You’ve seen a complete power outage wreak havoc on the inhabitants of the relatively small island of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria; can you imagine the effects on the continental United States if any part of the country sustained a power grid failure?
According to a 2017 report from the EMP Commission—a government commission founded in 2001 to assess the risk of an electromagnetic attack on U.S. soil—even a small EMP attack would have massive effects on the way the country functions, and would likely result in deaths by the thousands or even millions.
Here, we’ll talk a little about what an EMP attack is, what its potential effects could be, how to protect yourself and your loved ones, and how the country can be better prepared for such an attack.
What Is an EMP Attack?
An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is super-energetic radio-frequency capable of destroying or damaging any electronic system. A large enough EMP can completely take out a large portion of a country’s electrical grid.
Assessing the Threat Posed by an EMP Attack
If this doesn’t seem like a large impact to you, just take a moment to think about everything in tech-driven society that’s reliant on the electrical grid:
You won’t be able to use your cell phone, computer, tablet or any other personal electronics. Cars will function, but most engines have electronic components to them. Plus, gas pumps and street lights will shut off. Food and potable water will become scarce due to lack of large-scale filtration and food processing capabilities. Airlines and mass transit will shut down. The vast majority of the workforce will slow down or stop as work hours and operational capacity shrink. People will start looting for basic needs. Hospitals will lose many vital, lifesaving functions. Domestic oil and gas pursuits will cease. The country’s banking and financial system will become nonexistent.
This is all detailed in another EMP Commission report called Life Without Electricity, a real risk if one of our enemies decide to attack our largely unprotected electrical grid.
How would such an attack occur? An EMP could happen as a result of an especially large thunderstorm or what is called a radio frequency weapon (RFW), but the most plausible cause, according to Dr. Peter Pry of the EMP Commission, is a nuclear missile, detonated in our airspace by a rogue state or terrorist organization, causing widespread power grid failure. Pry estimates that 9 of 10 citizens in the affected area could die “through starvation, disease, and societal collapse.”
So, What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
Before you throw your support behind government efforts to reinforce power grids nationwide, you have to make sure you’re protected against this threat. Whether you’re a prepper, survivalist, or simply a concerned citizen with interest in having a contingency plan in the face of a very real scenario, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from vulnerability in the event of an EMP attack:
- Always keep at least a few gallons of bottled water in your home at all time. Humans can go weeks without food but not without potable drinking water. You should also have a (non-electronic) way to filter water for drinking in the future.
- Keep at least six months of food stored. According to Pry, an EMP power outage could last a year or more, so the more food you can store, the better.
- Keep a backup power source in a Faraday cage. A survivalist’s best friend in the face of an electromagnetic attack, this device shields generators, solar setups, and more from being damaged by an EMP attack.
What Can the U.S. Do to Protect Everyone?
Trusting the government isn’t usually a sound solution, but it seems that one Texas State Senator has a solution that could save millions of lives.
The video above shows Senator Bob Hall discussing the threat of an EMP attack on the nation and the lasting effects of such an attack on our unprotected power grid. In 2008, the EMP Commission estimated that a baseline reinforcement and update to the grid would only cost 2 billion in federal funds, a small figure when compared to military and other spending.
This raises the question: if the EMP threat is so high, why isn’t protecting ourselves a national conversation? At the very least, you can do everything you can to protect yourself and your loved ones from this very real possibility.
Last modified: October 17, 2018