Probability Low to Medium
The thought was originally to put an EMP threat in the title, it was left out however, because it is becoming increasingly obvious that the power grid can be damaged, or even destroyed by other than an EMP attack.
This does not mean however, the threat of an EMP is any less, it simply means there are other ways of damaging, or destroying the power grid, ways that do not require the detonation of a nuclear device. In other words, our power grid and communication infrastructure is extremely vulnerable, and it would take little expertise or effort to cause significant damage.
A small group of dedicated individuals with some knowledge of the infrastructure could conceivably shut down virtually any sized city.
The threat also includes the loss of Internet, cable, cell service and other electronic communications. Remember Northern Arizona a few days ago, and even though the disruption only lasted a few hours it created a serious situation for many of the residents.
It would take considerable effort, the effort of a nation state in most cases, to shut down a large portion of the United States, so the more imminent threat for now is localized, as it was in Northern Arizona. Cities here and there can be shut down for a few hours, or a few days, causing serious damage to the financial, as well as, the physical well being of the residents.
If there is a coordinated effort multiple cities could be shut down at the same time. The communication infrastructure would likely be targeted first to slow the response by the authorities (slow down not stop), and then power stations would be sabotaged immediately after communications were disrupted. This would take considerable effort, but again not nearly the effort to detonate a nuclear device.
There would be no need to smuggle any device into the country, because all materials to carry out the plan could be obtained in virtually any city or town, and the people involved would not need extensive training. They would need practice drills, and have the ability to work, as a team, but sophisticated training and expertise would not be required.
As you by now know, a shovel or an ax in the hands of someone bent on creating trouble can create problems for thousands of people with one or two whacks. Imagine if a group decided to do this and they put some effort into the planning and execution.
Prepare For the Most Likely
Essentially you can awaken on any given day and find that your cell phone does not work, your Internet is out, and the Television is blank. It has happened, and it will likely happen again.
It may only be your town or city but that is of little comfort to you and others affected. You need to be able to use your debit card to pump fuel into your vehicle so you can get to work in the next town, you need groceries, and you need medications for your children all of which are denied to you, because no one can process debit or credit cards. Fuel pumps may not even work at all, and if they do you need to pay with cash before you pump.
Things to Have On Hand
- Cash to fill your gas tank at least once and twice is better
- Cash for medications and small food purchases enough for three days
- Two-Way radios (Walkie Talkies) for emergency communications, each member of the family should have one, and of course know what channel for family communications
- Citizens Band (CB) radios can also be used along with ham radios in some cases
- Radios for news broadcast because you cannot rely on Televisions, Smart phones or the Internet for information gathering
If someone severed a fiber optic cable supplying your city, 911 services may be disrupted, so this means that if you have a medical emergency, or need the police they may not be able to receive your call, let alone respond to an emergency. This also applies to the fire department.
People of course will take advantage, so once it becomes known that the police cannot receive emergency calls then certain people will act out, there may even be some minor looting and attempted robberies of homes and businesses. This is something you have to be prepared for.
You should know already what the emergency plans are for the local school system. You will want your children with you, so you have to know the procedures for picking them up during a crisis of this nature.
If possible stay home and avoid driving. You simply do not know what effects the crisis will have on signal lights, draw bridges, toll booths and so on.
The Internet only needs to be down for a few hours to create havoc in any sized city. Be prepared for when it happens in your city or town next.