In 2007, I wrote a short story about a group of people restoring an old theater for a mini-contest hosted by Writer’s Digest. I didn’t win, but the very real prospect of life after an electromagnetic pulse made me continue to ask “what would I do if the Pulse happened?”
What I’ve Learned So Far
First of all, kiss electrical power goodbye. Most distribution networks involve long power lines that will capture and intensify induced currents to levels higher and quicker than a lightning strike. Safety circuits won’t be able to respond fast enough and transformers will short out. Not one or two, but a significant number of installed transformers will need to be replaced and we just don’t have that many lying around to use as replacements.
Secondly, computers, integrated circuits, and voltage sensitive components are all at risk for similar damage. Think of how simple it is to have a static charge cripple electronics and multiply that by a very large number. If it is plugged in at the time of the Pulse, it stands a fair chance of becoming a charred useless piece of plastic. Surge protectors probably won’t be of much use, either.
Thirdly, communications will go down. I am not familiar with how other countries will fare, but the United States relies heavily on digital broadcasts, cellular phones, and online access to information / entertainment. Satellites in low earth orbit are at risk for similar damage, contributing to the abrupt loss of telephone, internet, and GPS signals.
For More Information
An excellent resource for explaining how this could happen and what to expect can be found in the testimony of Dr. William Graham, chairman of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack.