National Infrastructure Council Warns of New Threat Combo as Potential Danger

When the Big One hits, the United States won’t be ready for it. In this case, the big one is a power outage “of a magnitude beyond modern experience” that could paralyze entire regions for weeks or months, cripple the country’s operations, and strain emergency organizations well past their ability to respond, according to a new report from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC).

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Citing the increasing likelihood of both natural and manmade disasters, NIAC said the country needs to prepare now for such a catastrophic event.

“This profound threat requires a new national focus,” the report states. “The NIAC found that our existing plans, response resources, and coordination strategies would be outmatched by an event of this severity. Significant action is needed to prepare for a catastrophic power outage that could last for weeks or months.”

The council, a public-private group created to advise the White House on infrastructure protection, said the most severe outage could occur as a result of a hybrid event, such as a cyber attack conducted in concert with a physical attack, or a physical attack timed to accompany a natural disaster. An outage that severe, spanning states or regions and tens of millions of people, would quickly exhaust the resources of local, state, and Federal mutual aid organizations. “An event of this severity may also be an act of war, requiring a simultaneous military response that further draws upon limited resources,” the report points out.

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