File this under “just in case you were running out of things to worry about.”
According to a former CIA agent who specializes in high tech terror threats, the United States is not at all prepared for a significant Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) which could come from either a terrorist attack, a first strike from another nuclear power or even a completely natural blast coming at us from the sun or another star. Should it happen with sufficient magnitude, we aren’t just talking about the lights going out or your cellphone ceasing to work. Pretty much all infrastructure would shut down, possibly for years on end. And if it hits a densely populated area like the east coast of the United States, the death toll will likely be in the millions. (Free Beacon)
The United States is vulnerable to a devastating electromagnetic pulse event caused by a high-altitude nuclear blast or solar superstorm, according to a recently published book.
Peter Pry, a former CIA analyst and author of the book EMP Manhattan Project, is urging the government to rapidly harden the U.S. electric power system against EMP similar to the three-year crash program to build the first atomic bomb in 1942.
“Today the United States and the world faces another existential threat—from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) catastrophe that can be caused by nature or man, and topple the technological pillars of modern electronic civilization,” said Pry, who served on a congressional EMP commission in the early 2000s.
I’ve been doing some research on this subject myself this year and Pry isn’t the first one to point this out. While a sufficiently large EMP would wipe out virtually everything with wires, transistors or motors in it, the biggest driver of catastrophe would be our nation’s aging power grid. We haven’t even been able to significantly “smarten” our grid, to say nothing of “hardening” it. Any of you who were alive and living in parts of the northeast on August 14th, 2003 probably remember the great blackout/brownout. It struck in midafternoon, and where I live the power didn’t come back on for more than two days. Our grid isn’t even able to protect itself from rolling brownouts by isolating the bad sectors. That was only a small taste of what would happen after a massive EMP.
In the event of a huge EMP burst, it wouldn’t just be the power stations going down. Huge transformers that take months to manufacture would blow up from the current surge. Portable generators not stored in hardened shelters would burn out. All vehicles would stop operating and need their entire electrical systems replaced. Moving people, supplies, food and even water would become impossible on large scales. In and around the major cities the food would be gone in less than a week. People would begin to starve and then you’re into Mad Max territory.
But this “EMP Manhattan Project” Pry is talking about is a daunting challenge. The amount of manpower and materials alone required to make the grid secure would be staggering. Some of the technology required is still in its nascent stages of development. And who is going to pay for all of this? We’re talking about literally trillions of dollars and years – more likely decades – of effort.
But what if we don’t do it? Well… maybe we can keep track of the terrorists well enough. If our missile defense systems are as good as we think, perhaps nobody could sneak a weapon up above our nation and trigger a burst. And the odds of a superstorm from the sun or massive Gamma Ray Burst from a nearby exploding star or other phenomena actually striking us may be fairly low. After all, there hasn’t been a truly massive solar flare aimed right at our planet since 1859. (And that one just fried all the telegraph lines in the country since we didn’t have all that many wires up yet.)
Here’s the part of the article where I offer my sage advice and suggest reasonable solutions to pressing challenges. Stock up on plenty of dried food, potable water and ammunition. And try to have a defensible basement with thick walls.