Perhaps because President Donald Trump didn't tweet about it, his message about a little-known nuclear threat didn't get the attention some people thought it deserved.
But Ron Hellenthal, leader of the Neighborhood Emergency Team in Hayhurst, was definitely paying attention to the presidential warning about a nuclear attack, which could trigger an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) with the potential of disrupting all things electronic. In other words, the essentials of civilization as we know it.
"It's on my radar screen for sure because with 30 years served in the military, I'm very familiar with that kind of situation," he said.
It was pure coincidence, Hellenthal said, that his presentation to the Hayhurst NET on the threat and potential consequences of an EMP attack came just two days after the Executive Order and Presidential message was issued on March 26.
In that Executive Order, the President endeavored to put the threat on everyone's radar screen. According to Stratfor, a think tank that deals with national security issues, "The Executive Order mandates that a variety of government agencies coordinate with the private sector to warn of an impending EMP, and to take measures to prepare for, protect against, respond to and recover from an EMP event — outlining specific tasks for the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and Energy, among other agencies."
An EMP could occur naturally as a "cosmic event" or it could be triggered by a nuclear bomb detonated in the atmosphere by a hostile force.
Hellenthal, who goes by "Captain Ron," and the NET members in attendance on April 17, are ahead of the game when it comes to EMP awareness.
"I think they were all kind of surprised, in awe and shocked," Hellenthal said. "I don't think they gave much thought prior to our discussing it. When you start laying things out in front of them and they start seeing how many different things can happen, it really surprised them."
While some analysts have warned of catastrophic consequences should the electrical grid go down, others have questioned whether it's really possible to weaponize an EMP.
Hellenthal comes down on the side of those preaching preparedness for such an event.
"This is a wake-up call," he said. "I'm trying to get NET members to think ahead. It's tough to do without scaring the bejesus out of them but it's pure logic. We'll see what life was like before electronics for our ancestors in the 1800s. Once this EMP thing hits, whether it be a temporary situation or long-term thing, basically you're back before pioneer days. I don't think people really realize that."
One skeptic of the catastrophic EMP scenario, nuclear weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR in October 2017 that the detonation of a nuclear bomb in the skies above the Pacific Ocean in 1962 caused only minor damage in Hawaii.
"This is the favorite nightmare scenario of a small group of very dedicated people," Lewis said.
Asked about the reaction he received form fellow NET members Hallenthal chuckled and said, "I think they left wishing they hadn't heard about it. Several of them were saying 'Okay we get the idea, are we done talking about this?'"
Hellenthal invites anyone who would like to help out in the event of an emergency to attend one of the Hayhurst NET meetings.
"I have new topics every month. I try to hit subjects that are relevant to people's lives, so they think more about the mission of the Hayhurst NET program," he said.
Want to learn more?
Monthly NET Team Planning/Training meetings are held from 6:45-8:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month except December. Non-NET certified attendees are welcome to learn more and help out.
For more information, visit www.hayhurstnet.com
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