How an EMP Event Could Cause Chaos in Modern Society
Have you thought about what you would do without electricity?
EMP Events Can Be Manmade or Occur Naturally
Since that 1962 test, much has been done to protect common devices from EMP events. However, those efforts are now challenged due to the ever-expanding presence of electronics in our cell phones, automobiles and computers.
The overarching threat concerns the delivery of a high-altitude nuclear missile by a rogue nation like North Korea or Iran, resulting in the release of electromagnetic pulses over a wide area. Even a relatively low-altitude EMP attack — where the nuclear warhead is detonated at an altitude of 30 kilometers (1.9 miles) — would generate a damaging EMP field over a vast area.
This type of attack could potentially affect a region equivalent to the size of New England, all of New York and half of Pennsylvania. Similarly, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) over the center of the United States would place an EMP field over the contiguous United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.
An EMP event can also be a natural occurrence and is commonly seen in the wake of a typical lightning strike which threatens nearby electrical circuits. The typical EMP emits over 10,000 volts per meter and can overpower surge protectors, suppressors, AC outlets and modem jacks. An EMP may also affect critical control systems such as water supplies, telephone networks and data networks.
An EMP burst occurs in three waves and lasts from seconds to a few minutes. The first wave, known as E1, is almost instantaneous with impact on devices such as electronic sensors, communications circuits, connected computer systems and computers.
E2 is the second wave, which is smaller and similar to a lightning strike. Normally, this second wave does not affect the power grid because the grid is designed to resist a typical lightning strike. In reality, it does make an impact because E2 is delivered shortly after the first wave, compounding the problem.
The final wave, E3, is longer than the previous two and can last from seconds to several minutes. E3 is associated with a detonation that envelops the Earth’s magnetic field or a CME. This last wave has the greatest impact on the power grid, damaging distribution centers and fusing power lines.
EMP Impact on Our Society at Large
A major EMP event – whether natural or manmade – would be devastating for the United States and the planet. Without electricity, much of life as we know it would cease in short order.
Imagine humanity now in the same situation, dependent on a product for which we had no need of only 150 years ago. Issac Newton, Christopher Columbus, Abraham Lincoln lived with out it. Even Napoleon, Baron Lionel de Rothschild, Ben Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt lived without this life sustaining staple too. What was it? Electricity.
Today we are now as dependent on Electricity as the Oxygen we breathe. As you can see, this was not the case of the not too distant past. What will we do without those amps, volts and watts when that day comes?
For any prolonged period, we will have three days before food spoils, medicine and water run out, batteries die, and society will effectively collapse.
How could we lose our electricity on a grand scale? Simply put, there are three ways this could happen with only two resultant outcomes – one really bad, one even worse. Two are man made, one by nature.
The first and seemingly easiest way of turning off our electricity would be Cyber Warfare. Specifically the disabling of our nations power grid. Most of us have read about Cyber Warfare as the means by which a foe gains access to our most secret computing and data facilities, be they private, governmental or industrial. You may know it as hacking. We mostly hear of it when it is a major department store like Target and Macys or service industry giant such as JP Morgan Chase bank. Even tech giants like Yahoo, Amazon and eBay are not exempt. For the most part, aside from the stealing of information and secrets, their impact has been minimal – just costly and embarrassing. Physical harm has been negligible.
One of the most clever offensive cyber hacks was the Stuxnet virus which was specifically designed for just one purpose – to impearl specific Iranian equipment used in their nuclear research and facilitation projects. In this case it spread peacefully through the internet until if sooner or later hit upon the equipment for which it was designed to disrupt and or destroy. The problem was other countries using the same devices were also hit. And its still probably out there of no consequence except for Siemens SCADA systems which by now have remedied the problem.
That is Cyber warfare. A hacker selecting a target, gathers or destroys info and often resells it. Equipment is sometimes destroyed too. Lastly a virus can be launched are random bringing down computers world wide when a set of circumstances are met. It can even be just for the fun of it.
If our electrical grid is attacked will we know who is the culprit? It doesn’t have to be China or Russia but rather a rogue player in a country as small as Estonia or even from a basement in Brooklyn.
If our power grid has been cascaded into shutdown by a hacking sometimes called a Black Sky Event, generating equipment need not be destroyed, although there could be local burnouts. There be no impact on battery powered devices and equipment until their charge is lost. Cellular would hold up for a little while. Cars and trucks would run. Refrigeration and gas station pumps – no. And a biggie, municipal water pumps and sewer lift stations -no. (Local generator backup could extend the aforementioned.) And lastly, most desired items have disappeared from store shelves for cash paying customers (no ATM’s). Wind and solar generation would be useless except for private home installation.
Needless to say there will be a mad rush to isolate the cause and get the power on before the situation becomes chaotic.
We already know hackers have been snooping around our energy companies for weaknesses to exploit. The stories are many and frequent, some of significant detail. So for more info, and while the internet is up, just google “electrical grid hacking”. It’s just a matter of time, before our electrical grid, could be taken down by a subtle and devious hacker. An article with significant detail appeared recently in the WSJ.
Last September, news broke that hackers had laid siege to the U.S. power grid, probing deep into dozens of energy firms, looking for weaknesses to exploit. The Department of Homeland Security issued a threat warning about an ongoing stream of malware attacks that could one day lead to a Black Sky event, crippling cellphones, erasing bank accounts, devastating hospitals, and disrupting every sector of the economy.
The threat to the U.S. electric grids is so serious that last June a group of presidential advisers said the country needs to prepare for a “catastrophic power outage” possibly caused by a cyberattack. The NIAC and chief executives of companies engaged in critical industries, said resources need to be stockpiled in community enclaves to prevent mass migrations of desperate people. “They’ve [the hackers] had access to the button, but they haven’t pushed it,” said Jonathan Homer, Homeland Security’s chief of industrial control system analysis.
Executive Order Preparing Nation for Solar Storm & EMP Pulses Just Signed
The WSJ, put it this way: America’s Electric Grid has a Vulnerable Back Door-and Russia walked right through it. Their reconstruction of the worst known hack into the nation’s power system reveals how this happened plus the attacks on hundreds of small contractors, not for their company information but rather the contractors they do business with.
One question looms. What happens if a Black Sky event takes place when a good percentage of our cars are electric? Obviously there will be no charging during the event. In fact, I’d almost expect electric transportation to be motivation enough for a hacker to do a little mischief. Better stick to a hybrid. (Incidentally, the electrical energy to keep auto and truck batteries charged means more power generation and a huge increase in the distribution infrastructure.)
The Second and most serious cause of a Black Sky Event will cause what is estimated to take about 72 hours before there is complete social collapse. It can arrive one of two ways, one man made, and one by nature which is inevitable. See above video.
Our life giving neighbor, our sun occasionally hiccups in the form of coronal mass ejection (CME) which is a release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field. It happens regularly but fortunately not in our direction. Without going too scientific on you, just be aware if it is relatively strong and pointed towards us, most of our sensitive electronics would fry. We speak of the small electronic boards that run everything from out electric tooth brush to Cell phone to industrial controls. Cars would stop and tragically so would airplanes. Oh, and what about folks on dialysis or with pacemakers? With a CME however, we’ll get about a about a half-a-day advance notice before arrival from its genesis, if it’s detected.
And in case you are wondering, yes, it has happened twice before. Luckily it was at the dawn of electricity when the only thing electric was the telegraph. Still this first CME, called the Carrington Event, was strong enough that operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment – some bad enough to set fires. Northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu. As these events are pretty much on an eleven year cycle there have been others but fortunately focused away from earth. You wouldn’t want to be in the International Space Station, an airplane, fast moving car, subway or elevator.
Again in 1989, ground currents from a less intense geomagnetic storm knocked out a high-voltage transformer at a hydroelectric power plant in Quebec, plunging the Canadian province into a prolonged 9-hour blackout on an icy winter night.
Similarly there is a man made equivalent called an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). It is essentially a nuclear detonation high in our atmosphere is designed to create a similar event with minimal destruction to physical property. This would no doubt include many terrifying effects including a blinding flash of light. A recent congressional study titled “Nuclear EMP Attack Scenarios and Combined-arms Cyber Warfare” suggest foreign governments are already undertaking research into such endeavors.
Either way, CME or EMP our entire continent could be effected with the paralyzing of circuits inside modern electronics on a massive scale. The power grid, phone and internet lines, satellite uplinks and other infrastructure and equipment using electronic circuits would also be prone to the effects rendering them useless unless protected by a Faraday cage.
The next 72 hours are critical to your survival. Ironically, a century ago this wouldn’t have been a big deal. In fact it would have hardly been noticed. But subtilely mankind has become dependent on electricity as much as the oxygen we breathe.
Potential Impact of an EMP Event on US Power Grids and Organizations
U.S. power grids are a patchwork of connected semiconductors, actuators and transformer link generators to transmission lines. Large Power Transformers (LPTs), of which there are approximately 2,000 across the U.S. grid, are used to step-up and step-down electricity to a usable voltage for the customer.
A major concern of U.S. power companies, however, is the difficulty in replacing a failed LPT. LPTs cost millions of dollars and require a long lead time for repair.
An LPT’s life expectancy is about 38 to 40 years. Currently, about 70% of the U.S. LPTs are over 25 years old, custom-built and not easily replaced.
In summary, this writer puts a Black Sky event happening in this order of possibility.
1) Hacking. I’d say before 2025. I’d like to think I’ll still be around so I’ll see for myself.
2) CME is the only one that is for sure but I’m guessing at not later than the end of the century. Maybe we’ll figure out a protection by then. Lastly at
3) an EMP. The only thing here to add, it doesn’t have to be Russia or China.
As for what to do?
In the first Scenario – loss by hacking – there would be minimal destruction to electronics. Just loss of power except battery power for a short period. The most serious effects will impact primarily the cities. Elevators, subways, being stuck in your 26th floor co-op. Your battery powered radio tells you to hang on, power will resume in 24 to 72 hours. Hopefully you have a weeks supply of canned foods and bottled water.
It is not our intent to get into the subject of prepping except for mentioning a few fundamentals. It never hurts under any circumstances to have a portable radio flashlight with plenty of batteries best kept in a metal tool box or equivalent. A couple weeks’s worth of canned food that need not be refrigerated. Plenty of water too. If you can, store a couple of 5 gallon containers of gas for your car (only in a safe place like a detached shed).
Food Crisis queuing case of a food shortage you should be aware that grocery stores only have about 3 days of food in stock. People will rush and buy as much as they can so probably the food will vanish in less than a day or hours. So if anything was to disrupt the food supply chain for an extended period of time, there would be chaos in most communities. It’s very important to start preparing NOW. There are several ways to start. The choice you make should depend on the event you are preparing for. Of course the best way is to prepare for all scenarios including long periods.
In the case of the second Scenario – the event is caused by a CME or EMT,
You’ll have to resort to your primal instincts unless you have prepared and are at, or can get to, your safe location aka “Bug Out” home. Fundamentally, get out of the city. Have a plan.
Often over looked is the fact that water and sewer will cease flowing except limitedly if you live in a country town with a gravity fed water tower and have a septic system.
As you can see electricity is humanity’s life blood, especially if you are on dialysis or have a pace maker. If the power remains off past a week there will be anarchy. Survival will be humanities primary instinct. Teaming up with others can be useful. And of course so would firearms and knowledge of their use.
There is no time like the present to bone up on Prepping. Aside from the issue of loss of electricity and or electronics, what about political unrest. Out of the question?
Planning and preparing for what can and will happen with both man-made and/or natural disasters is the way to survive a very uncertain future.These people also get informed on what is really happening around them by not listing to the very bias media but to alternative media and web sites.
They want the truth of what is really happening and will do the research to find it. They network by talking to like-minded coworkers, family, friends, and survival group members for the latest updated information.
Also, people who are self reliant, who know how to live with mother earth, who know how to live off the grid, and who have a farm or ranch out in the country far away from populated areas will have the best chance of surviving.
When teaching my class, I’ve always strongly recommended that every person have at least a one year supply “minimum” of food, first aid supplies, a good water source, survival supplies, a pistol, a rifle or a 12ga shotgun, and at least 1000 rounds for each gun. When all hell breaks loose, each person will need a way to protect themselves and their supplies, or their chances of dying will drastically increase.
Planning and preparing for an uncertain future is crucial in surviving. A question in surviving is to ask yourself: How bad do I want to live and survive and why?
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