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Minimal work underway to prepare state for EMP attack

Minimal activity underway to prepare...

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. - Some experts predict a large scale EMP attack could disable all electronics, as well as the power grid itself, and a government commission found up to 90% of the population could die within a year due to a lack of food and medicine.

But despite the growing threat of such an attack from rogue nations like North Korea, there are not widespread preparations going on in Colorado or elsewhere to protect most of those things we depend on to survive.

At Jaxon Engineering in Colorado Springs, the grinding and welding is continuous.

Jaxon specializes in EMP hardening, shielding devices and structures from an electromagnetic pulse capable of overloading and disabling any unprotected electronics.

But most of Jaxon's business is with the Department of Defense, not the general public or smaller governments.

"The rising concern in the country right now, is apart from the the critical military assets, what happens to the rest of us?" says CEO Randy White.

Among those asking that question is the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

At the state's emergency operation center in Centennial, there is a roughly 500-page playbook that covers all types of scenarios, from fires and floods, to anthrax, even too much marijuana in the water. 

It previously included a section on a post EMP attack environment, but that section was removed from the latest edition of the playbook.

That type of long term blackout scenario is classified under "geomagnetic storms" caused by solar flaring, and because 2017 occurs on the downslope of a 12-year geomagnetic storm cycle, the section was pulled due to it being a low risk.

DHSEM Director Kevin Klein says the state is less focused on protecting infrastructure from an attack, and more focused on the potential response after an emp attack, which he admits won't be easy.

"It's going to be a big challenge not only coordinating, but a big challenge making sure we're doing the best we can for as many people as we can, but it's going to be tough," says Klein.

Klein admits the state's ability to withstand an EMP attack relies heavily on the federal government and the utility industry, as the power grid is by far the biggest concern of all.

Former CIA director James Woolsey, a leading voice on the EMP threat, says protecting the grid is critical.

"The country has 18 critical infrastructures, food, water, etc.  17 of them depend on electricity.  So if the electric grid goes, nothing else works," explained Woolsey at a recent forum organized by EMPact, a group that advocates for strengthening the electric grid.
 
The man in charge of electricity for Colorado Springs Utilities believes shielding the entire grid is unrealistic.

Eric Tharp explains, "The cost to protect our entire grid is prohibitive, because it's such an extremely low probability for the incident to happen."

However, Tharp added that power companies are stockpiling transformers and other equipment at undisclosed locations.

"Many utilities are banding together and storing them in warehouses across the country, and making them available as needed," he said.

According to Scott White at Jaxon, EMP hardening raises the average cost of construction about 20 percent.

Due to today's tight budgets, only a handful of local or state governments have spent the money to do that or pass laws requiring buildings like banks to back up their systems in a way that can resist an emp attack.

However, Randy White expects that to change in the next few years as more lawmakers begin to understand this new threat and the potential impact.

 

Click to watch Part 1 of our special report that explains in more detail how a modern day EMP attack could occur.


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