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


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.


Galvin Electricity Initiative. 2006. Available at

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

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement