Pictured are the city lights of Philadelphia. Reflected in the calm river appearing below street level, the photo’s artistry reveals the play of light on the placid water’s surface as the artificial lighting streams out from the illumined, towering high rise buildings of the city landscape.
Beneath the veneer of the imagery of bright lights in the night sky-line are the habitual ways that the city’s residents expect—and take for granted—that the night’s darkness will always be lit up by the myriad electric lights that keep the city humming 24 hours a day. Day-in and day-out, the utility companies dependably deliver power to illumine and energize our businesses and homes.
People’s lives go on seamlessly in the tumult of urban existence as long as the electric power is always there when they need it. And the truth is, there’s hardly a moment in the metropolis’s bustling activities when electrification is not required…
What is not so readily or widely appreciated among city dwellers is that there are impactful scenarios in which the critical infrastructures that support their normal, modern lifestyle could fail.
The Federal Government has identified real and existential threats that could possibly cause a massive disruption or interruption to the nation’s electrical grid power supply.
In 2001 the U.S. Congress authorized and delegated a Commission to examine the vulnerability of the nation’s electric grid to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event. Subsequently in 2004 and 2008, the EMP Commission presented its findings of nearly a decade of in-depth research to members of Congress.
Among its findings is a highlighted and abbreviated list of the following:
- Due to the existing electrical system operating at near its physical capacity, “a relatively modest upset to the system can cause functional collapse”.
- EMP “may couple ultimately unmanageable currents and voltages into an electrical system routinely operated with little margin and cause the collapse of large portions of the electrical system”.
- According to the Report, “should the electrical system be lost for any substantial period of time…the consequences are likely to be catastrophic to civilian society”.
As a response to the Commission’s Report and in an effort to amend the Federal Power Act granting the Government greater facility/authority “to protect the bulk power system and electric infrastructure critical to the defense and well-being of the United States against natural and manmade (EMP) threats and vulnerabilities”…
In 2011, the Senate and House introduced and sponsored House Resolution (HR 668) known as the SHIELD Act. According to the author of the reference books (1.) this reporter has used in researching the current status of U.S. vulnerability to an EMP strike, the SHIELD Act is one of the most important legislative initiatives for national EMP preparedness devised by our Representatives.
Passage of the SHIELD Act would seem assured, but as of the date of this column (2.), the Bill still languishes un-enacted. In the meantime, while the politics surrounding this issue continues, in August, 2012 probably in response to this delay, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett introduced a Resolution to underscore the pressing and urgent importance of responsibly dealing with the EMP threat to every American citizen.
Local Community & Civilian Preparedness
- Resolved; That the House of Representatives… (shortened for readability) encourages every community to develop its own “civil defense program”… to create sustainable local infrastructure and planning capacity so that it might mitigate high-impact scenarios…;
- Encourages every citizen to develop an individual emergency plan to prepare for the absence of government assistance for extended periods;
- Encourages each local community to foster the capability of providing at least 20 percent of its own critical needs such as local power generation, food and water…;
- Encourages State governments and Federal agencies to support the ability of local communities to become stronger, self-reliant and better able to assist neighboring communities in times of great need.
Were you aware that Congress, (or at least a few activist members on the relevant committees), was so concerned about the negative impact an EMP event could have on the commercial, electrical grid?
How is the development of your local civil defense program going? And how do we prepare for the absence of government assistance for extended periods? What is that going to look like?
What follow-up if any has been forthcoming to insure practical steps are being taken (on an on-going basis) to provide protection for the critical elements of the nation’s electrical system?
Good questions all.
And I want to keep that conversation going…
We together have to find the answers and forge the system-wide solutions
What are we waiting for?
(1.) Cited notations all referenced from Apocalypse Unknown: The Struggle to Protect America From An Electromagnetic Pulse Catastrophe by Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, Published August, 2014 ISBN 9781482092776
(2.) Actual date of Post uploaded 12/23/14