Home Crisis Management Is Your Agency Prepared for the Aftermath of an EMP or “Grid Collapse”?

Is Your Agency Prepared for the Aftermath of an EMP or “Grid Collapse”?


By Dennis Porter

Recently there has been a new round of interest concerning the need to protect our nation from an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, or a similar scenario, that would cause the collapse of our national electric grid.

A recent article in Homeland Security Today featured Dr. Vincent Peter Pry, a member of the congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, said that such an attack could “collapse all the other critical infrastructures—communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water—necessary to sustain modern society…” Dr. Pry has EMP and grid failurewarned Congress that if they do not pass the SHIELD Act, which would harden our grid system, our country could experience a total grid blackout.

Despite the EMP commission’s recommendation, Congress has rejected the notion that there is any creditable danger of an EMP attack.

Role of Police and Fire Agencies
To help mitigate the impact of such an event, local police and fire agencies need to create a plan for how they will perform their first responder duties in the aftermath of a grid failure. During an EMP attack, anything with electronic components or computer chips will be “fried.” Therefore, police and fire departments should consider how they will provide emergency services when there is no electricity, vehicles will not run, and the telephone system is completely down.

To date, there is not an existing National Planning Scenario for an EMP incident. National Planning Scenarios cover flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes and terrorism, but there is nothing on an EMP scenario.

Start by reaching out to your respective Emergency Operations Bureau and ask if they have a plan in place to respond to emergencies in the wake of an EMP? Does your Chief or Sheriff know what an EMP is and how it will affect the community? Does he/she know what they are responsible for and do they have a plan about how to deploy personnel when radio and phone communications are down?

Steps to Prepare for Responding During an EMP
What can police and fire do to protect our communities in the wake of a grid shut down?

  1. Educate yourself. Learn what an EMP is and the potential consequences it could have on the electric grid.
  2. Start a dialog amongst other first responders. Do this either individually or include it in discussions with other mutual-aid agencies.
  3. Make it a tabletop exercise along with other disaster scenarios. This is one of the best ways to understand the consequences of an EMP and the challenges in responding.

By doing just these three things, police and fire agencies would put themselves ahead of the curve. Preparing for this worst-case scenario can also help in training for other disaster situations when communication systems are down.

Since there has been no movement from Congress regarding the consequences of an EMP attack, police and fire agencies must be prepared to deal with such a scenario.

Here are additional resources about an EMP attack:


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  1. In addition to the author and commentators,it is important to seek incentives for the power companies to shield since the completion for funds locally relates to modernization, expansion anti cyber and maintance. Along theses lines I am trying to follow upon the findings and recommendations found in the GAO report 14-603TDisaster Resilience. In it p.2 identifies $50 billion dollars for Resiience and Mitigation. If we can get the States and DHS regional offices to accept the threat of Geomagnetic Disturbances as a major catastrophic Hazard, perhaps funds for fy 2015 may be made available for shielding if modification to the FEMA Predisaster Mitigation Grant cycle is modified. This will include DOD to have the power companies who supply their defense bases to also be shielded. We need action items which present financial opportunities . For example, there are 12 States which have either introduced or passsd legislation to protect their power stations- Maine leading the way. An other reference to motivate communities to prevent long term blackout is the Eaton Corporations reports on long term blackouts..By finding out the specific communities,the duration and cost of blackouts one can with little imagination can use automated mailing lists to motivate consumers to request shielding.

  2. John Hoyle referred us to the State of Maine. Does anyone have an update on their legislative follow up activities. The last I heard was that the State legislature requested NERC to review the outcomes of the Act. In the past NERC has been a negative force in the area of EMP mitigation yet it is complying with FERC’s Final Rule 779 Reliability Standards for GMD.


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