How Can Communities Ready Themselves for a Major Power Grid Event?
Communities are often the foundation for an expedited recovery following major events. But how can communities strengthen their response to, for example, a major cyber-attack or natural event, such as an Electronic Magnetic Pulse solar flare? A United States electrical grid failure could destroy a number of the nation’s high voltage transformers causing widespread outages for several weeks, even months. A public health emergency could quickly ensue particularly among the vulnerable as the ripple effects cause significant societal disruption. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) strategic plan encourages and empowers communities to prepare for the inevitable impacts of future disasters. How can communities prime for major events?
To prepare, a community in coordination with its state and local partners may need to consider:
- Identifying and testing its response and recovery strategies for a power outage that lasts several months through conducting exercises and training to identify gaps and strengths. Exercises offer the best way to stress test state and local operational planning. Critical workforce employees from first responders to grocery chain truck drivers may not be available as they look after vulnerable members of their own families. Response plans need to consider alternative personnel
- Reassessing cross-state and public-private operational procedures. State and local entities work closely with their communities and private sector partners. As a result of this cooperation, states could coordinate and share supply and distribution networks with leading grocery store companies to ensure food supplies are available during emergencies. In addition, private companies could deliver drinking water for areas where water sanitation plants run out of backup generator fuel to maintain operations
- Examining emergency communication channels given the infrastructure challenges. Maintaining power to cell towers and ensuring homeowners have long term charging capabilities could see apps like Nextdoor becoming a communication lifeline. Radio broadcasts received by battery powered radios, for example, are critical too
These preemptive measures get communities in good shape to respond to many long-term power-grid emergencies, not just a cyber-attack. By the time an event of this magnitude occurs, communities need a robust response plan in place. Developing a comprehensive preparation plan is the first and most important set to making a community resilient and ready for a power grid emergency
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