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Like this article? We recommend Everything Breaks—Eventually

Everything Breaks—Eventually

In 8000 years of human history as we know it, there is nothing mankind has invented that does not fail sometimes. So too it is with our critical infrastructure. Therefore, most critical national infrastructures are fault-tolerant at least to some degree. Design engineers and system managers are cognizant of, and fully expect, failure of subsystems and individual electrical components. Telecommunications and electric networks are designed to avoid single-point failures. Despite everything, the unexpected happens and things break. Single-point failures are anticipated in the design of the systems and engineering solutions of various kinds, including redundancy, rapid repair, replacement, and operational rerouting.

Planning for multiple failures, however, particularly within a short time, is much less common. No one has even imagined a scenario with the loss of hundreds or even thousands of nodes across all the critical national infrastructures, all down at the same time. This is precisely the circumstance contemplated by an EMP. This is, in part, why the EMP Commission addressed the following areas in its report:

  • Electric power
  • Telecommunications
  • Banking and finance
  • Petroleum and natural gas
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Water
  • Emergency services
  • Space
  • Government
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