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Protecting Utilities -- Security Today

Protecting Utilities -- Security Today

Protecting Utilities

Theft and vandalism make enticing targets for criminals

Federal, state and local agencies prioritize robust physicalsecurity plans for the nation’s electric power utilities.And they should. Any disruption in service froma primary provider could impact millions of peopleand businesses over a wide swath of the country.

Protecting Utilities -- Security Today


Utilities provide ample targets for vandalism theft andvandalism. The nation’s complex electric grid system includesmore than 7,300 power plants, 160,000 miles of high-voltagepower lines and millions of miles of low-voltage lines, along withsubstations and transformers. The remote sites of many utilityfacilities make them more susceptible to attack with less risk ofdetection. The need for more utility infrastructure can only growas demands for electricity steadily climb.

It is not an overstatement to say our modern economy andlifestyles are dependent upon the reliable sources of powerthese utilities provide. Lately, there’s been a big emphasis oncybersecurity – protecting critical computer controls andcommunications systems from foreign and domestic hackers.However, successful physical attacks also highlight the need todeploy some of the security industry’s most sophisticated tools todeter criminals, from vandals to terrorists.

The non-profit North American Electric ReliabilityCorporation (NERC) sets standards, including security, for powersystem operation, monitoring and compliance. NERC’s criticalinfrastructure protection standards call for an initial risk assessmentof a utility’s facilities to identify potential security threats andweaknesses. After the evaluation, NERC’s standards call forutilities to develop and implement a physical security plan for alltransmission stations, substations and primary control centers.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2020 issue of Security Today.