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.


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


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.


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