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SERIES: Commission Warns Congress of EMP Possibility

Part 1 of 3: North Korea launched its most powerful missile to date yesterday, and a defunded commission warned Congress back in October an electromagnetic pulse attack is a possibility.

Posted: Nov. 29, 2017 7:26 PM
Updated: Nov. 30, 2017 9:40 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- A commission warned Congress that up to 90 percent of the American population could die from the effects of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

That commission was established during the George W. Bush administration, and was defunded in September of 2017. On October 12, the members of that commission warned Congress that North Korea has the capability to destroy our power grid with one bomb detonated over our country.

"With a single nuclear weapon, [they] could destroy the electric grid and the life-sustaining critical infrastructures in the United States," said Peter Pry, former Chief of Staff for the EMP commission. "Just one bomb, or just one event from the sun could end electronic civilization on the whole world."

The missile or bomb carrying the EMP would explode high in the Earth's atmosphere. Because of this, it could be the weapon of choice for North Korea. An EMP device wouldn't need as accurate a navigation system as a nuclear bomb.

The detonation would send out gamma rays, which would interact with the Earth's magnetic field. This "pulse" acts as a power surge and can damage electrical circuits, things like cell phones, hospital emergency equipment, and cars driving down the freeway.

“You go in a modern car when the window roll down by motors, your doors open by keystrokes -- which mean you need a computer, and once your system is fried, none of those work," Peter Wu, director of physics at Southern Oregon University said.

Steve, who preferred to keep his last name private, is former military intelligence, and was part of the National Guard rescue crews during the 1997 Ashland flood.

"I think there is a legitimate threat, having studied North Korea tactics and equipment, I know that there is a threat," Steve said.

Steve keeps a go-bag ready, just in case a mass emergency hits -- not just an EMP, but an earthquake, wildfire, or flood.

"It goes a long way to be able to go 'Hey my family is not going to be the first one in line for food,'" Steve said.

He said the most important thing to have is a fresh source of water, either by filtering or boiling it. The next is a way to keep your body warm. Finally, you need food -- something sustainable, like rice and beans -- and a source of fat, like coconut oil. Steve says the best way to do that is to learn how to grow your own food, and how to can.

"It’s not too hard to do a couple weeks. I mean for an EMP? Ideally years, but I even gave up on that idea because I’d rather just learn how to grow food at some point," Steve said. "But I would recommend at least 2 weeks, if you can. Beans and rice are inexpensive."

EMPs can also come from the sun. Click here to find out how the sun has, can, and will threaten our power grid.

Click here to find out if Southern Oregon is prepared for a mass emergency event.

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