An EMP attack can be nuclear or improvised and can disable a wide range of critical infrastructure. It can affect everything from aircraft ignition systems to hospital equipment and pacemakers. It can also disrupt communications systems and electrical appliances. Road and rail signaling are also vulnerable to an EMP attack. EMP attacks cause electromagnetic energy that travels through any conductive material. They can also be spread to areas far beyond ground zero.
Impact of an EMP attack on U.S. critical infrastructure
An EMP attack could disrupt the nation’s power grid, telecommunications, and information networks. It would affect millions of people across large areas of the country. Because of this vulnerability, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking steps to protect our critical infrastructure. In particular, the EMP Program Status Report highlights DHS efforts to foster increased resilience to EMP events.
EMP is an electromagnetic pulse that can be generated by high-altitude nuclear explosion or by a non-nuclear device. Nuclear EMPs, particularly those emitted from nuclear weapons, are highly destructive. Geomagnetic radiation from solar storms is also a significant threat to our power infrastructure. An EMP attack would destroy digital circuitry and electronic systems in electrical power grids, cutting off electricity to homes, businesses, and military systems.
The report recommends designing and constructing critical infrastructure with greater resilience against EMP attacks. This includes considering the location of power plants, materials used in power grid construction, and points of entry for external EM energy penetrations. The report also recommends that efforts to protect critical infrastructure include measures to mitigate the impacts of any prolonged outage.
The United States Department of Homeland Security is conducting a wide range of exercises to test the resilience of critical infrastructure to EMP attacks. The Department has worked extensively with both the private and public sectors to understand and prepare for this threat. It has already protected 17 of its National-level Emergency Alert System (NEA) radio systems, with another 20 planned to be protected against EMP. In addition, the DHS has created plans for dealing with a variety of evolving threats, including solar weather.
An EMP attack on the electric grid could disrupt the functioning of the United States’ government, military, and economy. It would also jeopardize the health and safety of millions of citizens. Because of the National security component of the threat, Congress may want to take additional steps to protect the nation. It may also require that the National Security Commission imposes certain restrictions on public access to some information.
The EMP Commission has analyzed the threat of an EMP attack on U.S. critical infrastructure and presented its findings to the Armed Services Committee. The commission concluded that a nuclear explosion at high altitude produces a broad-band, high-amplitude EMP that could disrupt sensitive electronics and damage critical infrastructure.
Despite these findings, the Department has yet to fully prepare for an EMP attack on the power grid. However, it has done some work in this area, including developing a prototype extra-high voltage transformer that is ready to be delivered to a site quickly and effectively. This prototype could reduce the recovery time by 75 percent.
The effects of an EMP attack on critical infrastructure depend on the magnitude of the attack. An EMP attack could cause long-term electrical outages. The severity of the effects of such an attack is unknown, but it is still important to assess the possibility of a catastrophic situation and to make plans accordingly.
Alternatives to an EMP attack
Having an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack can be terrifying and debilitating. If it occurs, the massive energy burst could make electronics unusable. It is a highly destructive energy burst that could wipe out a city or an entire country in an instant.
Although EMP attacks are a serious threat, they can also be avoided by employing alternative methods to take down critical infrastructure. These include cyberattacks, efforts to disrupt GPS systems, and space-based communications. While research and development on a protective shield against EMP attacks makes sense, it shouldn’t overshadow the more practical lines of attack.
While EMPs are usually created by nuclear explosions, they can also occur naturally. This is a result of the sun occasionally spits out massive plasma streams that deflect the magnetic field of the Earth. When the plasma streams hit the Earth’s magnetic field enough, they cause the magnetic field to wobble and produce a powerful EMP. It happened last time in 1859 during the Carrington Event, which knocked out telegraph circuits.
Experts have modeled different scenarios for EMP attacks and concluded that even the largest EMP attack would cause regional blackouts, but not a complete shutdown of the nation’s power grid. Recovery time would be comparable to other large-scale power outages. Nonetheless, the United States will remain vulnerable to EMP attacks, and the federal government, states, and cities should prepare accordingly.
Although it is possible to protect all electronic devices from an EMP attack, the cost of such a measure would be exorbitant. For example, a large EMP would disrupt satellite systems, so satellite communications might not be useful in the event of an attack. A good alternative to an EMP attack is to reorient yourself and make sure that you know what to do to protect your digital data.
There are several technologies and devices that can protect your devices from an EMP attack. Some of these are similar to lightning surge protection technology. For example, you can buy surge protectors that divert excess voltage into the earth and use Faraday cages, which shield against electromagnetic radiation. Regardless of the technology that you choose, you must ensure that it is integrated into all of your electronic devices.
Another option to a grid-down attack is to evacuate residents to regions with a working grid. If the grid goes down, it is unlikely that any residents would be allowed to return home. However, the financial system will still function. Most insurance companies and government agencies would continue to pay out their claims. However, the most likely scenario is that a solar or nuclear EMP will cause a grid-down. This scenario is likely to cause many deaths and will be a very challenging situation for many people.
While the Trump administration has not said much about EMPs since he signed the executive order, it is possible that we will face an EMP attack. The government can prepare for this by upgrading our energy grid and broadcasting PSAs. The film, “One Second After,” is a good example of how to prepare. The film was produced by New America and Slate, and examines the possible impacts of an EMP attack.
Preparing for an EMP attack
While we cannot completely anticipate an EMP attack, we can prepare for one by following some basic guidelines. The first step to prepare for an EMP attack is to gather a supply of survival items. These supplies should include shelter, water, food, and tools. We also should have a plan for locating loved ones.
One of the most important things to remember is to secure your personal electronics in a Faraday cage. This will help keep them safe until the EMP has dissipated and follow-up events are unlikely. The most important thing to do is to stay safe, and to do this, you have to think like someone living in a different time period. For example, you must prepare for a situation in which most forms of transportation and communication will stop working, and the equipment you have will not be able to do its job.
Another way to protect your electronics from an EMP attack is to bury them deep underground. You can make a faraday cage garage out of metal filing cabinets, old microwaves, or even cardboard boxes covered in aluminum foil. This way, even if your car is exposed to an EMP attack, it will be safe.
In the worst-case scenario, an EMP attack would knock out the electrical grid, rendering modern vehicles and other electronic equipment useless. The impact of the EMP event would be catastrophic and fatalities would be widespread. Passenger planes would crash out of the sky and hundreds of people would die from automobile accidents. The effects of an EMP attack would also affect communications systems and data centers.
The US government has started taking steps to prepare for an EMP attack. President Trump signed an executive order directing the federal government to develop a coherent action plan to prepare for a strategic EMP attack. The order recognizes the vulnerability of the Electrical Grid and the shortcomings of existing action plans. Furthermore, it highlights the threat of terrorist organizations and rogue nations to use an EMP weapon.
An EMP attack can result from a nuclear attack. In such a case, a nuclear warhead would be deployed high in the sky to spare the targeted area. However, nuclear EMPs have a higher potential to cause a large scale impact. Moreover, a nuclear EMP can increase the EMP attack area because it has a line of sight effect. Any electronic device within range of the attack will be affected.
EMP attacks can also occur from solar flares. In addition to knocking out the electrical grid, the EMP can disrupt electronic communications. Depending on the severity of the attack, some electronic equipment can be permanently damaged. In the worst case scenario, cell phones and other electronics can be destroyed. However, other types of technology can survive an EMP attack.