CONTACT: Emily Cashel
Shirley & Banister Public Affairs
Must-See TV: Your Life Could Depend on It
National Geographic Film is Not Fiction, Must be a Wakeup Call on EMP
Washington, DC – On October 27th at 9:00 p.m. ET, National Geographic will air a riveting new docu-drama entitled, “American Blackout.” It chronicles the horror that would be experienced by the country and its people in the event of a major disruption in the nation’s electric bulk power distribution system (better known as “the grid.”) This film impresses every viewer with a fundamental reality: Everything possible must be done to avoid the terrible consequences of a loss of critical infrastructure, suspension in vital public and private services and massive societal upheaval that would be entailed even in the kind of relatively short-duration (i.e., ten days) national blackout shown in the film – let alone one that extends far longer.
As the cyber-attack impelled scenario explored by “American Blackout” makes clear, in a circumstance where power is out nationwide for even a week-and-a-half, over 300,000 of our countrymen and women would perish. Thanks to the associated breakdown of electricity-dependent systems that supply the water, food, medicine, finance, communications, transportation etc. absolutely essential to life as we know it – particularly in densely populated urban areas – the losses may actually be considerably higher.
Such a prospect is all the more likely to the extent that, as “American Blackout” suggests, a 10-day power outage would likely precipitate a widespread breakdown of social order. The costs in dollars, to say nothing of lives, would be incalculably high.
Unfortunately, the grim picture painted by “American Blackout” may actually be an unduly optimistic one. The vulnerabilities of the U.S. grid may result in far more enduring disruptions of power supply in the event of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) events, whether caused by enemy action (notably, via a nuclear weapon detonated in space over the United States) or due to naturally occurring phenomena. No fewer than five federal studies have confirmed that, under present circumstances, the transformers that make up the heart of the nation’s bulk power distribution system would be damaged, if not destroyed outright, by EMP. Should that happen, the lights will not come back on in ten days, or even ten weeks. It may take years to reestablish the status quo ante, if it can be done at all.
“This movie is not fiction. If anything, it understates the magnitude of the danger facing this country,” observed Frank Gaffney, President of the Center for Security Policy. “As the EMP Coalition has pointed out repeatedly: Even if the electronic devices at the heart of the nation’s critical infrastructure could be made absolutely invulnerable to cyber attacks, in the event one or more electromagnetic pulses physically destroy key parts of the grid, such computers and other equipment will not have the power they need to operate.”
For these reasons, the EMP Coalition is urging a comprehensive solution designed to “harden” the grid against all threats, including but not limited to cyber attack. Among other initiatives towards this end, the Coalition supports the bipartisan federal Secure High Voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage (SHIELD) Act (H.R. 2417) and state-level legislation like Maine’s LD 131 enacted in June and aimed at islanding its part of the grid.
For more on the EMP threat and steps that must be taken to prevent its devastating effect – since remediation after the fact is, as a practical matter, not an option – visit the Coalition’s website, www.StopEMP.org
– 30 –