Tampa, Fla. (WTSP) -- Imagine the anger you would have if you learned the United States knew in advance about the terror attacks on 9/11, and could have prevented them, but it decided to do nothing.
Some are saying the country is vulnerable to a much more catastrophic incident that will alter every American's life, but the government is ignoring the threat... as well as the simple fix to protect us all.
Faced with no power, no computers, no gas: that's what some New York and New Jersey residents had to deal with for days and weeks because of Super Storm Sandy.
Now imagine an event that would affect the power supply of the entire country not for days, but for months.
"People will die"
Former CIA Bureau Chief Claire Lopez says if that happened "Within one year, it is estimated that 9/10 of all Americans would be dead."
Lopez, an intelligence expert, says the country is facing a major threat that could knock out all the power for an extended period.
According to Lopez "People will die if the power goes out for an extended period." Lopez says those who depend on medical services will be affected first.
Someone like Richard Jackson, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2008, could not live without sustained power.
Jackson's wife Mae, who cares for him around the clock, says "He is totally dependent on the ventilator."
If the power is gone, Mae Jackson says they have a generator which will run nine days on propane they have stored.
"Once that goes, then I fall on the batteries which would give me about nine hours." That means he can exist for nine days and nine hours. Past that, and Jackson is in trouble.
And if there was no place to go to for power, not only is Jackson in trouble, but so is the entire country.
Representative Cliff Sterns (R) says "The devastation would be nine out 10 Americans would be affected by this.
Sterns is talking about an Electro Magnetic Pulse, or EMP event, which very few people are aware of. However the Federal EMP Commission says the United States is at risk from an EMP attack that could be generated one of two ways.
It could be launched by a low level nuclear missile that would explode over the atmosphere. There is a concern nations like Iran or North Korea, which have the technology, could do something like that. There is also a worry that terrorists could launch such a missile.
The second threat comes from a solar flare like the ones that NASA and other scientists could occur in 2013.
Either one of those methods would destroy all microchips or plunge the country into a time before electricity was invented.
Sterns says, "People talk about EMP and they think it is science fiction. But it is here today and it can occur."
Representative Yvette Clarke (D) warns, "It's the difference between life as we know it today and a whole new way of life."
Clarke is on the Homeland Security committee and she has seen classified documentation that makes her believe the EMP threat is more than science fiction. She calls it, " An inevitable threat."
The effects of such an event would be devastating as anything that runs on a computer chip -- from cars, to banking, to gas stations -- would no longer operate and America as we know know it would no longer exist.
Lopez says, "This means there will be no more food in the supermarkets. They will be cleaned out in days." Lopez adds, "There will be no more deliveries of gasoline, you will not be able to get around by car."
Physics professor Dr. Michael Frankel, the executive director of the EMP Commission, has been urging Congress to take action now or the country faces a catastrophic risk.
Frankel says, "Imagine going for many months without an electric power and an awful lot of people are going to die if that happens." Frankel warns, "I think all of us realize this could occur at anytime."
Florida is particularly vulnerable, because the state can only receive power from the electric grid one way, from the north. If the path is destroyed, Florida goes dark for months.
Cheap and simple solution ignored
Sterns and others are frustrated that Congress has failed to act on a simple plan to protect the county with what's called "Faraday cages" around major transmission lines.
Clarke says part of the problem is many of her fellow House and Senate members are in denial. She says, "I really think it has to do with a lack of wanting to believe it is real."
But experts say while the threat is real, the solution would cost less than a one-time fee of $5 for electric customers.
Lopez says it makes no sense to avoid the fix. "It's a very small amount to the individual electric consumer customer one time, and it's protected."
That's why Mae Jackson, who uses her faith to help her cope with her husband's ALS and understands how critical electricity is, can't understand why Congress isn't moving forward to protect Americans from an EMP event.
Jackson says, "Politicians, Congress... they don't need to drag their feet when it comes to life, sustaining life."
Because if nothing is done before an EMP event, sustaining life will be impossible for many... and it will be too late to help them when the lights go out.
Two years ago, the House unanimously passed a bill that would have protected the electric grid, but it died in the Senate.
While Democrat Yvette Clark and Republican Trent Franks are pushing a new bill, many in Congress don't place it high on their agenda... even though last week there was a solar flare powerful enough to knock out the grid, but it missed Earth.
Clarke says it is hard to convince people to do something about a potential disaster until after it happens and it is too late. Clark suggests anyone concerned about an EMP event contact their representative and ask what they are doing about it.