What happened the last time you flicked a light switch? The power came on, right? And the time before, and the time before. More importantly, you also expect it to continue coming on next time you flick the switch, too.
Well, maybe you don’t have such expectations, because you’re a cautious prepper, and the unknown is unsurprising to you. But all the unaware people around us – their lives would be destroyed if our national electricity distribution grid failed to function as it needs to, distributing electricity from the places in the country where it is generated to the places in the country where it is needed, smoothing out regional peaks and troughs of demand, and so on.
If you look around you, you probably see houses or offices, stores full of goods, cars and trucks on highways, and so on – all the essential things of our society. But our entire society is built on the thing you don’t see – electricity. Given the essential nature of this intangible, you might be forgiven for assuming that the integrity of the electrical grid is assured, protected, and robustly engineered to be fail-safe and fault-tolerant.
On the other hand, you know what they say about making assumptions…..
With that as introduction, here now is a semi-secret report by New Jersey’s Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC) which monitors regional (terrorist) threat levels. The report is of course written in ‘officialese’ and is careful not to make any comments or express any opinions that are too extreme or upsetting. But it does note an uptick in probing type activity against grid infrastructure locations across the entire country, including at least three intrusions in NJ located facilities in October 2013 and another three in January 2014. It focused on three more intrusions over the last year (in AR, AZ and CA) that it says highlights the grid’s vulnerability.
The report’s conclusion? Our national grid is ‘inherently vulnerable’ to attacks that could wipe out power across vast portions of the country.
The report is as significant for what it doesn’t say as for what it does say. While it acknowledges that many ‘critical links’ in the grid infrastructure sit open and unprotected in remote locations, and correctly says this makes the grid vulnerable, it fails to consider the implications of a grid failure, and – perhaps most significantly of all – it fails to mention how long it would take to restore the grid after an attack that took out more than one or two or three key locations.
As we’ve reported in previous articles on this topic (and, if nothing else, do read this article in particular – Why Our Electricity Grid is So Vulnerable), the huge problem we have is that the super-transformers that are used in the grid are not made in the US, but instead are made in China, and have to be ordered years in advance of delivery. If we need one more super-transformer, we might have to wait three years, but what happens if we need ten or a hundred of them? Sure, the first might be delivered in three years time, but how long until the tenth and the one hundredth arrive?
That’s a problem with no upside, only downside. Indeed, who really cares about the delivery date for the 100th replacement super-transformer. The three-year delay to receive the first of them is more than enough cause for concern. What part of our society can function for three years without electricity? For three months? For three weeks? For many people and businesses, three days will be a struggle, three weeks will see starvation set in, and in way less than three months, unconstrained anarchy will reign.
It is an enormous puzzle as to how our nation happily (?) spends billions of dollars a year on aviation type security, but willfully overlooks a vulnerability that is much easier to exploit and which could have much greater negative impacts on very many more people than could any type of attack on our aviation system.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do as preppers to reduce the national vulnerability to our power grid going down. But there’s a lot we can do to reduce our personal vulnerability to such things.
Have you done so for yourself? Are you doing so at present?