One of the most enduring and important traditions in the utility industry is the practice of providing mutual aid in the event of a large-scale emergency. For as long as utility companies have been around, if one organization is operating at or close to normal conditions, they will reach out to another utility with personnel and equipment to assist with restoration efforts if needed.

I cannot imagine that there is a utility company in the United States that has not provided, or benefitted from, the mutual aid of another organization.

And as our communities are becoming more and more interconnected, it is critical that our efforts to provide mutual aid be expanded into cyber security. It is essential that these efforts include the private sector, which would allow the public and private entities to work in a coordinated effort to respond to a large-scale cyber-attack.

I recently participated in a very important national event with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation to review and assess electric grid security and emergency response. The event included 360 electricity providers and government agencies participating in a tabletop exercise.  Entities included the National Security Council, the Departments of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management, Department of Defense, FBI and National Guard, among others.

The exercise simulated cyber and physical attacks on the national power grid and assessed a very realistic, rapidly-changing event and a collective response that focused on mitigating the attack, recovery and restoration of power.

This exercise illustrated that while our industry is both trained and experienced in responding to a hurricane, ice storm or almost any other natural disaster, additional training and planning is required to respond to emergencies or attacks on the nation’s utility infrastructure.

A closer and more coordinated effort between the public and private sector, among utilities and companies with expertise in cyber security, would enhance our national security.

If your company has expertise in cyber security, we would welcome your insights and observations to see if there are opportunities for collaboration with NPU.