At this very moment, thousands of experts in both the utility industries, military and various government security agencies across the United States, Canada and Mexico are preparing for an emergency drill. The drill, which will simulate both physical and cyber attacks on the power grid has been set for November 13th-14th.
Our shared power resources are vulnerable to attack and in the opinion of many, destined to be hit. Former Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano described an attack as being, not a question of if, but a question of when.
A blow to the grid that resulted in a shutdown would result in a tremendous amount of chaos, civil unrest and ultimately deaths due to violence and a lack of food and water. Inevitably a declaration of martial law would follow such an instance. The human suffering and condition would have us clamoring in the streets for everyday necessities.
No power means there would be no supply of water, gasoline, diesel, frozen food, fresh food, medicines and communications, as all of these are dependent upon electricity for either their delivery or maintenance.
This will be no small operation. It is reported, in fact, to be the largest drill of its type by several times over anything ever done before. Over 150 companies and organizations have signed on as participants.
There are approximately 5,800 major power plants and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines across the grid, which are monitored and controlled by a hodgepodge of devices installed over decades.
This diversity in control and mechanisms can be seen as a safeguard of sorts, in that there is no one solution to affect a total grid shutdown through a cyber attack, with the exception of an EMP.
An EMP, Electromagnetic Pulse would fry the unprotected components, most of which have tremendous lead times for manufacturing and those manufacturing facilities are also dependent upon electrical power.
An EMP attack could leave the entire continent at a standstill and in a state of chaos for months or years. Former CIA director James Woolsey is working to bring attention to the issue, which was also the subject of a report by the National Academy of Sciences last year. EMP’s occur naturally, has a result of solar flares, but can also be created through the low level detonation of a nuclear device. A single device detonated over the central part of the United States could have immediate crippling results.