Moore County: Preparing for and Responding to Attacks Against Critical Infrastructure
On Saturday, December 3, two electricity substations in Moore County, North Carolina were damaged by gunfire, leaving 45,000 customers without power. In response to the attacks, Moore County declared a state of emergency with a 9:00pm to 5:00am curfew until Friday, December 9. State authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are still investigating the incident.
While this risk is not new, it does appear to be growing. At least five physical attacks on substations have been reported in Oregon and Washington over the past month. Further, nine physical attacks and 60 acts of vandalism occurred between January and August of this year, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). Those numbers represent a 64 percent increase in the number of physical attacks and acts of vandalism as compared to 2015. This latest incident demonstrates that energy security is not just a global issue – emergency managers, utilities, and energy offices should take note.
Considering the Impacts
During these incidents, responding entities need to effectively coordinate with a wide variety of stakeholders and across various levels of management quickly and accurately. Whether it is prioritizing the restoration of critical facilities such as hospitals, 911 dispatch centers, and water treatment plants or supporting the life safety needs of those within your community with access and functional needs, knowing who you need to coordinate with and what information they need to quickly execute their operational responsibilities is vital.
For example, utility incident management professionals will be coordinating with their operational teams to identify restoration priorities while simultaneously working with local emergency management and public safety agencies to manage and mitigate downstream impacts. The speed with which power is safely restored and a community is back on its feet can be decided by the community’s level of preparedness.
How can you prepare?
Whether you are an emergency manager, a utility provider, or a state/local energy office, there are several steps you can take to help better prepare for an attack on energy infrastructure in your area:
- Energy Security and Incident Response Planning: Emergency managers and energy offices do not own the grid, but they are often responsible for managing response efforts when things go wrong. Conversely, while utilities own the infrastructure, they often rely heavily on public and private sector partnerships to restore normal operations. Energy security and incident response planning efforts are an effective way to coordinate with utilities and public safety agencies to address cascading impacts and enhance relationships with critical partners ahead of an incident.
- Training: Conducting regular training, across all levels of management, including field operations, incident management, and executive teams, ensures employees are comfortable with their role in a response environment. Conducting joint trainings with public and private partners at the regional, state, or local level can also improve mutual understanding, response procedures, and restoration priorities.
- Exercises: Delivering annual exercises with both internal and external partners helps test capabilities and identify areas for improvement or additional training. Exercises provide an opportunity to test new functions, give inexperienced employees opportunities to practice, as well as build or renew relationships with your key stakeholders.
- Risk Assessments: Developing risk assessments will help you identify your threats and vulnerabilities and determine the likelihood and consequence of them occurring. Additionally, it can help you anticipate what cascading impacts may occur that pose a risk to not only your organization but the wider community. Engaging internal and external stakeholders with public safety partners, including fusion centers, can help you better understand roles and responsibilities as well as what information needs to be shared to aid with decision-making. It is only through this collaboration that an entire community will be better prepared to respond to your next emergency.
Hagerty Can Help
Hagerty has worked with state and local government, public utilities, investor-owned utilities, and membership organizations to prepare for threats to the energy sector across North America, including cyber and physical attacks. Our expertise in both emergency management and the energy sector has allowed us to support our clients in building relationships with government and private industry partners, strengthening our clients’ readiness.
Our professionals are experienced in performing risk assessments, developing meaningful planning processes, and delivering training and exercises that strengthen organizational and regional resilience. From state energy security planning and utility exercise initiatives to intelligence and information-sharing exercises with fusion centers, Hagerty can help. Contact us below to learn how we can help you.
Agnieszka Krotzer is a Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. In this role, she works with Hagerty’s clients on energy resilience, continuity planning, and security and threat management projects, with an emphasis on executive-level decision-making and effective stakeholder engagement across all of the projects she supports.
Patrick Van Horne is a Deputy Director for Preparedness at Hagerty Consulting. In this role, he supports government and private sector organizations across the country by helping them prepare for an uncertain future through adaptable crisis management planning, meaningful training and exercises, and thoughtful program and event assessments. Prior to Hagerty, Patrick was an emergency manager for Boulder County, Colorado, where he responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple wildfires, and a mass shooting. Additionally, he previously co-founded and ran an online education company, The CP Journal, and served, for nearly seven years, in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer.