Service providers across the United States and North America will “lose power” Nov. 13-14. The planned blackout will be coordinated between approximately 150 different service and utilities companies.
It is shaping up to be a pretty hectic week of simulated disasters for the United States, who will also be simulating disaster relief in Hawaii with assistance from China.
The simulation will occur Wednesday and Thursday of this week and is known as “Grid Ex [Exercise] II.” For those who are unaware, the first “Grid Ex ” took place in November 2011. This exercise is organized by the North American Electric Reliability Corps (NERC). NERC’s main task is to “ensure the reliability” of large interconnected electrical systems.
The first “Grid Ex” featured around 75 companies and providers, and it is rumored that around 150 will take part in the “Grid Ex II.” Some of the parties that are taking part in the exercise include the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The intention of this drill is to see how our main interfaces would respond to a “disruptive, physical and cyber event.” In some reports, the exact event that we are attempting to prevent would be the detonation of a nuclear weapon over the U.S. with the intention of frying electrical devices and destroying communication between citizens and government agencies, making them vulnerable to a form of cyberterrorism.
Bill Lawrence, Manager of Critical Infrastructure Protection Awareness for the NERC, described the exercise for TheBlot. Lawrence said that they will basically send out emails to the utilities and service providers to “check crisis response.”
It is important to note that the NERC reassures citizens that they will not feel the effects of this blackout, although the finer details of the drill have not been made known to utilities and other agencies involved. Lawrence had this to say in regards to the procedure: “It’s like a fire drill in a house with your kids; you wouldn’t throw a boiling pot of water on them, but you would make it as real as possible in order to be prepared.”
“The people won’t notice it as much as they would notice this phone call,” Lawrence said, in regards to our conversation. “Well, maybe the NSA is listening in, but I’m sure they have better things to do.” It’s not as funny when a guy in his position makes jokes about the NSA.
The result the NERC hopes for is that states will adopt regulations that form a safety blanket against such attacks.
If you want to read the 2011 “after action report,” click here.