What if one day, when the weather was calm and everything seemed quite normal, suddenly, the lights went out? The computer turned off? The refrigerator stopped running? What would pop into your mind? “Wow, that’s odd!” or “Oh, no, it’s happened…they’ve taken down the grid!”
I’ve just finished reading Ted Koppel’s book Lights Out. The well-known journalist took on a thorough investigation of the possibility of the American power grid getting taken down by either hostile forces or natural causes such as an electromagnetic pulse caused by a solar flare. His research was exhaustive, interviewing scientists, government and military officials, emergency management professionals and power industry executives among others. The big kahunas in the power industry insist that for the most part, the American power grids are resilient in spite of various vulnerabilities. They don’t see a nightmare scenario of an entire grid going down for weeks or months as likely if even possible. Others both from within and outside of the industry optimistically feel that if such a thing did happen, we’d be able to respond quickly and get a handle on it. However, Koppel presents compelling evidence to the contrary coming from other people in the know. And we’re talking about top-level people in the fields of science, computer technology, government intelligence and security, emergency preparedness, the military…not kooks and conspiracy theorists.
If such a disaster ever befell our nation, I’d rather have some idea of what to expect than be totally blind-sided. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and Super Storm Sandy in the Northeast were nothing compared to a grid going down. I lived through Sandy and I saw how people became desperate for those couple of weeks without power, without heat, without gas. But like Katrina, the affected area was small relative to the nation as a whole. The rest of the country was fine and able to render aid. We only have three grids in the United States. That means a huge swath of the country would be affected by just one grid failure.
I found the book to be eye-opening and thought-provoking. It is well-researched and for the most part clearly written. There are a few instances of tangents that don’t really contribute to the overall purpose of the book. I recommend it for those who prefer to be informed and prepared for come what may, heads out of the sand. I do not recommend it for those who are prone to anxiety, counter-productive fear and irrational thinking. If you’re one of those, don’t read the book. We’ll deal with you and your panic attacks if and when the time comes.