Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

EMPs, fact and fiction

Written By: Bob - Dec• 26•11

The Charlotte Observer is the latest (and I do mean several weeks late) to write about Newt Gingrich’s views on the use of electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) weapons of nuclear origin, especially as told in the forward of William Forschen’s One Second After.

Airliners falling from the sky. Mass starvation. Roving gangs in lawless cities. Highways transformed into “nightmare paths of exile.” That’s the American Armageddon envisioned by Bill Forstchen, a history professor at Montreat College in Black Mountain, about 110 miles west of Charlotte. It’s also a doomsday threat invoked by Forstchen’s longtime friend, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Their apocalyptic scenario: EMP, an electromagnetic pulse triggered by a nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere, crippling electrical grids, infrastructure and society as we know it.

The article then goes on to cite skeptics (including the unqualified Yousaf Butt, of the Federation of American Scientists) and talk to Forschen about his numerous literary collaborations with Gingrich, but the point of the article seems to be Hey, that Gingrich guy is a little too crazy to be President, huh?

The simple fact of the matter is that we honestly do not know what would happen if we experienced a significant EMP event in the United States, whether that event is the result of a deliberate attack or the result of solar weather. There are literally too many variables, and considering the worst case scenarios that could result, Gingrich is right to argue for a hardening of our power grid, as that hardening can be done relatively inexpensively (billions instead of trillions in Washington’s new math) and can help protect the overall grid from regional brownouts and blackouts as well.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working on a EMP-related disaster novel of my own, based upon the premise of a group of family and friends trying to ride out the aftermath in a suburban neighborhood instead of fleeing for the hills as characters seem to do in many other books in the genre. I’ve made two attempts so far to game out the plot of a full-effect One Second After-type EMP blast, and have stopped each because I can’t figure out how to keep my main characters alive. That may very well be the case in a real event, but I don’t think a book written with that outcome would be enjoyable to write, or to read.


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  1. Neo says:

    Back before the breakup of AT&T in the early 1980’s, the Bell System used to design their telecommunications systems to absorb the majority of an EMP attack without harm to the telephone system.
    Since the breakup, with falling rates and income, I’m pretty sure most of that ability to fend off an EMP attack is probably in some landfill.

  2. Phelps says:

    It’s hard to filter through the misinformation. For a long time, I had written off cars, but recent testing on cars shows that even late model cars will be drivable after a significant pulse (although you can kiss the FM and your electronic dashboard goodbye).

    Before, I put less of an emphasis on gasoline storage. Now, I keep a little more in rotation, since mechanized bugout is now the primary response for all extended grid-down situations. (Meaning, now I always intend to drive out of Dodge, situation permitting.)