The nation's critical electric infrastructure is still too vulnerable to outages.
The Sept. 12, 2005, electricity blackout of most of the city of Los Angeles demonstrates the continuing vulnerability of the nation's electric infrastructure. It also reinforces the fact that the main protection of our vast network comes from the ability of the local utility company to rapidly locate, analyze, and repair breaks in the network, as occurred in Los Angeles, where service was restored quickly after the outage.
Although the cause of the Los Angeles outage was accidental, it exposed a glaring weakness: cable line breaks are an attractive, easy target for terrorists, because the U.S. electric network has thousands of miles of unguarded transmission and distribution lines. The first line of protection for our electric infrastructure comes from a highly trained workforce dispatched quickly with sufficient knowledge, equipment, and spare parts to handle multiple occurrences at the same time.
A second line of protection should come from an analysis and strengthening of the weaker points in the electric grid. Local electric grids will need additional investment at key points to minimize the possibility of a breach at a single location, which, as the Los Angeles case shows, can bring down an entire city or region.