Parallels can be drawn to grid outages caused by natural disasters and those caused by cyberattacks, National Electrical Manufacturers Association Assistant Vice President Paul Molitor said in his testimony last week before a joint Homeland Security subcommittee hearing.

At the hearing entitled Cyber Incident Response: Bridging the Gap Between Cybersecurity and Emergency Management, Molitor described the lessons that can be learned from natural disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the East Coast one year ago. To prepare for threats caused by natural disasters and cyberattacks, our nation would be well-served to develop an electric grid with improved capabilities. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy established characteristics for Smart Grid, including:

  • optimize asset utilization and operate efficiently
  • anticipate and respond to system disturbances
  • operate resiliently against attack and natural disaster

“The key to this kind of performance is rooted in consensus-based, voluntary industry standards.  Standards define the interactions between entities to create both interoperability and cybersecurity,” Molitor said.  “They allow electrical manufacturers to build security into the grid, which is preferable to installing free-and-open devices that are secured after installation.”

“Moreover, the standards-based monitoring features of the Smart Grid will facilitate communications between grid operators, emergency crews, and first responders,” he added.

Other witnesses included representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Emergency Management Association, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, and National Fusion Center Association.

NEMA is the association of electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers, founded in 1926 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.