One Second After
One Second After
By William R. Forstchen
Wow! What a scarry realistic possibility and perspective on the nations readiness for an Electrical Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack. I certainly hope that society would not devolve so rapidly but given our current social climate it might not be that far off. What would you do without power or electronic devices for a year? How many local emergency plans account for this kind of attack? Are we prepared for it? How do we prepare for an event of this nature? What do we do when we pick up the phone and can not get anyone on the other end?
This book takes place in Black Mountain North Carolina (which I plan t visit soon) and centered on an EMP attack on the U.S. which disables the electrical grid across the nation. The cascading effects collapses the national infrastructure plummeting American back not the dark ages. Although this story is fictional and possibly a bit exaggerated, I do agree that this a cautionary tail to be seriously considered. With all that is happening in Ukraine and the posturing involved with the U.S. support and Russia vow of consequences if the U.S. crosses “the line” and the fact that they (and other nuclear adversaries) possess the nuclear capability for such an attack I would say now is a pretty good time to start having this discussion at the local level. As we saw in the book it was and EMP attack on the nation, but it was the action taken at the local level that determined the outcome of communities and it all started with leadership.
Do we have the right people in the right positions in local leadership that posses the mental, physical, and spiritual toughness guided by sound morals and ethics to get communities through and event like this? Should we take these traits into consideration when choosing our leaders? I think so, because if not when the infrastructure crumbles and poorly equipped leaders fold someone will fill the void, good or bad. The quicker a community can organize and accept the situation the better the outcome will be as, was the case in Black Mountain. Once leadership is worked out it then comes down to preparedness.
Without refrigeration perishable food goes quick, then it’s up to nonperishable food do you and your community stockpile food and water? Enough for 3 days (an early FEMA recommendation), 7 days (an updated, realistic recommendation for natural disasters), how about 3 months, a year? That’s a lot of food and water to stockpile so probably not likely that many people or communities will have that on hand. Now we’re down to survival techniques farming, hunting, and gathering do you know and understand the resources available in your community? As Emergency Managers I think we should have an idea and a few subject matter experts we can rely on for guidance and we should build good relationships with them before the EMP goes off.
Another factor that lends to the outcome of this scenario is the medical infrastructure, when the power goes so does most of our critical care capabilities all those dependent on life support are the first die, remember with an EMP backup generators (unless fortified) go down too. From there the effects will cascade down the levels of severity for those needing life support. Then the elements creep in with out heating or air conditioning the very old and very young are now susceptible to the elements, with out plumbing disease from facies start to rise, and infections set in more and more. As time goes on those dependent on medication run out and the symptom they were controlling begin to surface and eventually many of these people will die. And interesting and concerning facet that this book brought up was the mental health patents on medication that runs out compounded by the new mental health issues brought on by this event. This brings on a whole other dynamic to this already chaotic event that must be mitigated.
I feel this book is a must read for Emergency Managers, but not only to read it but analyze it, study it, and PLAN for it. Then take that plan and run it through a Tabletop Exercise, preparing for this event will indeed prepare you for lesser power outage events. If we can get caught off guard by a pandemic when every EOP I read prior to COVID mentioned pandemic as a threat, then I fear we will be caught off guard by an event like this if we do not take action to prepare for it.
This scenario is a real threat that needs to be in every THIRA, HMP, EOP, and COOP Plan. I know after reading this book it will be added to mine and we will see future exercises of this (or similar) scenario.
I have faith that society will not devolve as quickly as it did in the book, but we saw just how splintered the nation got just from COVID. Disasters have typically brought the best in communities, but those disasters were comparatively short lived, when that disaster period goes beyond weeks and into months, or year(s) we will see social decay, how much depends on the resilience of local government.
As an exercise practitioner I appreciate the extreme realism of the story, it is this level of extreme that turns into great and challenging exercises. This scenario will challenge any Emergency Management team and expose some real capability gaps.