First, the definition… An electromagnetic pulse (sometimes abbreviated EMP) is a burst of electromagnetic radiation. The abrupt pulse of electromagnetic radiation usually results from certain types of high energy explosions, especially a nuclear explosion, or from a suddenly fluctuating magnetic field (e.g. EMP-bomb). The resulting rapidly changing electric fields and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.
Public statements by physicists and engineers working in the EMP field of the United States EMP Commission determined that EMP protections are almost completely absent in the civilian infrastructure of the United States, and that even large sectors of the United States military services were no longer protected against EMP to the level that they were during the Cold War.
The following are excerpts from a report titled…
‘Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack (Critical National Infrastructures)’
…which is well worth a few minutes of your time to read. While no one can fully imagine the consequences of such an event, the fact is that the technology exists and weapons exist which could bring it to pass. Please consider the ramifications of your life if it were to be…
The physical and social fabric of the United States is sustained by a system of systems; a complex and dynamic network of interlocking and interdependent infrastructures (“critical national infrastructures”) whose harmonious functioning enables the myriad actions, transactions, and information flow that undergird the orderly conduct of civil society in this country. The vulnerability of these infrastructures to threats — deliberate, accidental, and acts of nature — is the focus of greatly heightened concern in the current era.
The electromagnetic pulse generated by a high altitude nuclear explosion is one of a small number of threats that can hold our society at risk of catastrophic consequences. The increasingly pervasive use of electronics of all forms represents the greatest source of vulnerability to attack by EMP. Electronics are used to control, communicate, compute, store, manage, and implement nearly every aspect of United States (U.S.) civilian systems. When a nuclear explosion occurs at high altitude, the EMP signal it produces will cover the wide geographic region within the line of sight of the detonation. This broad band, high amplitude EMP, when coupled into sensitive electronics, has the capability to produce widespread and long lasting disruption and damage to the critical infrastructures that underpin the fabric of U.S. society.
Some critical electrical power infrastructure components are no longer manufactured in the United States, and their acquisition ordinarily requires up to a year of lead time in routine circumstances. Damage to or loss of these components could leave significant parts of the electrical infrastructure out of service for periods measured in months to a year or more. There is a point in time at which the shortage or exhaustion of sustaining backup systems, including emergency power supplies, batteries, standby fuel supplies, communications, and manpower resources that can be mobilized, coordinated, and dispatched, together lead to a continuing degradation of critical infrastructures for a prolonged period of time.
Electrical power is necessary to support other critical infrastructures, including supply and distribution of water, food, fuel, communications, transport, financial transactions, emergency services, government services, and all other infrastructures supporting the national economy and welfare. Should significant parts of the electrical power infrastructure be lost for any substantial period of time, the Commission believes that the consequences are likely to be catastrophic, and many people may ultimately die for lack of the basic elements necessary to sustain life in dense urban and suburban communities. In fact, the Commission is deeply concerned that such impacts are likely in the event of an EMP attack unless practical steps are taken to provide protection for critical elements of the electric system and for rapid restoration of electric power, particularly to essential services. The recovery plans for the individual infrastructures currently in place essentially assume, at worst, limited upsets to the other infrastructures that are important to their operation. Such plans may be of little or no value in the wake of an EMP attack because of its long-duration effects on all infrastructures that rely on electricity or electronics.
The ability to recover from this situation is an area of great concern. The use of automated control systems has allowed many companies and agencies to operate effectively with small work forces. Thus, while manual control of some systems may be possible, the number of people knowledgeable enough to support manual operations is limited. Repair of physical damage is also constrained by a small work force. Many maintenance crews are sized to perform routine and preventive maintenance of high-reliability equipment. When repair or replacement is required that exceeds routine levels, arrangements are typically in place to augment crews from outside the affected area. However, due to the simultaneous, far-reaching effects from EMP, the anticipated augmenters likely will be occupied in their own areas. Thus, repairs normally requiring weeks of effort may require a much longer time than planned.
Cold War-style deterrence through mutual assured destruction is not likely to be an effective threat against potential protagonists that are either failing states or trans-national groups. Therefore, making preparations to manage the effects of an EMP attack, including understanding what has happened, maintaining situational awareness, having plans in place to recover, challenging and exercising those plans, and reducing vulnerabilities, is critical to reducing the consequences, and thus probability, of attack. The appropriate national-level approach should balance prevention, protection, and recovery.
Could you survive the ensuing chaos and life without electricity for a year?
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