John Pryor

John Pryor

Most local business owners view their major risk to be that of an earthquake.

The recent Ridgecrest and 1952 Kern County earthquakes registered very high Richter scale magnitudes. The damage from each was extensive. Miraculously, fatalities were in small numbers.

Yet the “really big one” will be like neither of these. The Fort Tejon earthquake in 1857 is a better example. Its magnitude was about 32 times greater than the 1953 and 2019 events. It is on the nearby San Andreas fault where geologists expect our next major event to occur.

Think about that. As severe as earthquakes were in Ridgecrest this year and Bakersfield in 1952, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake will be about 30 times as destructive to property! Fatalities will not be in low numbers this time. To the credit of our business community, many local businesses participated in the Oct. 17, 10:17 a.m.

Great California ShakeOut earthquake drill. Kern County recorded 734 business registrations — 4,258 individuals for health care, 185 for nonprofits and 300 for agriculture-livestock businesses. Full information about this annual drill is at www.shakeout.org. You and your employees will not want to miss this opportunity next year — assuming no major earthquake strikes Kern County in the interim. As major and destructive as this coming earthquake will be, it “doesn’t hold a candle” to our very different risk that is yet to come! It is manmade. It will affect our entire country. It is very rarely mentioned in major media reporting. Within one year of its occurrence, it is projected by the federal government that 90% of us will not survive that initial year.

Looting, riots and homicides will be experienced in all states of the continental U.S. Most businesses will fail virtually overnight. Congress could protect us, but evidently is unwilling to appropriate the $2 billion reported to be needed to eliminate this risk. “Chicken feed” for Congress. Yet still no action by those who represent us in that forum.

Do I have your attention?

What is this utterly destructive risk? It’s known most commonly by its acronym — EMP — electromagnetic pulse. It is an ideal weapon for terrorists or enemy nations to use against us.

Sparing you complex technical details, you need to know this is either an atomic or hydrogen bomb exploded at about 30,000 feet above the U.S. At that altitude, it doesn’t injure or kill anyone, nor does it destroy or damage property. What it does is destroy our nation’s public electrical grid. Totally. Not only do lights suddenly go out, cars with electronic systems will stop in their tracks. Most importantly, the digital world on which we each desperately depend on disappears!

This is not a typical power outage we experience for only a few hours. Most optimistic projections say full restoration of our national grid could take an entire year or longer. Think about it. Your business will be shut down. You will not be able to drive to work, unless you have an antique nondigitalized Studebaker. Access to fuel will disappear quickly. Anything in your business (or your home) with a microchip will no longer function! Your property insurance will not respond. No property loss would have been sustained. The peril of war is expressly excluded. If somehow covered under the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, the maximum payable is $100 billion per year. That will help some but clearly not all.

Food and water will quickly disappear. Medications from your local pharmacy will be unavailable. Wind turbines, solar panels and generators will not help. We suddenly will find ourselves living in the same age endured by our great-great-grandparents.

Is there a solution?

The ideal solution is to shield our national grid system. To individually shield our businesses (and homes), electronic devices can be expensive — and there are no guarantees. The federal government’s role to shield our grid should be at the top of Congressional priorities. Some reports say the separate military grid is already shielded.

Others say it is not, or only partially so. Several books are available on this topic, beginning with “One Second After” by William R. Forstchen. More data are available on the internet. Just Google “EMP.”

This risk must be eliminated now, not during the next session of Congress. This session. Shielding of our national electrical grid should be at the top of Congressional priorities. $2 billion is proverbial peanuts for Congress to budget.

Kevin McCarthy, we need your leadership! Now! Not after it’s too late.

John Pryor, CPCU, ARM is a risk management consultant for CSU Bakersfield’s Small Business Development Center. Free management counsel is available business owners — new or existing — by registering at www.csub.edu/sbdc.

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