By Stan Welch
There are a number of ways in which the power grid of the Upstate, if not the entire nation, could be compromised and collapsed. Perhaps the most widely feared and considered event is an electronic magnetic impulse (EMP) attack. That is an attack that produces the EMP that accompanies a nuclear detonation, without producing the physical devastation or fallout.
There is another source of such a devastating attack that is entirely possible in these times. A cyber attack on the systems that maintain and control the electrical systems in this country would not be as dramatic or overt as an EMP attack, but it would be just as effective. It is that type of attack that is the cause of a national exercise called Grid X; an emergency management drill that is being conducted nationwide on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
In Anderson County, the epicenter of the emergency response will be centered in Williamston Wednesday and Thursday, according to County Emergency Management Director and former Williamston police chief David Baker.
“One of the goals of the exercise is to see how we perform in relocating and establishing our emergency command center, so we will be doing that in Williamston. The problem we will face is a cyber attack on the power infrastructure, resulting in rolling blackouts up to the point of a complete failure of the grid. Dealing with the problems presented by a loss of power for an extended time, perhaps as much as a month, is the focus of the drill.”
Baker said the key challenges are the logistics of providing hospital, hospices, and nursing care facilities with fuel to maintain the operation of their on site emergency generators. “As you know, such facilities that provide critical medical care are largely equipped with such generators. But few have enough fuel on site to last a month, or even a week. So one of our jobs would be to keep them resupplied with fuel. It would be much better for such patients to shelter in place, rather than be transported to hospitals, where they would quickly occupy all available beds, leaving normal hospital activity compromised and complicated by the event.”
“The task of making sure that they have clean water coming in and wastewater going out will also be a key challenge.”
The appropriate authorities across the nation will be testing their skills and plans as well. “This aspect of the drill is limited to health care and communications issues. Much of the communications system will be compromised, and satellite systems will be utilized. During an extended period without power, curfews will be imposed, an exercise which cannot practically be conducted under real life normal conditions. “Schools are still in session. The town hall and the town government have to continue their functions, so obviously, we have to simulate much of this scenario. We won’t be moving tankers around, there won’t be police and emergency vehicles flying around with lights and sirens on.”
The first eight hours, the drill will simulate the thirty day blackout. On Thursday, the drill will address the transition to recovery.
By Stan Welch