The InfraGard National ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) Special Interest Group (SIG) will host the event “Mitigating High-Impact Threats to Critical Infrastructure” on December 6. The symposium will focus on EMP and other realistic physical and cyber threats to the U.S. infrastructure, as well as ways to address them.

An EMP is created when high-intensity energy is released and trapped in the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a disruption and destruction of electronics and electrical systems. This occurrence can be created by a solar storm or nuclear detonation in the earth’s atmosphere. Although detonating a nuclear device is a difficult achievement, North Korea has had help in gaining this ability. A nuclear warhead could be delivered to the U.S. via intercontinental ballistic missile or short-range ballistic missile launched from a freighter off the U.S. coast.

In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security admitted that it is unprepared for an EMP.

Not taking the EMP threat seriously could have devastating effects. Disruption of the U.S. electrical grid could result in an “American Blackout” scenario. It wouldn’t take long after an extended blackout for electronic gizmos and smartphones to cease functioning. The Global Positioning System (GPS) would become irrelevant, and those requiring emergency medical assistance may never receive help. Public services would come to a screeching halt—police and fire departments would not be dispatched to critical localities.

The first step to mitigating a natural or manmade EMP is discussing the threat, such as will be done at EMP SIG’s event next week. Aside from discussions, action to mitigate the effects of an EMP needs to be taken. Developing an EMP threat assessment and implementation plans in the event an EMP ever occurs could yield positive results. As discussed by James Carafano and Richard Weitz, having a resilient electrical grid, catastrophic planning, and global communication redundancy could all mitigate the effects of an EMP.

Those interested in attending this event either in person or by webcast can do so by going to the information and registration page.

John Collick is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.