Electro Magnetic Pulse Effects & Preparedness
By Alton Parrish
Monday, November 19, 2012
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
What is significant about an EMP attack is that one or a few high-altitude nuclear detonations can produce EMP effects that can potentially disrupt or damage electronic and electrical systems over much of the United States, virtually simultaneously, at a time determined by an adversary.