Strengthening National Resiliency During Power Outages

Electrical Overhead Powerlines can be seen from a distance. The sun is setting and there are a few white clouds.The President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) released a report based on an in-depth study of physical and cyber risks to critical infrastructure, including the nation’s power grid, drinking water and wastewater systems, transportation, communications, healthcare, and financial systems. Surviving a Catastrophic Power Outage: How to strengthen the Capabilities of the Nation focuses on the “nation’s ability to respond to and recover from a catastrophic power outage of a magnitude beyond modern experience.” In particular, the report acknowledges the role of state and local governments in addressing the unique needs of their communities. To highlight a few courses of action, the report provides recommendations that can improve the nations’ resilience and boost the existing aid capabilities.

The key action points include the following proposed solutions:

  • Design a national approach for catastrophic power outages, including tools for preparation, response, and recovery from the catastrophic events;
  • Develop specific federal guidance, resources, and incentives that address necessary actions and limitations across all state, local, tribal, and territorial levels;
  • Improve knowledge of potential impacts of cascading failures across critical infrastructure on long-term restoration and survival via training and inter-agency exercises; and
  • Develop and protect the vital services of emergency communications systems.

The report concludes, “[T]hese actions require a whole-of-nation approach and string public-private collaboration.” While no disaster follows a preset plan, the successful implementation of the proposed recommendations will depend on mutual and effective coordination among all responsible parties, including infrastructure owners, government officials, and emergency response personnel. Furthermore, to keep track of the progress as proposed in this report, the National Security Council (NSC) will provide a status update within nine months of the report’s approval.

The HSDL offers many additional resources related to catastrophic disasters in our featured topics Energy Security, Cyber Infrastructure Protection, and Social Media Use in Emergencies. Please note: HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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