Although the US can improve prevention, protection, and recovery in the face of an EMP attack to levels below those that would have catastrophic consequences for the Nation, an EMP attack would still cause substantial disruption, even under the best of circumstances. Many citizens would be without power, communications and other services for days—or perhaps substantially longer—before full recovery could occur. During that interval, it will be crucial to provide a reliable channel of information to those citizens to let them know what has happened, the current situation, when help of what types for them might be available, what their governments are doing, and the host of questions which, if not answered, are certain to create more instability and suffering for the affected individuals, communities, and the Nation as a whole.
EMP and its effects were observed during the US and Soviet atmospheric test programs in 1962. Figure 1 depicts the Starfish nuclear detonation—not designed or intended as a generator of EMP—at an altitude of about 400 kilometers above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. Some electronic and electrical systems in the Hawaiian Islands, 1400 kilometers distant, were affected, causing the failure of street-lighting systems, tripping of circuit breakers, triggering of burglar alarms, and damage to a telecommunications relay facility. In their testing that year, the Soviets executed a series of nuclear detonations in which they exploded 300 kiloton weapons at approximately 300, 150, and 60 kilometers above their test site in South Central Asia. They report that on each shot they observed damage to overhead and underground buried cables at distances of 600 kilometers. They also observed surge arrestor burnout, spark-gap breakdown, blown fuses, and power supply breakdowns
History professor William R. Forstchen discussed the potential damage rendered by an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) event, and what we can to do prepare for the possibility. There are actually two kinds of potentials for generating an EMP, military or solar, he explained. A nuclear fission weapon, such as Iran or North Korea are currently developing, that is detonated about 250 miles above the Earth’s atmosphere would trigger electrostatic discharge, striking the Earth’s surface and overloading the power grid and knocking it out, he detailed. The Soviets conducted an EMP test in 1962, and a power plant 500 miles away from the center of the detonation burst into flames, because of the EMP overload that fed into the transmission lines, he cited.
Just a few days ago, we were hit by the largest solar storm in five years, and NASA & NOAA have predicted a significantly increased solar storm cycle over the next 18 months, Forstchen noted. A large enough coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun could generate a global-wide EMP event, particularly in the northern and southern latitudes. The “Carrington Event” of 1859 blew out telegraph lines, and the “energy output was so intense that railroad ties were bursting into flames,” he said. Forstchen advocates congressional action to protect America’s grid, such as put forth by Cong. Roscoe Bartlett.
William R. Forstchen is a Professor of History and Faculty Fellow at Montreat College, in Montreat, North Carolina. He received his doctorate from Purdue University with specializations in Military History, the American Civil War and the History of Technology. His current book, One Second After was cited on the floor of Congress and before the House Armed Services Committee by Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R.-MD), chair of the House Committee tasked to evaluate EMP weapons, as a realistic portrayal of the potential damage rendered by an EMP attack on the continental United States.
An electromagnetic pulse (commonly 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. The resulting rapidly-changing electric fields and magnetic fields may couple with electrical/electronic systems to produce damaging current and voltage surges.
The mechanism for a 400 km high altitude burst EMP: gamma rays hit the atmosphere between 20–40 km altitude, ejecting electrons which are then deflected sideways by the Earth’s magnetic field. This makes the electrons radiate EMP over a massive area. Because of the curvature and downward tilt of Earth’s magnetic field over the USA, the maximum EMP occurs south of the detonation and the minimum occurs to the north
In military terminology, a nuclear warhead detonated hundreds of kilometers above the Earth’s surface is known as a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) device. Effects of a HEMP device depend on a very large number of factors, including the altitude of the detonation, energy yield, gamma ray output, interactions with the Earth’s magnetic field, and electromagnetic shielding of targets.
Preparedness refers to the state of being prepared for specific or unpredictable events or situations. Preparedness is an important quality in achieving goals and in avoiding and mitigating negative outcomes. It is a major phase of emergency management, and is particularly valued in areas of competition such as sport and military science.
Methods of preparation include research, estimation, planning, resourcing, education, practicing and rehearsing.
Survivalism is a movement of individuals or groups (called survivalists or preppers) who are actively preparing for emergencies as well as possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales ranging from local to international. Survivalists often have emergency medical and self-defence training, stockpile food and water, prepare for self-sufficiency, and build structures that will help them survive or “disappear” (e.g. a survival retreat or underground shelter).
Anticipated disruptions include the following: Clusters of natural disasters, patterns of apocalyptic planetary crises, or Earth Changes (tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, solar storms, severe thunderstorms). A disaster caused by the activities of humankind (chemical spills, release of radioactive materials, nuclear or conventional war, oppressive governments). The general collapse of society caused by the shortage or unavailability of resources such as electricity, fuel, food, or water. Financial disruption or economic collapse (caused by monetary manipulation, hyperinflation, deflation, or depression). A global pandemic. Widespread chaos or some other unexplained apocalyptic event.
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