PHOENIX – A nuclear weapon detonates hundreds of miles above America’s heartland, sending an electromagnetic pulse at the speed of light that fries circuits across the U.S. The power grid, communication technologies and transportation systems collapse.
No, this isn’t the leaked plot to an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster. It’s the driving force behind legislation in which a state lawmaker seeks to require the Arizona Division of Emergency Management to tell Arizonans how to prepare for an electronic apocalypse.
“In our lifetimes the emergencies we’ve seen have been local emergencies, and really all we have to do is be prepared enough to hang on until help arrives,” said Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, author of SB 1476. “With an EMP … there’s no help coming.”
The bill would require the Arizona Division of Emergency Management to post on its website recommendations such as the type and amount of supplies residents should stockpile to be prepared for an EMP attack.
The Senate Public Safety Committee endorsed the bill unanimously Feb. 12, amending it to require the agency to update its recommendations every five years. It was headed to the full Senate by way of the Rules Committee.
However unlikely the threat, Farnsworth said that an EMP triggered high enough above the U.S. could cripple the economy, disrupt food and water supplies and take down other essentials of civilization.
“My hope is that by bringing this out, we’ll start discussions and come to the realization that as a government we can’t feed all these people, but as responsible citizens we need to do our part and make individual preparations,” he said.
Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, who sits on the Senate Public Safety Committee and co-sponsored SB 1476, said the U.S. government hasn’t attempted a similar public education program before because of its price tag.
“It’s too expensive for the government to prepare on a national scale,” Shooter said. “This time around, it’s the people who can do the most to prepare. It’s even possible to EMP-proof your electronics. It just takes time.”
In the end, Shooter said, there’s only so much he and other legislators can do.
“I’ll agree that an EMP attack is a relatively small threat, but if it ever does happen, most people won’t be prepared,” Shooter said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and warn them now. God puts a watchman on the tower for times like these.”
“A nuclear weapon detonated in or above the earth’s atmosphere can create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), a high-density electrical field. An EMP acts like a stroke of lightning but is stronger, faster, and shorter. An EMP can seriously damage electronic devices connected to power sources or antennas. This includes communication systems, computers, electrical appliances, and automobile or aircraft ignition systems. The damage could range from a minor interruption to actual burnout of components. Most electronic equipment within 1,000 miles of a high-altitude nuclear detonation could be affected. Battery-powered radios with short antennas generally would not be affected. Although an EMP is unlikely to harm most people, it could harm those with pacemakers or other implanted electronic devices.”