NIAC Report Details Grid Catastrophe Vulnerabilities

Published On
Dec 18, 2018

While not specifically referencing Armageddon, the President's National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) has released a report, titled "Surviving a Catastrophic Power Outage," that may not be too far away from that scenario.

The NIAC is composed of senior executives from industry, as well as state and local governments, who own and operate the critical infrastructure essential to modern life. It was established by executive order by President George W. Bush in October 2001 to advise the president on practical strategies for industry and government to reduce complex risks to the designated critical infrastructure sectors.

According to this new report, the nation has steadily improved its ability to respond to major disasters and the power outages that often result from these disasters. However, increasing threats, including severe natural disasters, cyber-physical attacks, electromagnetic events, and combinations of these events present new challenges for protecting the national power grid and recovering quickly from a "catastrophic power outage."

The NIAC defines a catastrophic power outage as an event that is considered to be beyond modern experience; exhausts or exceeds current mutual aid capabilities; is likely to be a no-notice or limited notice event; has a duration of several weeks or even several months; affects a broad geographical area (several states and tens of millions of people); and causes several cascading impacts that force other critical sectors (drinking water and wastewater systems, communications, transportation, healthcare and financial services) to operate in a degraded state.

After studying the potential for such an event and its consequences, the NIAC "found that existing national plans, response resources, and coordination strategies would be outmatched by a catastrophic power outage." And, in boldface, the report added, "This profound risk requires a new national focus."

The report suggested the adoption of two major strategies to begin to address this issue: 1) Design a national approach to prepare for, respond to and recover from catastrophic power outages that provides the federal guidance, resources and incentives needed to take action across all levels of government and industry and down to communities and individuals; and 2) improve our understanding of how cascading failures across critical infrastructure will affect restoration and survival.


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