ATLANTA — Imagine your car won’t start, no water comes out of your faucet, and you can’t use your cell phone. It’s a very real threat. That is exactly what an electromagnetic pulse weapon can do.
An EMP attack could happen with or without nuclear weapons.
Here in Georgia, there are plenty of potential targets including Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Port of Savannah and Plant Vogtle.
One day you could wake up and your lights won’t turn on, and you can’t log into your bank account.
“I ain’t work this hard for nothing for someone to zap my money,” said Ila Thomas, who lives in Forest Park.
It sounds like the plot of a scary sci-fi movie, but it could actually happen.
“We’d be like cave people,” Thomas said.
“Have you ever heard the term an electromagnetic pulse?” Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston asked Evelyn Lewis, who also lives in Forest Park.
“Not that I’ve heard,” Lewis said.
Most people Huddleston talked to have never heard of electromagnetic pulse weapons, but Peter Pry, Ph.D. has.
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“An electromagnetic pulse is basically a super energetic radio wave. It’s got so much energy in it that it can destroy electronics,” said Pry, who is a leading EMP expert.
He is Executive Director of the EMP Task Force on National & Homeland Security and Chair of the Congressional EMP Commission.
Electromagnetic pulses happen naturally as solar flares. NASA captured one on video in October 2021.
But man-made EMPs can be used as weapons.
Pry said a detonated EMP over North America would destroy our way of life without physically harming you.
“The EMP would pass harmlessly through your body just like a radio wave. You wouldn’t even know it, but then when you go to try to start your car or turn on the faucet, or trying your refrigerator, it doesn’t work,” Pry said.
An EMP would knock out all electricity. Cars would not start and there would be no utilities.
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The U.S. has EMPs, but so do China, North Korea, and Russia.
Pry said the crisis in Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thirst for war make him nervous.
“If they hit us with a super EMP weapon and combine it with cyber-attacks and other things they could win World War III… because our electronics is our Achilles heel,” Pry said.
Pry said the EMP Task Force is pushing Congress to make all utility companies beef up the security of the power grids against EMPs and cyber-attacks but so far there is little progress.
“There are 2,000 electric utilities in the United States and most of them are just against doing anything. They don’t want to protect against cyber or EMP because it’s going to cost them money,” Pry said.
When Channel 2 Action News asked Georgia Power about EMPs, they referred us to a group they work closely with The Edison Electric Institute.
“We are very prepared against all hazards,” said Scott Aaronson EEI’s Senior Vice President, Security and Preparedness.
He said last year electric utilities spent $140 billion upgrading power grids and preparing for hazards including EMPs.
“As simple as shielding power electronics or having spare equipment in case they are damaged by an electromagnetic pulse, and then certainly working with our government partners to deter,” Aaronson said.
Thomas said Washington needs to do more to make sure utility companies and other vulnerable industries are protecting us.
“I need to go out there and voice my opinion to Washington and let them know how I feel,” Thomas said.
Pray said the federal government should require the electric utilities to do more to prepare for EMPs.
He said Russia and China have hardened their electric grids against EMPs effects.
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