What GRIDEX II should be teaching us

If anyone ever tells you that emergency preparedness drills are a piece of cake, they’d be lying to you.  If they said that the scenarios are thought out to take into consideration every possible outcome… again lying.  Emergency preparedness drills can only simulate a ‘best-guess’ as to how the real thing might actually go.  As in life, an infinite number of outcomes or futures exist that can be caused by the smallest thing.  Take Fukishima for example, in a recently produced documentary, it was revealed that the safety valve failure that would have mitigated the meltdown of the reactors was actually caused by the meltdown of the reactors.  What engineers failed to understand when the safety valves were designed is that the valves only functioned properly when reactor pressures were very low (as in normal operating conditions).  The valves failed to work when the increasing core temperatures produced elevated steam pressure which forced the safety valves closed.  Now Japanese engineers are no dummies, but somehow, as always human error combined with the actual environmental conditions provides a perfect storm kind of scenario that NO ONE can anticipate.

The same is true with all Emergency Preparedness Drills.  As much as we think we can prepare for the worst, it seems the worst is always, well, worse than we can prepare for.

This week several important events are happening.  First, the NERC (North American Electrical Reliability Corporation) is holding a two-day series of scenarios on the 13th and 14th called GRID EX II, to simulate electrical grid collapse.  Secondly, TEPCO will be attempting to remove fuel rods from the Fukushima reactor site on November 15th.  What is disturbing about these events is that officials have vastly underplayed the significance of these events and what they mean in the grand scheme of things.

NERC officials have stated that grid collapse is a guarantee, either by cyber attack (super hacker/EMP/Nuclear) or by natural occurrence such as a CME (coronal mass ejection) aimed at earth.  What is most frightening is that the greater public has not been educated in how they might survive such an event and certainly has not been involved in the planning of recovery should such an event occur.  Right now NERC is merely interested to see what the grid is capable of doing, what problems might arise and how they might be dealt with.

Recently, National Geographic aired a program showing us what we might expect during a grid failure.  It was nothing short of apocalyptic.  However, as an article by the Center for Security Policy points out:

“If National Geographic’s docu-drama is unrealistic about anything, it understates the threat by creating a scenario in which a nationwide blackout lasts just 10 days.  Among seven U.S. government studies conducted since 2004, a consensus has emerged that the electric power industry is not prepared to cope with manmade or natural EMP threats that could inflict a nationwide blackout lasting not days, but months or years.” – GRIDEX II Keeps Americans in the Dark

Have people been sufficiently warned about this or do you think it would come as a complete surprise?  If history teaches us anything it is that we should hope for the best, but always prepare for the worst.  Lets not forget what happened with Katrina.  Not only was the situation handled badly resulting in UNNECESSARY deaths, but the recovery from such an event never fully happened.  Let us not forget that this scenario has already happened:

Power Outage in 2003 affected millions of American and Canadian citizens.
Power Outage in 2003 affected millions of American and Canadian citizens.

It was ten years ago that the power outages struck Canada and several U.S. states.  This event impacted seven states and there were over 50 million people without power.  Although there have been some improvements made to our power systems since that time, we still suffer from frequent power surges and are at risk of solar flares impacting our grid system.  The flare that took down the Quebec grid cost 1.5 billion dollars in damages, with 250 million of that cost being from destroyed perishables.  The relatively ‘small’ occurrence that happened 10 years ago caused a relatively small blip in our world – what would happen if another Carrington Event occurred in today’s world?  The impact on our society and economy would be incalculable. ” – Pyrolysis blog

Bottom line is that we all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent what we can, prepare to survive what does happen, and to chose to NOT turn against our fellow man in times of crisis.  We have to come to the realization that those powers that be may not have a stake in our survival, only in their survival.  You and I may be collateral damage to a corporation that also acts as it’s own lobbyist.  So whose best interests will they serve? Certainly not yours or mine.

That is why we must make a choice to stop waiting for our government, our corporations, our leaders to save us.  We must decide that it is possible to get educated, get prepared and when TSHTF, to remain calm.  It is possible to come together as a community, to share our resources and to become a better society than the one we left off from.  It’s up to us.

 

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