WASHINGTON – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed legislation to require the state’s Department of Emergency and Military Affairs to prepare materials outlining what citizens need to know to deal with either a natural or man-made electromagnetic pulse event that could knock out the vulnerable electrical grid system over a wide geographical region.
The legislation, SB 1476, was introduced by Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa. It includes the type and quantity of food, water and medical supplies that each person should stockpile in case an EMP occurs over the U.S.
The legislation, however, doesn’t require actual hardening of the grid within the state.
“In our lifetimes the emergencies we’ve seen have been local emergencies, and really all we have to do is be prepared enough to hang on until help arrives,” Farnsworth said at the time he introduced it last February. “With an EMP, there’s no help coming.”
Under the legislation that now is law, the Arizona Division of Emergency Management is to post on its website recommendations such as the type and amount of supplies residents should stockpile to be prepared for an EMP event.
Farnsworth’s more immediate concern was the prospect of an EMP triggered by the detonation of a high-altitude nuclear weapon. The EMP would have the effect of knocking out the vulnerable grid system and any unprotected electronics.
“My hope is that by bringing this out, we’ll start discussions and come to the realization that as a government we can’t feed all these people, but as responsible citizens we need to do our part and make individual preparations,” he said at the time he introduced the legislation.
A co-sponsor of the legislation, Don Shooter, R-Yuma, had criticized the federal government for not taking a similar public education program.
“It’s too expensive for the government to prepare on a national scale,” Shooter said. “This time around, it’s people who can do the most to prepare. It’s even possible to EMP-proof your electronics. It just takes time.”
Shooter said the threat of an EMP event may be small, but “if it ever does happen, most people won’t be prepared. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and warn them now. God puts a watchman on the tower for times like these.”
State Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, was one of 17 lawmakers who voted against the original legislation, criticizing the focus on a catastrophe that he said was a very remote possibility.
“Really, we already have a major catastrophe in the state and that’s called our schools falling apart, our roads falling apart and we should be fixing those things,” he said. “Not living in some fantasy world worrying about some unquantified attack or some disaster that’s not gonna happen.”
Survival gear expert Tim Ralston of Scottsdale, Ariz., however, said that there are simple things that can be done to give people “peace of mind.”
“The food, the water, everything has to do with electricity. And an EMP in an instant would shut that all off,” he said.
Ralston said that less than 15 percent of the Arizona population is prepared for an electrical disruption of 30 days or more.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Ralston said of the new law. “I think any time we can take a proactive step to help people become more self-reliant it will help that transition.”
Arizona has taken a lead in moving on the EMP issue.
In February 2013, Rep. Trent Franks introduced the SHIELD Act in the House of Representatives and established in the U.S. House of Representatives the EMP Caucus.
The Shield Act stands for Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage. It calls on industry and government to develop, promulgate and implement standards and processes that are necessary to address the electric grid’s current vulnerabilities and shortcomings that would be affected by an EMP.
Franks has been trying to get the SHIELD Act into law since 2011. In the last session of Congress, it passed the House but failed in the Senate. His efforts stem from findings of the congressional EMP commission which spelled out in considerable detail the cascading impact of an EMP on the electrical grid system and its catastrophic impact on life-sustaining critical infrastructures that depend on it.
Experts agree that if there were an EMP event, the U.S. could see some 90 percent of its population affected. Experts believe food, water, energy and other supply systems could be nonoperational, possibly for periods extending to years.
Arizona is but the latest state to take action due to the failure of the federal government to address the EMP issue. Last June, Maine passed and the governor signed legislation ordering its grid to be hardened against an EMP.
The law not only requires preparation against a natural or man-made EMP, but it encourages other states to take a similar initiative.
Other states, including New York, Texas, North Carolina and Missouri, also are considering EMP legislation.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to look at EMP as a major threat in its 15 planning scenarios, even though DHS officials have testified before Congress that they are very aware of the consequences of an EMP event, whether natural or man-made.