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Protecting FirstNet from an EMP

Now is the time to mitigate the EMP hazard.

by Eric Holdeman / April 29, 2015

A public comment period recently ended on FirstNet. With the help from others heavily dedicated to countering the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), I submitted the comment below to try and draw attention to the issue. If you are going to mitigate a hazard, the best time to do so is while you are building out the system and not after it is build. It is the cheapest alternative and in reality, mitigation won't be done once it is built until there is a catastrophic loss due to an EMP to portions of the electrical grid and other communications systems

"A significant threat to our communications systems exist. Reports by the Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States of Attack by Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) (EMP Commission), available at, finds that EMP from solar storms or human-caused attacks against critical infrastructure will be devastating to our nation's telecommunications networks and efforts to protect and mitigate such infrastructure are strongly needed. Likewise, a report from the Congressional Research Service Updated July 21, 2008, on High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and High Power Microwave (HPM) devices: Threat Assessment at link, finds such treats credible, worthy of investing in prevention and mitigation efforts, and with selected high priority mitigation dramatically decreasing the economic costs and time for recovery.

In building a dedicated digital communications network for our nation's first responders we should work to make that system of systems as disaster resilient as possible. It is estimated that the cost for protecting systems to be in the range of 3 percent to 10 percent of a total system project cost, and which is a small fraction of the total system costs when compared to the property and lives lost for not investing in the 'insurance' such mitigation efforts provide. Since we are building a new national system from scratch, now is the time to incorporate the latest EMP mitigation and prevention measures into the design and operation of the new system."

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