North Korea just launched it’s most advanced nuclear capable ballistic missile (Hwasong-15) a few days ago and it’s one that’s capable of reaching the mainland United States. This is unprecedented as all of the previous missiles that were launched had a limited range and could at worst hit our allies in Guam and maybe the Hawaiian islands.
The real danger isn’t really the nuclear missile hitting the mainland US, but rather an EMP (Electromagnetic pulse) detonated far above the United States. Why would North Korea openly choose an EMP option rather than a direct nuclear attack? The reasons are simple, but two fold – First an EMP doesn’t need to be as accurate as a direct nuclear strike and it’s effects are more wide spread, Second an EMP blast high in the atmosphere is harder to stop. Most of our conventional missile deterrents are built for lower altitude strikes.
What an EMP could do (and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there) is destroy our communications and our power grid. It could destroy communications satellites in space and destroy low voltage communications on the ground (this includes ethernet and telephone lines). The way an EMP could destroy our power grid is by overloading power lines and transformers or overloading smaller connections to the larger grid that aren’t hardened against an EMP. Many power companies have hardened their primary lines against an EMP (as EMPs can be naturally occurring, albeit rare like the great solar storm of 1859) and even our government has hardened are nuclear facilities in case of such an event.
What can you do against an EMP? Well you really can’t do anything. I’ve read that you can make Faraday cages out of metal trash bins and you can even purchase commercially available ones on Amazon, but other than that you can’t really prepare for one. The best you can do is prepare for its aftermath. Have enough food, water, and tools to survive an extended period of time without power. Don’t panic and ride the storm out until infrastructure can be rebuilt.
Feature Image Courtesy of Nasa