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Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System (2012)

Chapter:8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage

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Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
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8

Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage

As discussed in Chapters 6 and 7, there are many things that can and should be done to make the nation’s electric power transmission and distribution systems more robust in the face of natural disruptions, equipment failures, or terrorist attacks. However, given the enormous complexity of the electric power system, and the fact that so much of the system is spread, unprotected, across large geographic areas, there is simply no way it can be made completely impervious to harm from natural disasters, system failures, or terrorist threats.

THE NEED FOR PLANNING FOR OUTAGES

Modern society and the digital economy have become ever more dependent on the continuous availability of electric power. For more and more applications, the need is not just for power, but for stable, highly reliable, high-quality power.1 Many organizations with especially critical needs for electric power have already made arrangements for alternate sources of generation including power-conditioning equipment and backup power supplies. These organizations range from major hospitals, most of which now have regularly tested backup generators that can power critical systems in operating rooms and critical care facilities,2 to financial institutions that must protect vital records and financial transaction data, to process industries that must keep production facilities, such as microelectronic fabrication lines or chemical plants, energized. In addition, virtually all critical air navigation systems and most of the backbone of major communication systems are highly dependent on high-quality uninterruptible power. Accordingly, most are now also protected by backup power supplies.

Yet many organizations that provide vital social services such as water, food, fuel, and communications remain vulnerable to both short- and long-term power interruptions. Indeed, some have become even more vulnerable with the widespread use of computer technology. For example, years ago telephones received their power over the same lines that carried the voice signals. In ordinary situations, an interruption of telephone service for a few hours or even a few days is an inconvenience. However, in an extended interruption of telephone and communication services during a major disaster, whether it is a terrorist attack or a natural disaster such as that experienced after Hurricane Katrina, lives may be lost if the public is unable to call 911, or if other emergency communications are disrupted.

There are many other situations in which electricity is required in order for basic services to function. These services include operating traffic signals to ensure the smooth flow of traffic in dense urban cores, pumps in the systems that provide potable water supplies and sanitary sewer systems, and compressors in natural gas supply systems that may be the fuel source for backup power systems or commercial and residential heating and/or air conditioning systems. The importance of functioning heating and cooling systems is forcefully demonstrated by the deaths that occurred from prolonged exposure to cold in the aftermath of the 1998 ice storm in Quebec, and from prolonged exposure to heat in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives HSPD-5 and HSPD-7, the President of the United States charged the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with developing and implementing plans to create a framework through which the plans and activities of the federal government, state and local governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental entities could be aligned for the purpose of identifying critical infrastructure priorities and developing strategies to protect and restore critical infrastructure and preserve pub-

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1“Stable” means, among other things, that the value of both voltage and frequency are maintained within tight margins. “high quality” means that the AC voltage and current wave forms are clean sinusoids with no significant harmonics, spikes, or similar short-term disruptions that can create havoc for modern electronics.

2Note, however, that during the Northeast blackout of August 2003, some of these hospital backup systems failed to operate, reinforcing the importance of regular testing and maintenance.

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
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lic health and safety. In response to these directives, DHS developed and released the National Incident Management System, National Response Plan, and National Infrastructure Protection Plan. Together these documents create a framework to facilitate government and private sector interaction to establish national priorities, goals, and requirements for homeland security and critical infrastructure protection. In addition, these plans provide a framework for multi-jurisdictional and cross-sector interaction to address inter-dependencies of critical infrastructure and key resources to ensure that federal funding and resources are applied in the most effective and efficient manner.

The enormity and complexity of identifying security vulnerabilities, prioritizing actions, and developing executable plans at the local, regional, or national level should not be underestimated; nor should the challenge of aligning private sector business priorities with the national security and public health and safety priorities of governments.3 These challenges extend well beyond the scope of this study and have yet to be comprehensively addressed. However, having noted the more general problem, the remainder of this chapter focuses specifically on the near- and long-term strategies for securing crucial services and critical infrastructure in the event of an extended power outage and provides recommendations on assessing and implementing these strategies.

STRATEGIES FOR SECURING CRUCIAL SERVICES

Assessing and Mitigating Vulnerabilities

In 2005, at the request of the state of Pennsylvania, investigators at the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center undertook an assessment of the nature and extent of critical social services in Pennsylvania that would be disrupted by power outages of a few hours to several weeks (PA DEP, 2005). Table 8.1 shows a slightly modified version of the taxonomy developed by that study. The study determined that with technology available today, and with careful foresight, many social vulnerabilities could be eliminated at modest cost. For example, the study found that while conventional traffic lights have electromechanical controllers and lamps that require over 100 watts, modern LED traffic lamps require less than a tenth as much power and can be operated on solid-state controllers. Systems like this, equipped with trickle charge battery backup, are now commercially available. Indeed, several such systems that had been installed in Ohio continued to operate during the August 14, 2003, Northeast blackout. The California Energy Commission has set up a program to help pay the incremental costs of backup for such lights.4 In a press release announcing that program in 2002, Energy Commissioner Robert Pernell noted:

When electric power fails and signal lights go out at a busy corner, traffic slows to a crawl.... Automobile accidents increase, and pedestrians find that weaving their way through the unregulated maze can be a dangerous, challenging prospect. But now local governments can protect critical intersections from power interruptions that can threaten motorists and pedestrians alike.

Promoting such solutions on a comprehensive basis will require greater coordination and planning. For example, in an extended blackout, it would probably not be necessary that all gas stations or cash machines have backup generators to run their pumps or dispense cash, nor would it likely be cost-effective for them to do so. Yet, private or public arrangements could be made to ensure that at least some facilities are so equipped and the public is informed about where to find them. Similarly, many water and sewer systems, or rapid transit systems, may not find it cost-effective to install dedicated backup systems. However, over time and with careful planning, as local utilities need to add peaking capacity, it might be possible to locate small generating facilities so that if and when the grid goes down, power can continue to be supplied to pumps or allow trains to get to stations (perhaps only a few at a time).

Note, too, that some minimum provision of some of these services is essential to restoring the power system trucks have to be able to get through and be fueled, crews need communications, and, in some circumstances, may also need police protection. Utilities have viewed ensuring access to such services as an important part of their contingency plans (see Chapter 7). However, to date most have not been proactive with respect to issues such as siting peaking plants close to critical loads so that, if necessary, they could be run independently of the grid. Nor have most worked with states and local communities to address other power needs in the event of a complete loss of power from conventional sources. In the future, if issues of critical services become more salient, some utilities may choose to voluntarily undertake initiatives to reduce the vulnerability of critical services in the absence of power from the grid. However, it is probably best that they maintain their primary focus on sustaining, or rapidly restoring, conventional service.

Few states and cities have conducted systematic studies to assess their vulnerabilities and develop cooperative public-private plans to reduce them. Clearly, it would be wise for states and cities, especially those that are assessed to be particularly vulnerable (Willis et al., 2005), to undertake such studies and to involve key players from private sector service providers, trade associations, and public agencies. Box 8.1 summarizes an exercise conducted by various departments

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3For example, when power and telecommunications were operated as regulated utilities, it was relatively easy for government to request a specific change (such as moving a switching center to a less vulnerable location) as the costs could simply be added to the “rate base.” Today, with the introduction of competition across much (but not all) of the power system, “socializing” such added costs becomes a great deal more difficult.

4See www.energy.ca.gov/releases/2002_releases/2002-05-20backups.html.

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
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TABLE 8.1 Examples of Critical Social Services That Depend on the Availability of Electric Power


Service Category Specific Service Typical Existing Backup Resulting Vulnerabilities

Emergency Services 911 and related dispatch centers Most have comprehensive backup power systems. Fuel supply and reliability could be an issue in long outages. See classified version.
Police headquarters and station houses Varies. Some stations do not have backup. AC power is often required for recharging hand-held radios. See classified version.
Fire protection services Same as above. See classified version.
Emergency medical services Same as above. See classified version.
Hazardous materials response teams Same as above. See classified version.
Medical services Ambulance and other medical transport services Limited. See classified version.
Life-critical in-hospital care (such as emergency rooms, life support systems, operating rooms) Full backup in most major facilities, but some failed during the blackout of August 14, 2003. Some systems have inadequate testing procedures. Fuel supply and reliability could be an issue in long outages. See classified version.
Less-critical in-hospital services (refrigeration, heating and cooling, sanitation, etc.) Availability of backup varies. Many smaller facilities lack backup. See classified version.
Clinics and pharmacies Many have no backup. See classified version.
Nursing homes Same as above. See classified version.
Communications and cyber services Radio broadcast media Major stations have backup systems with several days of fuel on hand. See classified version.
Television broadcast media Many stations have backup power systems with several days of fuel. See classified version.
Cable television and broadband services Minimal backup.
Conventional telephone Conventional phone systems have backup power systems that can power switches and conventional phones. However, many modern head-sets and PBX systems require power to operate and do not have backup. See classified version.
Wireless (cellular) telephone and data systems Modest backup. Battery backup typically provides only 2-8 hours of service. See classified version.
Wired data service Many backbone systems have backup. Most local systems do not.
Computer services (on and off premise) Many large data centers typically have good backups with several days of fuel on hand and priority fuel contracts. On-site typically limited to several minutes. See classified version.
Water and sewer Water supply Limited backup. Most systems require pumping in treatment plants. Many systems also require pumping for delivery. See classified version.
Sewer systems Very limited backup. Many systems require pumps for collection. Most require power for treatment.
Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
×

Service Category Specific Service Typical Existing Backup Resulting Vulnerabilities

Food Retail groceries (cash registers, lighting, refrigeration, security) Backup varies with location, local power reliability, and firm preferences. See classified version.
Wholesale grocery and distribution networks Same as above.
Food production facilities (farms, animal facilities, processing, packaging, etc.) Same as above. See classified version.
Financial Cash machines Typically no backup. See classified version.
Credit card systems Little or no backup at most retail outlets. Most central credit facilities do have backup. If communications systems also go down, then credit checking is not possible. See classified version.
Banks Little or no backup at smaller banks except for security systems. See classified version.
Fuel Bulk fuel delivery Backup varies. Some natural gas pipe lines are now using electric pumps. Some barge and port operations could be disrupted. See classified version.
Local storage infrastructure Backup varies. Some locations can switch from pump to gravity feed. See classified version.
Retail gasoline sales Most have no backup. See classified version.
Non-emergency government services Information service offices Same as above. See classified version.
Operations units Many have no backup. See classified version.
Prisons and other detention facilities Many have some backup but may not be able to operate for extended periods. See classified version.
Schools Most have no backup. See classified version.
Transportation systems
Transportation and mobility
Traffic lights With few exception, no backup (although the technology is commercially available). See classified version.
Tunnels In many cases no backup for ventilation. In some cases lighting has limited battery backup. See classified version.
Light rail systems and subways Typically no backup except short-term emergency lighting. See classified version.
Conventional rail systems, including railroad crossings Grade crossings have backup batteries. Backup for system operations is uneven. See classified version.
Air traffic control, navigation, landing aids, and airport operations and services. FAA rules require backup power systems for all flight-critical systems. However, many terminal operations (such as ramp movement) have no backup. See classified version.
River lock and dam operations Probably partial backup but specifics are unclear. See classified version.
Buses Backup depends on system. Many have ability to fuel buses without off-site power. See classified version.
Drawbridge operations Probably partial backup but specifics are unclear. See classified version.
Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
×

Service Category Specific Service Typical Existing Backup Resulting Vulnerabilities

Lighting Building evacuation and stairwell lighting Battery-operated emergency lighting (only lasts a few hours) is required by building codes. See classified version.
Residential lighting In most cases only backup is flashlights, candles, lanterns. See classified version.
Indoor commercial and industrial lighting Backup is minimal in most buildings. See classified version.
Security lighting Varies, but if there is backup it is typically short-lived batteries. See classified version.
Street lighting Typically no backup. See classified version.
Building operations (other than lighting) Building elevators Backup varies with local building codes, height and age of building. See classified version.
Space heating and cooling Backup is minimal in most buildings. See classified version.

NOTE: Some of these services, such as 911, emergency medical services, and en-route air traffic control, already have substantial backup. Many others, such as water and sewer systems, gas pumps, and cash machines, currently have no provisions for backup.

SOURCE: This table is a modified and elaborated presentation that is based on a taxonomy developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon for the state of Pennsylvania (PA DEP, 2005).

at Carnegie Mellon University to assess options for sustaining the city of Pittsburgh’s vital services if grid power is not available.

The importance of the private sector in the event of a terrorist attack cannot be overstated. Most major electricity and communications infrastructure facilities are in private hands, and their workers will necessarily function as first responders. Critical health care, transportation, banking, and fuel supply facilities are also mostly privately owned. Collaborative advance planning with such entities is absolutely necessary to ensure consideration of all contingencies. For example, a hospital administrator may know that he or she can plan for 24 hours of on-site generation, but for longer periods of time, fuel supplies will be needed to keep the hospital functioning. Having plans in advance for prioritizing who gets scarce fuel supplies will reduce chaos and add to the resilience of a given community in responding to a disaster.

Public policy and legal barriers to collaborative planning also need to be addressed. Significantly, the Pennsylvania study found a lack of transparency and trust across various levels of governments. For example, when, at the request of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center conducted its study for the state of Pennsylvania (PA DEP, 2005), neither investigators at Carnegie Mellon nor senior officials in the DEP were able to obtain critical data from the State Office of Emergency Preparedness or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on topics such as whether the locks through which barges carrying diesel fuel into the state did or did not have backup power and would be able to continue to operate in the event of an extended blackout. Political leaders need to analyze the data security and privacy protection laws of their agencies with an eye to minimizing and overcoming obstacles that can impede local and regional planning, as well as determine how interagency communication will function in a national or more localized emergency.

Improving the Reliability of Services

Obviously, planning costs and resources, as well as federal grants to the private sector or to local and state agencies, may be necessary to fund risk assessments and risk mitigation and restoration plans. Whether in the form of grants, incentive regulations, or tax- or fee-based subsidies, action needs to be taken to ensure that the private sector first responders undertake planning and restoration exercises. Again, the Pennsylvania study (PA DEP, 2005) suggested a variety of options that state or local governments might pursue, in appropriate circumstances, to encourage or require private parties to improve the reliability of important social services. The report’s suggestions include (PA DEP, 2005, pp. 91-92):

 

•   Provide information and suggestions to private parties to help them see how they might benefit from strategies that would make the services they provide more robust in the face of power outages. For example, once they think about it, a multistory retirement home that installs backup power for its elevator might find that advertising this fact provides it with a comparative advantage.

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
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BOX 8.1
The Pittsburgh Study

To develop specific data on sustaining services if the electric grid fails, the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center assigned the students in a 2004 engineering project course run jointly by the Carnegie Mellon University Department of Engineering and Public Policy, the H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, and the Department of Social and Decision Sciences the task of assessing options for sustaining Pittsburgh’s vital services if grid power is not available.

The team of 20 undergraduates, two Ph.D. students, and four faculty members was assisted by a review panel with members from Duquesne Light Company, Allegheny Energy, the Pittsburgh Emergency Management Agency, Pittsburgh Department of City Planning, Pittsburgh Police, Dominion Peoples Gas, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Pittsburgh International Airport, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Additional information was provided by PNC, Citizens Bank, Chevron, Guttman Oil, the Allegheny County Airport Authority, and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority. Since some of the data when compiled could potentially be misused, the following summary has been approved for public distribution.

Potentially critical services were classified into the following categories: (1) emergency services, (2) private services, (3) utilities, and (4) ground and air transportation. Three reference blackout events were determined for which the robustness of each service was evaluated. The reference events were designed to vary in duration and size of the affected area. The diesel fuel supply available in Pittsburgh and the interactions between the services under different blackout scenarios were assessed. While some important services, such as hospitals and 911 emergency response, have taken measures to ensure that service will continue during a blackout, there are several vital services (e.g., police zone stations and traffic control) that are highly sensitive to electricity outages. Results from the assessment conducted include the following:

 

1. Three of the five Pittsburgh police zone stations were found not to have backup generation installed on site.

2. Important private services (e.g., grocery stores, gas stations, and cellular phone service) are vulnerable. Although the social benefits from keeping these services running during an outage are large, these benefits are dispersed among individuals, whereas the capital costs are concentrated in the hands of the service provider. There is little incentive for the private service providers to change.

3. Traffic networks are vulnerable, as all traffic lights would fail during a blackout. Tunnel ventilation fans would also become inoperable. Installing LED lights with backup batteries would reduce congestion in the event of a blackout and save money for the city in terms of annual electricity and maintenance costs. Backups for fans in heavily used tunnels were found to have a positive benefit-cost value.

4. Liquid fuel pipelines and storage tanks rely on electricity to pump fuel and generally have no backup. Some fuel can be released from storage tanks via gravity flow, but the switch over from pump to gravity flow can be time consuming.

5. An outage during extreme hot or cold weather could have significant health and economic impacts. If the outage occurs during very cold weather, forced-air heaters and auto-pilot boilers would fail; during hot weather, air conditioners would fail. In either event, some people could be at risk, and it is important to ensure that emergency shelters would be available and that information regarding such emergency services is disseminated through an effective information campaign. In addition to health effects, an extended outage during the winter could cause pipes in homes to freeze, putting even more stress on emergency management personnel. While some plans do exist for handling such emergencies, it is important that such plans be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the region is well prepared for an extended power outage.

6. The natural gas system is highly reliable, possibly more so than the diesel supply chain. Although natural gas generators are typically more expensive than diesel, natural-gas-powered backup might be an option worth considering for high-value services, especially if the generators are used to produce electricity and heat during normal operating conditions.

7. While air traffic control is fully backed up and the Pittsburgh International Airport has substantial backup, the latter is not sufficient to operate the ramps at gates. This would introduce significant delays that could then propagate through other parts of the system.

 

SOURCE: Sustaining Pittsburgh’s Vital Service when the Power Goes Out, Report of a Student Project Course, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, 2004, 108 pp. This is a sensitive document with limited circulation. A summary version is available at www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/phines/pdfs/executive_summary_when_the_power_goes_out.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
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•   Encourage firms to offer “preferred customer”services that assure continued availability of services to those customers who have paid a fee which allows the companies to make the necessary additional investments. For example, customers of some fuel companies are now offered preferential delivery positions during emergencies in exchange for a fee. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania may be able to create a supportive environment for preferential service agreements in other industries by increasing the awareness of potential blackouts. Entities such as gas stations have no incentive to install emergency power systems unless they are permitted to recover their cost through surcharges during emergencies. Such surcharges would be in the public interest, and the Commonwealth should consider studying whether barriers exist to fostering back-up power installations funded through peak charges.

•   Require organizations to post public information on the presence or absence of back-up or other solutions to keep specific services such as elevators or gasoline pumps running in the event of a power disruption. In much the same way that the publication of EPA’s toxic release inventory has induced many companies to cut emissions, such postings might induce companies to take steps to make their critical services more robust.

•   Make changes in building codes and other legal requirements for business practice. For example, a decade ago Pittsburgh adopted a building code that requires elevators in newly constructed buildings of more than seven stories to have back-up power. Similarly, a community could require, as a condition of doing business, that firms operating gasoline pumps, ATM machines, or similar devices must work together to arrange that some percentage of them will remain operational in the event of a power outage.

•   Provide tax incentives, subsidies, or grant programs to support the development of needed facilities. Given limited resources, this option should be used sparingly, but there might be some circumstances, such as certain upgrades in the emergency rooms of private hospitals, that warrant modest assistance.

•   Pass laws or change regulations to facilitate the construction, interconnection, and operation of distributed generation systems, and the operation of competitive micro-grid systems

The Pennsylvania study also suggested the following options, which might be pursued to encourage or require public and nonprofit parties to improve the reliability of important social services (PA DEP, 2005, pp. 92-93)

 

•   Provide information and suggestions to local governments and non-profit organizations, such as hospitals, to help them see how they might benefit from strategies that would make the services they provide more robust in the face of power outages. For example, LED traffic lights require far less power than conventional traffic lights. Cities and towns could be encouraged to covert to LED systems and add trickle charge battery back-up. Such systems have capital expenses of several thousand dollars per intersection over the cost of an LED conversion without back-up, but this may be justified for critical urban corridors.

•   Offer selective state subsidy programs, or lobby for the creation of selective Federal subsidy programs, to cover just the incremental cost of making systems more robust. To continue with the traffic light example above, such a program might cover only the trickle-charge battery backup portion of the costs of conversion. Since this would dramatically improve the access of emergency vehicles during power blackouts, it might be a program that the DHS should support. Federal funding already exists for emergency power for air navigation. Restricted funds may be available from the DHS for increased security, the Airport Trust Fund for hub and reliever airports, and the Highway Trust Fund for tunnels. Use of state and local general tax revenue may be justified for survivable missions, such as police precinct back-up power. Water and sewer system back-up should be studied as systems are repaired and upgraded. A formal investigation of funding sources such as these is warranted.

One issue that the Pennsylvania report does not address is the range of actions that individuals can take to reduce their own vulnerabilities. These include such simple precautions as stocking basic supplies such as extra batteries and storing a supply of drinking water (as well as understanding that hot water heaters contain such a supply); owning hand crank radios and cell-phone chargers; stocking fuel for camp stoves and portable generators, and so on. While a few citizens, particularly in rural areas, have long taken such actions, many more would be wise to do so. Local governments could do much to raise citizen awareness of the value of such precautionary preparation.

The United States and its political subdivisions vary greatly in terms of demographics, political culture, geography, and attractiveness as a terrorist target. For that reason, no one strategy can be expected to meet the needs of all regions or all situations. However, the committee believes that the need to do systematic public and private planning applies to every community. The committee also believes that the very fact that communities have prevention and restoration plans for critical services and infrastructure could serve as a deterrent to terrorist attack.

Many studies have looked at the potential reliability benefits of distributed generation resources and micro-grids (Galvin Electricity Initiative, 2006; King, 2006; Lovins and Lovins, 1982; Zerriffi, 2004; Zerriffi et al., 2005). The stochastic simulations conducted by Zerriffi suggest that massive use of distributed resources can achieve reliability improvements over conventional power system architectures of several orders of magnitude. However, the regional reliability benefits that could be achieved with more modest use of distributed resources are less clear. To achieve full benefits from such systems, changes would need to be made in the standards and operating strategies of distribution systems, which, because they lack intelligent real-time control, typi-

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
×

cally now require that all distributed resources disconnect from distribution feeders the moment any problems develop. The discussion in chapter 9 identifies current and near-term technological improvements that should be assessed in these planning exercises. For outages of longer duration, the committee believes that local governments should consider how the alternatives of distributed generation, portable generation, and load prioritization might be employed.

In its deliberations, the committee tried to determine the available surge capacity for portable generation. Caterpillar Inc. has a variety of portable diesel and gas-fired generator sets that can be mobilized rapidly. For example, these systems were installed in Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11. However, global demand for such generation sets is large, and manufacturing is currently running at or near capacity. Thus, in the event of an outage of very wide extent and duration, the demand for large portable power sources could easily exceed supply. The committee was unable to determine the status of planning for surge capacity for large backup power sources, for example the use of naval or civilian ships as temporary sources of power for coastal cites if conversion equipment is available. Similarly, diesel electric locomotives5 might be temporarily pressed into emergency service as sources of electric power.

The Importance of Federal Leadership

Potential initiatives at the federal level to reduce social vulnerability in the face of extended loss of electric power include the following:

 

•   DHS could develop, and then publicly disseminate, a set of strategies and technologies that public and private organizations and individuals might adopt in order to make critical social services of the sort outlined in Table 8.1 less vulnerable in the event of regional power outages of varying durations. Such an advisory document would be especially valuable if it contained specific practice examples and associated cost estimates as well as illustrations of how market forces might be harnessed or incentives might be structured to encourage private initiatives that reduce vulnerability.

•   Congress could provide resources and other incentives to encourage states and cities to form public-private task forces to assess the vulnerability of their vital social services to disruptions in electric power of varying duration. In order to do this, legal arrangements would have to be made to protect sensitive information, and legal and administrative arrangements should be developed to facilitate access to such information that is held by government parties.6

•   Because some investments for better preparedness for extended blackouts are very much in the public interest but may not meet the more limited investment criteria of private firms or local municipalities, federal authorities could consider offering tax breaks or selected subsidies for the incremental costs of some protective systems. For example, although municipalities may choose to convert from conventional traffic lights to LED lights because of the substantial energy and cost savings that can result, they may not be willing to invest in trickle charge battery backup. A federal program, similar to the program developed by the California Energy Commission that covered the incremental cost of trickle charge battery backup for traffic lights along key arteries in dense urban cores, could be useful in this regard, as could a program that would help provide for more extended backup of critically located cell towers.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The process of assessing risks, prioritizing crucial services and critical infrastructure, aligning interests, and securing the cooperation of public and private sector stakeholders is an enormous and challenging task. Since an extended power outage could be local, regional, or involve multiple regions, leadership at the federal level is crucial to the development of flexible and effective plans to address a broad range of possible scenarios. Hence, the conclusions and recommendations in this chapter emphasize the need for this leadership and the close coordination of all levels of government with the private sector to develop robust plans for meeting local and national crucial services in the event of an extended power outage or substantial reduction of grid power.

Finding

Finding 8.1 Even if all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the reliability of the electric power transmission and distribution system, and to speed its rapid restoration after outages, there is no way that it can be made completely reliable in the face of major disruption by natural causes or large, well-planned, terrorist attacks. For this reason, and because modern society is increasingly dependent on electric power for the provision of critical social services, steps should be taken to ensure that the most important of these services (see

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5The committee learned from a discussion with a representative of Burlington Northern Santa Fe that it does have conversion kits that can allow DC diesel electric locomotives to be used as 60 Hz AC power sources. However, as one might expect, the number of such kits is quite limited, at least within Burlington Northern Santa Fe

6For example, the Census Bureau has arrangements under which serious researchers can gain access to detailed census track data, although it is very sensitive, by providing training and then making those researchers sworn census officers who are legally bound to conform to certain rules to protect sensitive data. To the committee’s knowledge, neither DHS nor any state homeland security organization has developed equivalent arrangements to facilitate access to data they hold.

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
×

Table 8.1) can continue to be sustained if power from the grid is not available.

Recommendations

Recommendation 8.1 The Department of Homeland Security and/or the Department of Energy should initiate and fund several model demonstration assessments each at the level of cities, counties, and states. These assessments should examine systematically the region’s vulnerability to extended power outages and develop cost-effective strategies that can be adopted to reduce or, over time, eliminate such vulnerabilities. These model assessments should involve all relevant public and private participants, including public and private parties providing law enforcement, water, gas, sewerage, health care, communications, transportation, fuel supply, banking, and food supply. These assessments should include a consideration of outages of long duration (> several weeks) and large geographic extent (over several states) since such outages would require a response different from those needed to deal with shorter-duration events (hours to a few days).

Recommendation 8.2 Building on the results of these model assessments, DHS should develop, test, and disseminate guidelines and tools to assist cities, counties, states, and regions to conduct their own assessments and develop plans to reduce their vulnerabilities to extended power outages. DHS should also develop guidance for individuals to help them understand steps they can take to better prepare for and reduce their vulnerability in the event of extended blackouts.

Recommendation 8.3 State and local regions should use the tools provided by DHS as discussed in Recommendation 8.2 to undertake assessments of regional and local vulnerability to long-term outages, develop plans to collaboratively implement key strategies to reduce vulnerability, and assist private sector parties and individuals to identify steps they can take to reduce their vulnerabilities.

Recommendation 8.4 Congress, DHS, and the states should provide resources and incentives to cover incremental costs associated with private and public sector risk prevention and mitigation efforts to reduce the societal impact of an extended grid outage. Such incentives could include incremental funding for those aspects of systems that provide a public good but little private benefit, R&D support for new and emerging technology that will enhance the resiliency and restoration of the grid, and the development and implementation of building codes or ordinances that require alternate or backup sources of electric power for key facilities.

Recommendation 8.5 Federal and state agencies should identify legal barriers to data access, communications, and collaborative planning that could impede appropriate regional and local assessment and contingency planning for handling long-term outages. Political leaders of the jurisdictions involved should analyze the data security and privacy protection laws of their agencies with an eye to easing obstacles to collective planning and to facilitating smooth communication in a national or more localized emergency.

Recommendation 8.6 DHS should perform, or assist other federal agencies to perform, additional systematic assessment of the vulnerability of national infrastructure such as telecommunications and air traffic control in the face of extended and widespread loss of electric power, and then develop and implement strategies to reduce or eliminate vulnerabilities. Part of this work should include an assessment of the available surge capacity for large mobile generation sources. Such an assessment should include an examination of the feasibility of utilizing alternative sources of temporary power generation to meet emergency generation requirements (as identified by state, territorial, and local governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations) in the event of a large-scale power outage of long duration. Such assessment should also include an examination of equipment availability, sources of power generation (mobile truck-mounted generators, naval and commercial ships, power barges, locomotives, and so on), transportation logistics, and system interconnection. When areas of potential shortages have been identified, plans should be developed and implemented to take corrective action and develop needed resource inventories, stockpiles, and mobilization plans.

On a longer time scale, urban planners could include the potential for blackouts and other security issues in their activities.

REFERENCES

Galvin Electricity Initiative. 2006. Available at http://www.galvinpower.org/resources/listall.php?sct=14

King, D.E. 2006. “Electric Power Micro-grids: Opportunities and Challenges for an Emerging Distributed Energy Architecture.” Ph.D. Thesis. Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Lovins, A.B., and L.H. Lovins. 1982. Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National Security. Andover, Mass.: Brick House Pub. Co.

PA DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection). 2005. Critical Electric Power Issues in Pennsylvania: Transmission, Distributed Generation and Continuing Services when the Grid Fails. Report prepared for the PA DEP by the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa., February.

Willis, H.H., A.R. Morral, T.K. Kelly, and J.J. Medby. 2005. Estimating Terrorism Risk. Arlington, Va.: RAND Center for Terrorism Risk Management Policy.

Zerriffi, H. 2004. “Electric Power Systems Under Stress: An Evaluation of Centralized Versus Distributed System Architectures.” Ph.D. Thesis. Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Zerriffi, H., H. Dowlatabadi, and A. Farrell. 2005. “Incorporating Stress in Electric Power Systems Reliability Models.” Energy Policy 35(1): 61-75

Suggested Citation:"8 Strategies for Securing Crucial Services and Critical Infrastructure in the Event of an Extended Power Outage." National Research Council. 2012. Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12050.
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The electric power delivery system that carries electricity from large central generators to customers could be severely damaged by a small number of well-informed attackers. The system is inherently vulnerable because transmission lines may span hundreds of miles, and many key facilities are unguarded. This vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that the power grid, most of which was originally designed to meet the needs of individual vertically integrated utilities, is being used to move power between regions to support the needs of competitive markets for power generation. Primarily because of ambiguities introduced as a result of recent restricting the of the industry and cost pressures from consumers and regulators, investment to strengthen and upgrade the grid has lagged, with the result that many parts of the bulk high-voltage system are heavily stressed.

Electric systems are not designed to withstand or quickly recover from damage inflicted simultaneously on multiple components. Such an attack could be carried out by knowledgeable attackers with little risk of detection or interdiction. Further well-planned and coordinated attacks by terrorists could leave the electric power system in a large region of the country at least partially disabled for a very long time. Although there are many examples of terrorist and military attacks on power systems elsewhere in the world, at the time of this study international terrorists have shown limited interest in attacking the U.S. power grid. However, that should not be a basis for complacency. Because all parts of the economy, as well as human health and welfare, depend on electricity, the results could be devastating.

Terrorism and the Electric Power Delivery System focuses on measures that could make the power delivery system less vulnerable to attacks, restore power faster after an attack, and make critical services less vulnerable while the delivery of conventional electric power has been disrupted.

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