JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
In 2018, Joint Base San Antonio formed the San Antonio-Electromagnetic Defense collaborative, or SA-EMD, a quarterly public forum used to promote research and partnerships among Alamo Region civilian and military entities in preparation for the possibility of a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.
During this summer’s SA-EMD meeting June 10, one of the four work groups chartered through SA-EMD, Domestic Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, or DEMSO, released a guide to assist communities across the nation in preparing for this worst-case scenario, addressing both destructive solar-induced geomagnetic disturbances and high-altitude electromagnetic pulses, whether they are naturally occurring or man-made.
The diverse DEMSO work group includes an array of individuals from JBSA’s public-public, public-private, or P4, partnership, including local community leaders and experts who have contributed greatly to building the guide, according to Michael Lovell, executive director of SA-EMD at Joint Base San Antonio.
The group’s sole purpose is to increase resiliency against EMP events.
“Electromagnetic resiliency increases survivability and mitigates the effects of an electromagnetic event on the San Antonio community, including JBSA, an area increasingly reliant on the electromagnetic spectrum,” Lovell said.
“In response to Presidential Executive Order 13865, the Department of Defense selected SA-EMD to be part of the National Pilot Test for EMP resiliency, and the DEMSO guide is an educational resource to complement this effort,” he said.
“The guide is part of phase one of our approach to EMP defense, focusing on informing senior leaders, board presidents, and superintendents, from government, academia, and industry, in the Alamo region and across Texas of the critical infrastructure which needs protection from an EMP,” Lovell said.
The information provided in the guide is important not only to military operations in San Antonio, but to the community as well.
"Creating a resilient, survivable, and reliable electrical grid is a foundational element of National Security, and it begins with awareness and education,” said Guy Walsh, executive director of the National Security Collaboration Center, or NSCC, at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a member of SA-EMD. “This DEMSO Guide provides both the cornerstone and a launch point for action to secure our San Antonio community."
Once communities gain an understanding of EMPs and what is needed to build resiliency against them, they can begin implementing protection measures that are not necessarily difficult or costly.
“The DEMSO residency guide offers recommendations through 15 proposed actions that can be implemented today, for little to no additional cost,” said 2nd Lt. Blanche Dudoit, senior analyst for SA-EMD and JBSA’s 5G program. “They align with existing processes and programs, which include planning, organizing, training, exercising, and evaluating.”
In phase one of DEMSO’s plan, education is key to future success in communities, large or small. Each phase of the EMP Resiliency Maturity Model outlined in the guide, awareness, protection, mitigation, response and recovery, provides a framework to assess an organization’s level of preparedness and provides simple standards and objectives to which education and training can be developed.
"This guide provides necessary educational curriculum elements that should be developed for each level of society ranging from individuals to local government to help build EMP and geomagnetic disturbance resilience,” said Dr. John Huggins from NSCC.
Phase two of the DEMSO resiliency plan includes sharing lessons learned with military and civilian communities across the nation having a significant Department of Defense presence in their area.
The good news for everyone involved is that the United States currently has access to cutting-edge technology which can predict, detect, and notify communities of a potential solar storm.
“The gift of time, however, does not ensure a resilient system,” according to the guide. “The infrastructure within the United States power grids is dated and continues to age. Vulnerable transformers are not easily fixed or replaced, there are limited supplies in inventory, and the majority of large transformers are produced overseas, requiring an approximate 18-month lead time from order to installation. Additionally, today’s most vital communications, including financial transactions, rely heavily on earth-orbiting satellites for position, navigation and timing.”
But Lovell is confident the preparations and planning outlined in the guide will increase awareness, and, by default, bolster resiliency.
“Effective action begins with identifying the threats and hazards, and continues with determining the vulnerabilities and consequences associated with each,” he said. “Without awareness, there is no widespread motivation to act.”
Lovell hopes those utilizing the guide will do just that, act, generating widespread protections and mitigation efforts against EMP events.
The next phase, resilience, is specifically defined by the National Preparedness Goal as: “... the ability to adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and rapidly recover from disruption due to emergencies.”
“Recovery, however, is defined differently by each community,” Lovell said. “Based on circumstances, challenges, visions, and priorities, one community may describe recovery as the economic return to pre-disaster conditions, while another may view success as beginning new economic ventures."
Lovell emphasized that the responsibility of preparing for EMPs is not only that of cities and governments, it is also the responsibility of individuals.
“Individual preparedness is fundamental to the community success of the National Preparedness Goal,” he said. “If individuals, particularly first responders and employees with emergency response functions, and their families, are not prepared for an EMP event or long-term power outage, they will not be available to assist when the time comes.
“Ultimately, responsibility for readiness must occur within each household and organization. It is not feasible to expect a perfect, top-down mandated governmental solution,” Lovell said. “We must own this issue within the reaches of our individual spheres of authority.”
Note, that recommendations are made throughout the guide, but they should not be construed to conflict with any state or federal statute, or with any military or naval order, rule, or regulation.
The DEMSO Resiliency Guide may be found HERE.