What if you woke up one morning and nothing worked?
What if your alarm clock didn’t go off? Then you went to turn on your coffee maker and discovered the power was off? Then you tried to call the power company and the phone was out? Then you discovered your cell phone didn’t work either? You tried to take a shower and the water was off?? Your car wouldn’t start?? You turned on your emergency portable radio and got nothing but static???
Impossible? Nightmare scenario? Yes, a nightmare scenario, but far from impossible. Our technology infrastructure, that seems so robust, is in fact incredibly fragile and vulnerable. Everything in our modern world depends on microchips. Power, water, phone, cars, even some of our light bulbs, depend entirely on microchips for their function. Anybody that has had most of their home electronics destroyed by a lightning strike understands our dependance on these tiny bits of silicon. But what if there was a nationwide simultaneous lightning strike?
This is not only possible, given the nature of our current national enemies, it may even be likely. It is called EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse). It can happen because of a unique characteristic of a nuclear detonation. As you probably know, a nuclear weapon produces vast amounts of radiation, of many different kinds, including gamma Rays. These Gamma Rays collide with atoms of air and knock electrons loose. These loose electrons create a massive power surge in any metal they come in contact with. The result is the same as a lightning strike… anywhere within line of sight of the detonation. A major Solar storm could do the same thing.
A nuclear weapon detonated at very high altitude (over100 miles) would not hurt people under it much, if at all. It would, however, blanket thousands of square miles of territory with a wash of high-energy electrons, destroying most microchips connected to the power grid, and many others besides. The disaster would make September 11 look like a wet match. Millions would die – not right away, but within weeks or months – from starvation, riots, or lack of sanitation and medical care.
It’s extremely likely that our enemies know this, because it’s never been a secret – It’s just not as widely known as it should be. This is not unproven theory. In the 1950s, several atmospheric and space tests of nuclear weapons created disruptions thousands of miles away. But in the 1950s, the world’s technology still relied mostly on vacuum tubes, which are much more resistant to EMP than the transistors that make up modern microchips.
A modern computer processor contains billions of individual transistors, packed into an area less than one-half square inch, and the smaller they get, the more vulnerable they are.
What can be done?
Could you live without modern conveniences? Would you be willing to? It might be a good idea to learn how. Americans have gotten soft in the last 50 years. We think life will just continue to get better and better. Perhaps we need to re-think some things. An event such as I’ve just described would instantly set us back to the 19th Century. Would we survive? It’s possible that 90% of Americans would die within one year if this occurred. It would take decades to recover. All that from one bomb.
There are defenses against EMP. Electronics can be shielded against the surge. The power grid could be “Hardened” against such events. Because it would cost significant money, it probably won’t get done.
Anyone that lives in earthquake or hurricane country knows the value of disaster preparedness. Considering dangers such as EMP, a basic emergency kit should be important to everyone. Food, water, medication, shelter, a means of staying warm are the bare essentials. Backup electronics can be shielded inside a grounded metal trash can. Only electronics that don’t depend on any infrastructure, such as two-way radios, are worth having in the emergency kit.
This is only a very basic overview of the threat. William Forstchen has written a novel following the trials of one family after such an event, and I highly recommend it. You can read further details on his website.