Monday, January 10, 2005

Horse and Buggy

I read a book a while back (Solar Flare by Larry Burkett) where a solar flare destroyed modern technology and reduced us to a 19th century lifestyle.

Then I read this guest column today in Accuracy in Media, about the risk to our country from electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear weapon exploded at high altitude. The results are just like the book.

Our country is unprepared to deal with a nuclear explosion at a high altitude. The danger would be more than merely life or limb. A nuclear explosion over Chicago, for example, could plunge a large portion of our country into darkness, with electricity lost for days, even months, perhaps in some places years. All computerized activity in the region would cease. The culprit: High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse.

We are "unprepared." And the effects would be devastating to us:

Here is some of the damage that stands to occur immediately after an attack unless sensible "hardening" precautions are taken to protect data and systems. They are:

Electronic records in computers, such as your savings and checking accounts, would be inaccessible.

Your telephone line, even for a cellular, would go dead.

The systems that operate petroleum refineries would be stopped, forcing energy production to halt for some time.

Transportation would be disrupted. Car and truck engines, train engines would be
disabled. Traffic signals would become inoperable. Our air traffic control system would cease to exist.

Calling 911 would be a thing of the past.

Our cars wouldn't start. I don't say this as some spoiled Southern Californian who "just couldn't survive" without a car to drive down the street to the mailbox unit. People like me couldn't get to work (if our workplace is still functioning), because it's too far away without cars, trains, or buses. I could see great demand for those old 1957 Chevy Impalas with the giant fins on the back, because they were made before computers took over the engines of our cars. But would they start? Is there something magnetic even in the old engines that would be disabled with the rest of modern technology? Would we have to go back to the crank-start cars? Or, would horse-and-buggy be our only options? And if we could use the old cars, would the gas pumps even work?

I'm not normally an alarmist, and I don't bring this up as a way of shrieking "The sky is falling!" What I want to know is, what can individuals do that might help protect some of what we have? This column only addresses the measures that the government could/should take to protect the country.

I applaud Rep. Bartlett for putting (or trying to put) pressure on Congress and the Department of Homeland Security to get some protections in place, but what can I do to protect the technology in my home? If I buy one of those lead-lined aprons that x-ray technicians wear and draped it over my computer when I'm not using it, would it protect my data from EMP until the electricity came back on?

Who has the answers, and how will we find out?

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