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The EMP threat

Rarely recognized but a major risk to be considered in your emergency planning

By Mike Rawluk

When we plan for emergency situations, the normal scenarios include wild fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. If you live near a nuclear power plant, you may even consider nuclear radiation risks.

But recently, threats to our electrical power grid, and quite possibly to our microcircuit driven personal devices have been receiving more attention. These threats include a giant solar flare and an EMP, or electromagnetic pulse. Either event could knock out our utilities for a period of weeks to months. Satellites could be rendered useless. An EMP could also destroy components necessary for operation in your automobile, cell phone, laptop, or just about any high tech device on which we have come to rely.

On September 1st 1859 the largest observed solar flare, called the Carrington Event, created a geo magnetic storm on Earth which disrupted telegraph communication, and even caused fires at some stations.  In 1989 a much smaller flare caused a loss of power for six million customers in Quebec. 

NASA predicts a dramatic increase in solar activity until it reaches a peak in around 2013. If we see a flare that rivals the Carrington Event experts predict the damage to our country will be ten times the cost that Hurricane Katrina caused, and could take months to recover fully.

General aviation could be critical in the aftermath of an EMP or solar flare since we can operate with minimal infrastructure. However, our communications equipment could be damaged, and gasoline refinement and shipments could be minimal or halted.

The implications of flying under such conditions are many, and should be considered. Keeping up on pilotage and dead reckoning skills in the age of GPS direct flights may not be trendy, but we should always have a versatile skill set as pilots.

There are many credible links on this subject, but I have also seen a lot of websites filled with misinformation and peddling fear. The correct information is scattered, but I have included a few credible links. The future science site is independently run, yet it has an extensive bibliography, including the EMP Commission's report to Congress.

EmpactAmerica.org is actively working with community emergency organizations on scenario based training, and can be a useful resource for any questions that EVAC volunteers or groups may have.






Our thanks to Mike Rawluk for compiling these links and writing about this subject.  You may contact him at rawlukm@yahoo.com  

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