Event Recap: InfraGard at the Dupont EMP Summit 2015

On December 3-4, 2015, the InfraGard National EMP SIG convened day-long sessions for the fourth year at the Dupont Summit on the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threat in Washington, D.C., to discuss the ongoing efforts for mitigation and possible contingency plans should an EMP event take place. InfraGard National’s EMP SIG Chairman Chuck Manto lined up a day brimming with expert speakers presenting valuable information underscoring the seriousness of this insidious threat and the importance of remaining diligent in developing and maintaining our defense against it.

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett addresses the InfraGard EMP SIG at the 2015 Dupont Summit in December.
Congressman Roscoe Bartlett addresses the InfraGard EMP SIG at the 2015 Dupont Summit in December.

Among the many highlights included a presentation by Mr. Bill Murtaugh from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on the role of the new National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, which was subsequently echoed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and DHS A/S Caitlin Durkovich. In previous plans, efforts at emergency preparedness had suggested having three days’ worth of food and water, since federal help was committed to arrive no later than the fourth day following a disaster. In the event of extreme space weather, that time window may stretch from 40 days to 400, adding whole new dimensions of complexity to the prospect of survival of the populace. The plan also spoke to other high-impact threats covered in the Triple Threat Power Grid Exercise formally presented to FEMA and the DHS at the Summit. The hope is that counties and states nationwide will make use of the exercise and subsequently issue feedback so that the Exercise can continue to be improved.

A panel discussion was held regarding the Department of Defense’s request for proposals (RFP) through the Small Business Innovation Research program to establish EMP-protected microgrids for military bases and other key institutions, as well as resources that enable these places to function normally. As with the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan, the DoD RFP urged community preparedness for highly extended nationwide power outages, and general increased resilience — a primary goal of the EMP SIG since its inception. Another panel, led by Ambassador R. James Woolsey explored the possibilities of direct-current microgrids as an effective option, as well as other similar solutions that are making inroads into the market.

Both the Space Weather Strategy and the DoD RFP were published as part of a kit called Planning Resilience for High-Impact Threats, which includes verbatim transcripts of the 2014 conference presentations, with hyperlinks to videos of them, featuring speakers Sen. Ron Johnson, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, and other officials from the federal, state and local levels, as well as leaders from the private sector. It also includes supplemental publications and official documents that arose since the first conference. This will enable future conference new attendees the ability to get up-to-date quickly.

Additional publications available in the wake of the Summit include the above-mentioned Triple Threat Power Grid Exercise, available with a companion PowerPoint presentation and facilitator’s guide (via controlled circulation).  The premise of this exercise starts with the concept that this is the first time the federal government has been willing to admit that they won’t always be able to effectively rescue the populace within four days after a disaster. The program as it exists has been offered to the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the National Guard, and is being considered for use by the National Governors Association and the National Association of Counties. InfraGard looks forward to collaborating with others to expand the use of the Triple Threat Power Grid Exercise to raise awareness of the need for greater preparation and increased mitigation efforts nationwide. InfraGard National would like to see a dozen local exercises take place within the next six months, and hundreds, if possible, over the following year.

But help is needed at the Chapter level to accomplish this. The previous day at the Dupont Summit, the EMP SIG convened a planning session to discuss the creation of this companion book to the Exercise that will provide help to those wishing to improve their disaster and continuity planning. Most planners have not previously confronted such a difficult planning task and need help exploring ideas, relationships and additional resources. Leading experts and organizations continue to provide input into that book, which should be completed by this fall. Those who are interested in participating in that effort should contact Ms. Mary Lasky at [email protected]

A final note: Previous conference proceedings from the Dec. 2014 Summit, Mitigating High-Impact Threats to Critical Infrastructure and 2013’s High-Impact Threats to Critical Infrastructure, address the threat of solar weather, as well as firsthand discussion of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Both are also currently available on the EMP SIG portion of the website at www.infragard.org.endicon