Parts of the United States would be starved of electricity, water, food, internet service and transportation for a year or longer by the smallest electromagnetic pulse attack on the electric grid, according to a newly declassified report from a federal commission.
The so-called EMP Commission report said that the threat is real, jeopardizes “modern civilization,” and would set back living conditions to those last seen in the 1800s.
And as a result of the chaos, millions would likely die, according to the report titled “Assessing the Threat from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP),” from the recently re-established Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack.
“A long-term outage owing to EMP could disable most critical supply chains, leaving the U.S. population living in conditions similar to centuries past, prior to the advent of electric power,” said the July 2017 report provided Secrets.
“In the 1800s, the U.S. population was less than 60 million, and those people had many skills and assets necessary for survival without today’s infrastructure. An extended blackout today could result in the death of a large fraction of the American people through the effects of societal collapse, disease, and starvation.While national planning and preparation for such events could help mitigate the damage, few such actions are currently underway or even being contemplated,” added the executive summary.
Three reports on the issue have been declassified by the Pentagon and seven more are awaiting clearance.
The warnings in the report somewhat echo those made a similar commission a decade ago. But this time the feared attacks aren’t just from a solar event but a potential atmospheric nuclear blast or cyber hit launched by North Korea, China or Russia.
What’s more, the report warns that despite President Trump’s focus on the issue and demand for action, federal agencies are fighting over the issue and the Defense Department, which is factoring in EMP protection into its plans, isn’t sharing critical information to help civilian agencies and private firms make similar protections.
Also declassified was a report from Peter Vincent Pry, who served on a prior EMP Commission and is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, spelling out the human toll of an EMP attack on the electric grid. He also advises the current commission.
In “Life Without Electricity,” he said the results would be:
- Social Order: Looting requires dusk to dawn curfew. People become refugees as they flee powerless homes. Work force becomes differently employed at scavenging for basics, including water, food, and shelter.
- Communications: No TV, radio, or phone service.
- Transportation: Gas pumps inoperable. Failure of signal lights and street lights impedes traffic, stops traffic after dark. No mass transit metro service. Airlines stopped.
- Water and Food: No running water. Stoves and refrigerators inoperable. People melt snow, boil water, and cook over open fires. Local food supplies exhausted. Most stores close due to blackout.
- Energy: Oil and natural gas flows stop.
- Emergency Medical: Hospitals operate in dark. Patients on dialysis and other life support threatened. Medications administered and babies born by flashlight.
- Death and Injury: Casualties from exposure, carbon dioxide poisoning and house fires increase.
“President Trump’s withdrawal from the bogus Iran nuclear deal, and his determination to denuclearize North Korea, are all the more important because even a single nuclear weapon possessed by these rogue states would pose an existential threat to North America by EMP attack,” Pry told Secrets.
He also praised Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s focus on the issue in his role as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Reform Committee, but slammed “Obama-holdovers and Deep State bureaucrats” for ignoring the report.
The report warned that the type of conditions spelled out by Pry could last a long time due to the difficulties fixing the electric grid, which many have testified would be fairly cheap to harden against an attack.
“The United States — and modern civilization more generally — faces a present and continuing existential threat from naturally occurring and man-made electromagnetic pulse assault and related attacks on military and critical national infrastructures. A nationwide blackout of the electric power grid and grid-dependent critical infrastructures — communications, transportation, sanitation, food and water supply — could plausibly last a year or longer. Many of the systems designed to provide renewable, stand-alone power in case of an emergency, such as generators, uninterruptible power supplies, and renewable energy grid components, are also vulnerable to EMP attack,” said the 27-page report.
It called for a new wave of cooperation among government agencies to set protection standards, an EMP czar, and called for testing current systems against a simulated EMP attack.
“With the development of small nuclear arsenals and long-range missiles by new, radical U.S. adversaries, the threat of a nuclear EMP attack against the U.S. becomes one of the few ways that such a country could inflict devastating damage to the United States,” concluded the report. It added, “It is critical, therefore, that the U.S. national leadership address the EMP threat as a critical and existential issue, and give a high priority to assuring the leadership is engaged and the necessary steps are taken to protect the country from EMP.”
Despite its report citing the catastrophic effects of an EMP attack, the government has done little to prepare. As a whole, our national electronic-based infrastructure remains exceptionally vulnerable. Power grids and communication systems have yet to be hardened and protected. This lack of preparation exposes our nation to severe risks should one occur.
In addition to the effects discussed, the government will be hard-pressed to provide any beneficial response to a successful attack. One only needs to look to the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina to see an example of this. What would the response to Hurricane Katrina have seemed like if vehicles didn’t run, cell phones and radios didn’t work, and the external support efforts were non-existent.
Because of this, it is incumbent upon us as individuals to educate and prepare ourselves for an EMP attack. Only through personal education and positive preparedness steps can we improve our chances of overcoming such an event. After all, ignorance is bliss, until the power goes out and never comes back. Then ignorance is in the dark with the government response and those who are unprepared for such an event.
Back to the 1800s
There are many theories about what would happen if an EMP event occurred. The truth of the matter is that no one has a definite answer. Many experts speculate about the outcome of an EMP attack, but they have yet to come to a group consensus. While a consensus has yet to happen, many propose an electromagnetic pulse would send the country back to the 19th century—a time before there was wide use of and reliance upon electricity and electronic equipment.
In the event of an EMP attack, the nation could experience the destruction of the power grid and communication infrastructure. Without the power grid, electronic devices, including cell phones and computers, would become useless, and gas pumps would be inoperable. Society as we know it would change in an instant.
The effects on the power grid become complicated by the fact that in the event of truly extensive damage, replacement of damaged equipment would be difficult, if not nearly impossible. For example, if factories are inoperable, how would replacement power grid equipment be manufactured? If vehicles are inoperable, how would replacement equipment be transported? So, in the worst-case scenario, clawing our way back from an EMP attack could prove difficult. Additionally, it could take a very long time, with time being measured in months and years.
That said, I believe it’s always important to be as prepared as you can be, so here are some things to consider in case of an EMP attack:
- Food Storage — I realize this is something I’ve gone over before — for several different types of emergencies — but I want to make a critical point: If an EMP strike occurs, food supplies will be decimated. And if that happens, not only will you need food for your family, but food will also be a great bartering item to trade for other provisions you might not have. Just another reason I strongly encourage you to build up your food storage now. I can’t stress enough how important this is, because a well-stocked larder serves many purposes.
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- Batteries and Battery-Operated Devices — There is a better chance that battery-operated electronics won’t be ruined by an EMP, so get yourself a battery-operated lantern and survival radio to keep you out of the dark and connected to the outside world. And an EMP won’t affect batteries by themselves, since they’re not part of a circuit, so be sure to add plenty to your emergency storage.
- Build a Faraday Cage — A Faraday cage (named after the English scientist Michael Faraday) is basically a metal box designed to protect the items inside from an EMP — although its effectiveness depends on the magnitude of the strike. These boxes can be made from old microwaves, metal filing cabinets — even ammo cans — insulated with cardboard and wrapped in foil for added protection.
- Hand Tools — What happens if you plug in your electric can opener to your generator and — nothing? The fact is ANY electronic device is potentially vulnerable to an EMP attack. So make sure you have a manual can opener along with other basic hand tools, such as a staple gun, a handsaw and several kinds of screwdrivers.
- Communications — Since an EMP will affect cellphones and other communication devices, I recommend having a two-way radio as a backup. Two-way radios would be the best way to contact nearby family and friends during an emergency. Testing has shown they are resistant to EMPs up to very high levels, but it still might be a good idea to store them in your Faraday cage — just in case. And don’t forget to stock up on extra batteries!
The scary thing is no one really knows how bad an EMP attack could be — or how long the effects might last. It’s just another threat we must prepare for and hope never comes to pass.
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