After the Lights Go Out: Is Your Community Prepared?

This week, Heritage observed National EMP Awareness Day.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States would have truly devastating effects. An attack would change the “very fabric of U.S. society,” and millions could potentially lose their lives in the aftermath. Yet as the name “EMP Awareness Day” suggests, Americans and our nation’s leaders remain woefully unprepared to protect against this threat.

An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy caused by the rapid acceleration of charged particles. Caused by either a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere, a radio-frequency weapon, or a naturally occurring solar storm, an EMP event could cause entire regions of the country to lose electricity—permanently. Cars, cell phones, and computers would all be dead. Water, sewer, and electrical networks would fail simultaneously. Banking, transportation, food production and delivery, and even emergency services would collapse.

Yet, as Heritage has explained, despite the gravity of the EMP threat, “a survey of congressional, federal, state, local, and international measures to deal with the threat reveals more complacency than action.”

Indeed, despite the many recommendations of such congressionally mandated commissions as the EMP Commission and the Quadrennial Defense Review Panel, little progress has been made to protect the country from an EMP attack and prepare for the aftermath. And at the state and local level things are equally as bad:

A 2007 survey of state adjutant generals, the officials responsible for overseeing National Guard units, found that few states were prepared for an EMP attack.… [A]lthough 96 percent of adjutant generals surveyed indicated that they were concerned with the threat posed by an EMP attack, few had analyzed the actual impact details of an EMP attack.

Recognizing this fact, House Resolution 762, recently introduced by Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R–MD), encourages local communities to create sustainable local infrastructure and local power generation, food, and water production so that our nation’s communities are better prepared in the event of a large scale disaster. H.R. 762 also encourages citizens to develop individual emergency plans so that they are able to care for themselves and their families in the absence of government assistance.

These policies would increase preparedness in the event of an EMP attack and help ensure that communities and their citizens are better able to respond the in the aftermath of all manners of catastrophic disasters.

In a normal catastrophic disaster, the federal government could take up to 72 hours to respond. In the event of an EMP attack, things would likely be much worse. Local communities and their citizens need to be prepared to help themselves in the event of the next disaster.


This is a copy of the full article produced by the brilliant minds at

The Foundry

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