Filed Wednesday, August 6. 2008
EMP attacks should be considered when planning business continuity for utilities, municipalities, airports, hospitals and all corporate data centers.
The use of EMP bombs have received some recent attention from many people. What was once considered a real threat in the Cold War lost its importance after the war ended. EMP bombs, though, are now being resurrected by defense analysts who see it as a real threat again. This was discussed in an earlier column:
These types of bombs can really damage the overall economy by destroying the infrastructure and the virtual electronic platform it provides for regional economic development.
This is a real issue that has received some good responses from readers.
In some circles, it has been somewhat forgotten by many concerned with infrastructure and facilities security since the end of the Cold War. A new report recently came out and was presented to the U.S. House of Representatives. Within it, the authors discuss the critical infrastructure that would be affected by an EMP blast:
Various lists are in circulation that identify the critical infrastructures. The EMP Commission has chosen to address the following areas in separate sections of this commission report:
It’s hard to imagine the thoroughness of this kind of devastation. Anything that requires some type of processor or electronic circuitry would be rendered useless. Imagine driving a car on the expressway, and when the EMP explodes, poof! No more power. The same goes for electronics on airplanes. Are most systems being shielded? No.
One reader pointed out that (when it comes to data centers) most customers aren’t asking for them to be protected against EMP threats:
The clients (other than a rare few) have not asked for them to be protected against EMPs. In fact, most are not. In the event of an “event,” all that data goes poof.
There’s an apathetic attitude that “this is never going to happen to us”. Remember when no one thought the basements in downtown Chicago office buildings would be flooded out?
In 1992 when a tunnel ceiling underneath the Chicago River collapsed and millions of gallons of water started flooding up through basements and subbasements, many facilities experts were caught short. The floods ruined many building systems and rendered many buildings useless.
Some buildings sustained major residual damage from the flood including ruined boilers, generators and other building systems that got flooded out. An EMP bomb would make that event seem insignificant. There is too much of an attitude that “this can’t happen, and therefore, I don’t need to prepare for it”.
Who’s Stockpiling Food? Why?
My last column on EMPs attracted responses from across the country. It also prompted an interview with a radio program that has watched this area of concern for some time. Another reader pointed out that there’s some concern that dried and canned food is being stockpiled by the government.
No one seems to have the explanation for this, and when you start researching all of these items, you start to conclude that something’s up. In a real EMP attack, anything electronic would go including things you take for granted like refrigerators. This comes from a government Web site:
The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold [its] temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
Looking at the numbers, anything refrigerated or frozen would last no longer than two days. After that, only canned and non-perishable items would be any good.
That is something to really consider. How many people actually prepare for this? Ten percent? Five percent? Most people are focused on their daily routine and day-by-day patterns of life. They would not concern themselves with this. Maybe they should.
Some Cynics Say There’s No Threat
There are always some who say everything is a government conspiracy or whatever fits their bleating agenda. EMP threats are right up there as a fabricated “bogeyman”.
Some of these people are very naïve. If they were denied of their iPhones, iPods and hybrid cars, they would be the first ones wandering around in a daze while asking: “What are we going to do?”
How long could you last with no electricity, no transportation, no entertainment and no cell phones?
As stated in earlier columns, EMP bombs don’t need a tremendous level of funding, a high-tech GPS guidance system or a sophisticated platform to launch. If someone says this is a super bomb that it needs a very sophisticated delivery system and costs $25 billion, they might be a little more credible in their arguments of it being an unlikely or out-of-reach terrorist scenario.
The reality is that the EMP is a David and Goliath weapon. It is a bomb that is relatively cheap and easy to deliver that can do a lot of long-term if not permanent damage. Few seem to be working on minimizing its crippling impact with defensive deterrents.
Carlinism: Risk management people are leaving some gaping holds in their business continuity plans.
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