Thanks to North Korea, the U.S. is now at risk of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the power grid. In fact, Kim Jong-un has threatened such action, and experts agree that such an attack is a real possibility.
North Korea could detonate a hydrogen bomb in the atmosphere for the specific purpose of decimating the power grid. The result could be akin to a post-apocalyptic scenario where disease, despair and death rule the land for months if not years.
Shielding against an EMP Attack
FERC, the Department of Energy, and Homeland Security are working together first to quantify the risk, and then to develop plans and protocols designed to mitigate the risk. Ideally, a new and improved EMP task force or regulatory body would be created to continuously monitor the risk.
From the utility perspective, EMP attacks should be incorporated into emergency plans and protocols. An EMP attack should also be addressed in exercise and drill scenarios, and utility engineers should be working on ways to enhance storm hardening to help shield the grid from this very real risk. At this point, there is no method to harden the grid in this manner, but that does not mean utilities should not be constantly looking for mitigation solutions.
And it is not just electric utilities that should be worried. Water utilities would likely experience a negative impact to the water supply following such an attack, such a spike in bacteria levels or a lack of electricity to keep the treatment plants operating. Gas utilities are probably less at risk, but natural gas operations require electricity so even gas utilities should have this scenario on their radars.
Although I do not share all the same views as the author, this article does a decent job of summarizing the risk of an EMP attack. The bottom line is that this is yet another element to include in your overall emergency preparedness process.