When you think about terrorism, you think about a bomb going off in a crowded area. You think about what happened on 9/11. You don’t normally think about an electromagnetic pulse targeting the civilian power grid. But Houston area Congressman Mike McCaul says you should.
“The damage that could be caused would be catastrophic,” McCaul said at a hearing in Washington. “All these things would actually pale in comparison to the devastation that an EMP attack could perpetrate on Americans.”
The experts say that an attack could kill nine out of ten people. Joan Neuhaus Schaan of the Texas Security Forum says the consequences would be devastating.
“Most people would not be able to turn on their car. You would not be able to get gas. You would not be able to get money out of the ATM machine. Credit cards would not work,” she explained to KTRH.
And who could pull that off?
“Anyone who has a nuclear weapon likely also has the ability to launch this electronic pulse,” Neuhaus Schaan said.
And she believes the Texas grid is vulnerable.
“Many of the switching devices are on modern technology,” Neuhaus Schaan said.
However, ERCOT officials say they are prepared for widespread blackouts.
“While no system is 100 percent invulnerable, industry members work continually to keep their systems and protection measures state-of-the-art to ensure that the state’s electrical grid remains secure. ERCOT’s job is to take appropriate steps to minimize the probability of a significant grid event and to be ready to respond if it does” ERCOT said in a statement.
“ERCOT is prepared for grid emergencies regardless of cause, whether it’s a weather event or some other physical or cyber event that might cause multiple failures of power plants or transmission lines.”
The problem with an EMP attack is that it doesn’t have to be the result of terrorism. Rice’s Patricia Reiff told KTRH it could also happen because of a solar event.
“If it happened, it would cause a tremendous disruption in our electrical grid,” Reiff stated.
But would it kill 90% of Americans affected?
“I think that’s probably pretty farfetched,” Reiff said.
Solar events like that are rare. The last two were the 1859 Carrington Event and the 1921 Railroad Storm.