Electric grid security measures in the spotlight

In light of the substation attack in North Carolina
Recent substation attacks in North Carolina have put security measures in the spotlight
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 6:41 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - As of Tuesday, Duke Energy in North Carolina is working to restore power to over 30,000 customers in Moore County.

The utility is expecting to have substation repairs completed and customers back online no later than midnight eastern time Thursday. Given the nature of the attack on the two substations, utility providers across the country have had their security measures thrust into the spotlight.

Without getting into specifics, Joel Alexander, media manager for City Utilities of Springfield, says the utility takes all possible concerns and threats very seriously.

“We’re certainly ready to respond to those,” says Alexander. “We work very closely with law enforcement agencies. Be it Springfield Police, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, or federal enforcement agencies, there’s a lot of monitoring and preparing that goes into place should a situation like that occur.”

Working with these agencies is just one part of the utility’s security plan put into place and a piece that Alexander says has been in business for a long time. “Those relationships are critical to making sure that if something does happen, we’re all together to respond not just as a single agency but as a community if we need to should something dramatic occur,” Alexander states.

In addition to having a security team to monitor cyber threats, Alexander says other protocols include surveillance, mutual aid, and access to backup equipment. While not on the scale of North Carolina, Alexander can recall some situations where things occurred that could have resulted in a partial loss of a substation.

“We have equipment in place that will take care of that,” Alexander says. “That goes back to monitoring the situation, monitoring all the utility areas that we have, and trying to keep everything as safe as possible.”

While Duke Energy hasn’t reached out to City Utilities for assistance, Alexanders states that mutual aid assistance, while more common in storms or damage, isn’t uncommon in a situation like this. “Mutual aid in something like this may mean we need to borrow a piece of equipment or someone needs to borrow a piece of equipment from us, says Alexander. “We’re here to help each other. Plus, we’re here to help our customers make sure they have the services that they need.”

As for worries about these plans staying current, Alexander puts any concerns aside.

“Customers and anyone would be really surprised to find out just how frequently the procedures are looked at and plans are gone over,” Alexander says. “One of our goals is to make sure we have procedures and policies, and plans in place should something happen, and we can respond rapidly and do things to get systems back up and running should that occur. We hope it doesn’t. With the monitoring that we have out there and with the steps we have in place for security, things are going to happen and could happen. Our job is to try and stay ahead of those, and working with our local law enforcement agencies and national law enforcement agencies, we think we’re in good shape here in Springfield.”

Alexander says customers or anyone across the Ozarks with concerns or worries about substations or any part of the electric system should contact their local utility or 911.

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