages, races, socioeconomic groups, etc. will react in exactly the same way. From the sound of your comment, it seems like prepper/survival fiction frames a good deal of what you think will happen. Most people, when they read One Second After, for example, are absolutely convinced that scenario is inevitable. The United States is a massive country with thousands and thousands of towns, cities, communities, and a huge variation in demographics. Each person and location will not react in the same way. My advice for going out to shore up any supplies, is based on 3 assumptions: 1) You are fairly well if not fully prepped already. 2)It is safe to do so. Preppers as a whole will be way too smart to leave their homes if they know they would be in immmediate danger, but that’s a call each of us will have to make. Example: You have a diabetic in the family and only have a short supply of insulin. Well, you’ll have to decide whether or not it’s riskier to go out and get that insulin, if possible, or stay, knowing your loved one will be dead within a few weeks, at most. 3) You have cash on hand. Post-EMP, it will almost certainly be 100% worthless. If you can go to the corner store and buy OTC medications, alcohol/booze, anything for barter, etc. — just about anything will help improve your chances of survival.

      The collapse of a modern day power grid in a nation the size with the level of comfort and conveniences we have has, obviously!, never happened before. In spite of fiction authors making their best guesses, there’s no way to know exactly how this might all come down. I believe there will be neighborhoods in large cities that will be safe for a time and small towns that will go zombie quickly. There are millions of variables and all any of us can do is become as informed as possible, as prepared as possible, and then as watchful as possible. Ultimately, our survival will depend on our decisions and luck.

  30. Dear Lisa,
    I would like to receive the link to your article The First 15 Things…

    Hopefully, none of us will ever need this knowledge, but I’d rather be prepared. Thanks for all you are doing.

  31. Please edit your article to identify what the letters mean. Anacrime are great if everyone knows what they are, but not when we don’t!

    1. The Survival Mom

      Hi Chelsea. I’m right in the middle of switching email companies and the sign up forms aren’t functioning yet.

  32. There’s a fabric on the market that claims to block EMP. It is about $25/linear foot. It can be made into a car cover.

  33. An EMP blast can only be caused two ways: Massive solar flare — Considering how far away Earth is from the sun; it’s highly unlikely. air burst nuclear blast. Which countries have the ability to seriously do it?
    If an Emp attack is such a powerful weapon; WHY HASN’T ANYONE DONE IT YET? If you plan on capturing an area; Does it make sense to destroy it’s
    computer networks and electrical grid first?

    1. The Survival Mom

      I totally agree with you! However, small-scale and more strategic attacks would make more sense — disabling Washington D.C., for example.

  34. Jamey O'Donnell

    The Carrington event happened in Sept of 1859 and burned all the telegraph wires across the nation, shocking some telegraph operators. It’s not as unlikely as you may think.
    2 or 3 strategically placed nuclear warheads exploding over the US could wipe out all of the lower 48, southern Canada, and northern Mexico.

  35. The problem with a nuclear EMP, (not solar) is that it will be met with a retaliatory response, followed by a return response. At which time all nuclear nations will also fire, in a panicked “self defense” against the unedefined attack. Basically everyone will need to find hard shelter in about 30 minutes after initiation, and stay there for at least 72 hours until it’s over. (Traveling and retrieving isn’t going to happen) It will be fast and vicious, and the aftermath is not going to be easy, if it’s survivable at all.

    1. The Survival Mom

      That scenario, made popular and accepted as gospel truth by One Second After, is just that — fictional entertainment. There are far more ways to bring a country to its knees, gaining control of its infrastructure, natural resources, supply chain capabilities, etc. without a nuclear EMP.

  36. Never thought of EMP as a ‘terminator’ but of course – why not? 🙂

    that would be a true tech free world!

    Thanks a lot for the insight!

  37. Pingback: What To Do After an EMP Attack – The "Defender Chronicles."

  38. If an E.M.P. weapon is so effective; WHY HASN’T ANYONE USED ONE YET ?
    Only dooms day preppers worry about an E.M.P. caused black out. I’d be more worried about severe weather causing a black out.

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