in background checks of operational and security personnel, there is still much work to be done in this area, both within operating companies and in the contractor community.


Preparatory Activities

The first important step to ensuring readiness in the face of unplanned events is by preparation through the planning process. The ability to identify key “what-if” scenarios and then develop the appropriate response plans to deal with such contingencies is the first key step in developing a comprehensive emergency response plan. Once plans have been developed, the next step is to test their effectiveness. The best way to accomplish this objective is through careful training and the use of drills and exercises. A well-constructed drill can test the ability of personnel to respond to simulated real-life situations as well as test their understanding of the overall plan. Well-designed drills test the ability of personnel to understand their roles and responsibilities as well as test the overall effectiveness of the plan in resolving the emergency situation. Crucial elements for a successful exercise include establishing clear objectives, providing realistic scenarios that simulate real-life conditions, and establishing expected actions or outcomes. Perhaps the most valuable component of a drill is an after-action review of the exercise. This allows for modifications to the plan to be discussed and implemented and an opportunity to avoid the risk of overgeneralizing from the results of a specific scenario or exercise. As further discussed in Chapter 7, many drills should include participants from outside local, state, and federal agencies.

There is also a need to reduce the vulnerability of key workers to both conventional security threats (e.g., from the use of firearms and explosive devices) and potential chemical/biological attacks. Employees serving as first responders should be provided with chemical and biological awareness training. The scope of this training should include threat and agent recognition, protection and first-aid training, personnel protection equipment, detection and sensor equipment, and training in emergency decontamination procedures.

Lastly, there is also a need for better and more realistic simulations and security training. While much has been done by industry in the security training area, better and more frequent simulation and red-teaming security exercises will improve the readiness of security personnel.1 Dramatic improvements in personnel readiness can result from introducing a comprehensive security training program that systematically includes emergency notification exercises, security training seminars, tabletop exercises, red-team exercises, force-on-force exercises, command-post exercises, and full field exercises. Training simulations and exercises such as these can:

•  Provide insights into potential problem areas;

•  Encourage a team approach to meeting security challenges;

•  Improve organizational teamwork; and

•  Audit the status of security preparedness.

First Responders

It has sometimes proved important even in the aftermath of natural catastrophes to provide police protection for line crews working to restore power systems.2 In the event of a terrorist action, restoration workers themselves may become targets. Workers on poles and towers and in open areas in substations are particularly vulnerable, especially if the surrounding area is complex and offers cover in which it is easy for assailants to go undetected. Further complications arise if terrorist attacks involve chemical, radio nuclear, or biological agents. Workers must be able to determine if such an attack has occurred, the nature and extent of contamination, and what protective measures need to be taken before they can enter and work in an area where power system damage has occurred.

Restoration of a system in the context of a crime scene, as might be the case in a post-terrorist event, can also lead to involvement by personnel from myriad local, state, and federal law enforcement, security, and emergency agencies. In such situations, it is important to have previously established lines of communication. Clear manuals to explain the assignment of first responders, the roles of assisting utility teams, the jurisdiction of different law enforcement agencies, and so forth can provide a presumptive roadmap for action. As discussed in Chapter 7, carefully clarifying ahead of time the chain of command for restoration practices, for work rules, and for operational expectations on the ground will be very helpful in promoting efficient recoveries during the stress of an actual terrorist event.


The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) recently studied about 100 North American power outages that occurred in recent years and concluded that 12 of them were attributable to human error, either by operators in control rooms or by maintenance workers in the field (EPRI, 2000).3


1Red teaming is the use of a group of specialists to conduct a mock attack on a power system. It is frequently used to test facility and cyber security strength against attack. It is intended to uncover vulnerabilities and weaknesses and to assist in hardening the system.

2For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina several line crews were shot at before police protection was introduced.

3For example, improper maintenance of relays contributed to cascading events, thus worsening the New York City blackout in July 1977. Improper maintenance at a San Mateo substation triggered a December 8, 1998, blackout in the San Francisco Bay Area, which cascaded from San Mateo, affecting 2 million people for up to 7 hours. Control room operator errors were a key factor in the Northeast blackout of August 2003.

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