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Experts: Civilians Not Ready for EMP-Caused Blackout

The government testing electromagnetic pulses uses a simulator hanging over an airborne command post.

For Watchdog.orgJosh Peterson writes: The catastrophic effects of an electromagnetic pulse-caused blackout could be preventable, but experts warn the civilian world is still not ready.

Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, both congressional advisory boards, said the technology to avoid disaster from electromagnetic pulses exists, and upgrading the nation’s electrical grid is financially viable.

Heathkit-HamRadio

“The problem is not the technology,” Pry said. “We know how to protect against it. It’s not the money, it doesn’t cost that much. The problem is the politics. It always seems to be the politics that gets in the way.”

IT’S STOPPABLE: Peter Vincent Pry says technology exists to protect against the damage from electromagnetic pulses.

He said the more officials plan, the lower the estimated cost gets.

“If you do a smart plan — the Congressional EMP Commission estimated that you could protect the whole country for about $2 billion,” Pry told Watchdog.org. “That’s what we give away in foreign aid to Pakistan every year.”

In the first few minutes of an EMP, nearly half a million people would die. That’s the worst-case scenario that author William R. Forstchen estimated in 2011 would be the result of an EMP on the electric grid — whether by an act of God, or a nuclear missile detonating in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

An electromagnetic pulse is a burst of electromagnetic energy strong enough to disable, and even destroy, nearby electronic devices.

The scenario sounds like something in a Hollywood film, but the U.S. military has been preparing its electronic systems for such an event since the Cold War. The protective measures taken to harden facilities against a nuclear attack also help in some cases to protect against EMPs.

The civilian world is another story.

States have been working to fill in the legislative and regulatory gap left by Congress, as previously reported by Watchdog.org, and private companies have been developing technologies that would protect against EMPs.

In 2011, state utilities commissioners recognized the need to invest in equipment that could help protect the power grid, but experts continue to warn that time to do so is running out.

READ ALSO: Police took photos of my license plates

Much focus during the past several years has been placed on society’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Sophisticated computer hackers working in secret, most likely sponsored by nation-states, can steal identities, money and even potentially hijackairplanes.

National Geographic, in the movie American Blackout, explored the catastrophic effects a cyberattack on the grid would have on society.

The movie premiered in October 2013 at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., accompanied by a panel of national security experts from the U.S. intelligence community.

Cyberattacks against the grid are possible. Stuxnet, the computer virus developedby the United States and Israel to sabotage Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, demonstrated that such an attack is not only possible, it can be done.

Computer viruses are software programs designed to attack specific entities. But even computers need electricity, otherwise they are little more than expensive paper weights…(read more)

Watchdog.org

Contact Josh Peterson at jpeterson@watchdog.org. Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson

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