By Paul Bremmer
With the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea hovering over East Asia, several Japanese cities have begun holding evacuation drills to prepare for a potential missile strike.
The possibility seems very real, with North Korea launching ballistic missiles that left and reentered the atmosphere nine times this year.
North Korea threatens the United States as well. The communist country previously launched two satel lites that orbit over the U.S. and are capable of performing a surprise electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack at an altitude and trajectory that would evade U.S. National Missile Defenses, according to national security expert Peter Vincent Pry.
What’s more, when North Korea performed its first underground nuclear test, American scientists scoffed because it produced an explosion of less than one kiloton, a small fraction of what U.S. nuclear bombs produce.
However, that explosion was the perfect size to trigger an EMP event, according to energy expert Jeffrey Yago. And North Korea’s nuclear tests have gotten bigger since then.
“To think that they’re not looking at this as one way to retaliate against any activity we might take is just fallacy,” Yago told WND.
Japan may be preparing for a missile attack, but Yago is far less concerned about a ground-level nuclear explosion than an EMP attack. While most analysts agree North Korea does not yet have a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S., Yago said it’s clear North Korea does have the technology to create an EMP weapon and detonate it over the center of the United States. An EMP weapon, he said, is easier to make and would be more devastating than a nuclear bomb.
“The EMP weapon, if it’s detonated high above the United States, can cause havoc from one end of the coast to the other, whereas a surface nuclear bomb would certainly be devastating to an area, like a city, but it would be limited to that geographic area, whereas the damage from an EMP could last up to a year and affect the entire country,” Yago said.
An EMP weapon would have the power to knock out the U.S. electrical grid, likely causing chaos among the population. Lights would go off, computers and televisions would shut down and cell phones would go dark once their batteries ran out. All electronic appliances that plug into power outlets would cease to operate. Water and gasoline could not be pumped, causing plumbing and vehicular transportation to shut down. Food could no longer be delivered to stores. Credit card readers and cash registers would not work.
In Yago’s view, this is all a real possibility in the U.S., but the country is not prepared for it.
Which is not to say the federal government has no plan to protect itself from a major disaster. Federal officials and their families have at least three major underground facilities to flee to in case of emergency: Raven Rock Mountain Complex in Pennsylvania, Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Virginia and Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. The three bunkers were set up during the Cold War to ensure continuity of U.S. government operations in case of a nuclear attack.
“So I think our government has done a lot to prepare and protect themselves, being able to continue the government of the country, but literally nothing has been done for the citizens,” Yago said.
Yago, a licensed engineer and NABCEP certified solar professional, said many of his clients in Virginia have built underground shelters. However, he pointed out the problem is that most underground shelters are built to deal with a nuclear explosion, not an EMP attack. An EMP attack would not decimate buildings and bridges, but it would decimate the power grid.
And the government is powerless to take care of Americans in the event of such an attack, according to Yago.
“I have two long-term clients who come to me for solar hardware or advice on how to install backup power systems,” the certified energy professional revealed. “One of them works for FEMA and one of them works for Homeland Security in Washington, D.C. And I talk to these guys, I’m like, ‘Why are you coming to me? I’m a nobody. I’m a guy who’s here in this little town of about 200 in the middle of nowhere, and you work in Washington, D.C., with FEMA and Homeland Security and you’re coming to me for advice?’ And both of them have said they just don’t have the faith in their agencies to be able to do it.”
Yago said most of the people he runs into who are doing the most prepping are former officials and members of government agencies the public believes are there to protect them from disaster. Such people are more aware of the risks the country faces, yet they realize their agencies can’t possibly help everyone in a time of crisis.
They don’t want ordinary Americans to know that, Yago said.
“The average guy on the street has been convinced by the attitude of this government that there’s nothing to worry about, that if something goes wrong, why are you preparing?” Yago said. “[They think]: ‘The government’s going to help us. We’ve got FEMA, we’ve got Homeland Security and we’ve got all these groups,’ and the general population is just convinced there’s no reason to do any preparation at all, that government is going to be there to come rushing in and help you. Well, that’s physically not possible.”
He took New York City as an example. The Big Apple has a population of roughly 8.5 million, so the government would need to provide about 25.5 million meals to feed all of its residents breakfast, lunch and dinner for one day. But an EMP attack would likely knock out the power grid for weeks or even months, and the government could not possibly keep up with the people’s demand for food. That is to say nothing of water; New York City consumes roughly a billion gallons of water every day. With an EMP damaging the ability to pump water, the government could not come close to providing enough water for everyone.
And New York City is only 2.6 percent of the total U.S. population. Yago said it’s clear Americans can’t rely on government to get them through an EMP disaster.
“Even if our government wanted to help the population if there’s any type of a major grid-down event, it’s just physically not possible,” Yago said.
“The government made a very conscious decision years ago. They basically recognized there’s no possible way this government could provide emergency shelter, food, care for millions and millions and millions of people if there’s a disaster, regardless of what caused it. They just knew they could not, so instead what they said was, ‘All right, what are we going to do to protect our continuation of government?’ And that’s the preparation that’s been done.”
So the government has spent billions on Raven Rock, Mount Weather and about 100 other underground shelters around the country, according to Yago, giving federal officials a safe place to go and continue their work if a disaster strikes.
The EMP threat is certainly on Congress’s radar. The House Committee on Armed Services successfully pushed for the creation of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2001. The committee held hearings to let commission members discuss their findings and recommendations in 2004 and 2008. Therefor e, it’s not as if the government doesn’t know how to guard against the EMP threat, according to Yago.
“At a government level, at a knowledge level, they know what to do,” he said. “I mean, there’s nothing I can tell them that they don’t already know from these studies. … They know the first thing they need to do is harden all of these transformers in our grid, in the substations. So they know what to do, they just won’t budget the money to do it.”
Yago said that as things stand right now, it would be easy for a hacker with a laptop to take down the nation’s power grid. Therefore, he said the government must act on the advice of studies that have already identified the problem and how to guard against it. He also urged the government to strike down existing regulations that don’t allow electric companies to talk to each other, so they can share information about viruses or other threats with each other.
Ultimately, however, individuals must take their own steps to prepare for the fallout from an EMP strike. In his informative book “Lights On: The Non-Technical Guide to Battery Power When the Grid Goes Down,” Yago explains in detail how ordinary Americans can replace their electrical grid-powered devices with battery-powered ones.
He told WND it’s essential for people to prepare more than just an emergency food and water supply.
“The very first thing I ask people is, do you even own a flashlight?” Yago said. “Whether you live in an apartment or a big house or an estate, wherever you live, the number one question is do you own a flashlight? And the number two question is, does it work and do you know where it is? Can you find it in the dark?”
It may sound simple, Yago admitted, but many people today don’t own flashlights. And today’s LED flashlights can run for weeks on a battery, unlike the flashlights of yesteryear.
In addition to flashlights, Yago recommends everyone gets a battery-powered radio, as well as an alternative method of charging their cell phone. In the event of an EMP, people would be unable to plug their cell phones into the wall and recharge them once the batteries ran out.
“Individuals have to understand that they need an alternative way to charge up a cell phone, and the easiest way to do that is with a little fold-up solar charger,” Yago advised. “They cost $30; you can order them off Amazon. You can put them in the glove compartment, you can put them in the kitchen drawer, and they’ll easily charge up a cell phone. And if yo u don’t want solar, you can buy an entire bag full of batteries for $10.”
Yago believes the grid will go down at some point, whether it’s from a North Korean EMP attack, a computer hack or a combination of the two. He worries about the widespread devastation it will cause, especially in major cities, if Americans choose to rely on the government and fail to take their own steps to prepare.
“The kinds of things that keep me up at night are not so much the power going out, but the long-term effects that would have on the population,” he warned.