There has been much speculation regarding what the next major terrorist attack in the United States might look like and when it might occur.
Will it be a vehicle used as a weapon, à la 9/11, or perhaps a series of bomb blasts in highly populated areas such as what we’ve seen in the Mideast? Or might it be a cyberattack such as what has been aimed at Iran’s nuclear development facilities?
Fortunately, the United States is devoting significant resources to thwarting potential attacks by our enemies, and we’ve been successful at stopping a number of them before they’ve reached fruition. But we all know that an attack is likely to happen at some point, and we should be prepared to protect ourselves and our families as best we can when the inevitable occurs.
One potential concern that has not gained as much attention as some others is an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. As much as the United States has moved to secure airports since Sept. 11, 2001, we’re woefully behind on protecting our electrical infrastructure against an EMP.
The fact that this potential weapon is so easy and inexpensive to construct — and so potentially devastating to our society — means that its attempted usage is a distinct possibility. If a terrorist were able to approach a U.S. shore in a seemingly innocent boat and launch a short-range missile containing a nuclear payload into the atmosphere, it could cause an EMP that could wreak considerable havoc on our society.
Now, that’s a lot of “potentials,” “possibles,” ‘ifs,” “coulds” and “mights.” But we know that an EMP could seriously damage communication systems, computers and electrical appliances within more than 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation, and it might also mess with automobile and aircraft ignition systems. An E-bomb, which can be built for less than $500, could throw civilization back by 200 years, at least temporarily.
Why do I think a powerful EMP attack would be devastating? In 1859, a solar flare crashed into Earth’s magnetic field, causing the global bubble of magnetism that surrounds our planet to shake and quiver. Turning skies all over Earth red green and purple, it disrupted telegraph systems, shocked telegraph operators and set telegraph paper on fire.
A deliberately created EMP could produce similar power. But in a society dependent upon electronics, the effects would be much greater than they were in the 19th century. Hundreds of satellites in orbit would be at risk, not to mention power grids on Earth. Plus, if terrorists were to go to the trouble of creating an EMP, they would probably have specific plans for hitting us where it hurts during the immediate aftermath when we’d be vulnerable.
As with most disaster preparation, food and water would be crucial for survival following an EMP attack, but below are three tips that might not come to mind quite as quickly:
- Currency will be crucial after an EMP attack because people will probably not have access to their funds that are currently cataloged in electronic databases. Keep a good supply on hand, as well as some silver and gold coins.
- Information will also be key. You’ll need to stay tuned in to emergency announcements that could include where aid is available and where to stay away from. Have a radio stored away in a Faraday box (read more about an EMP-proof Faraday box here) that you can access quickly.
- Fiber optic networks (AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOs, etc.) are likely to return to service sooner than copper line systems. Copper wires draw in electromagnetic energy, so they would multiply the effects of the electromagnetic waves.