Little Rock, Ark. — Oct. 24, 2013 — Although power outages occasionally occur, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas work diligently to minimize the number of outages and ensure against the disruption of service.

On Sunday, Oct. 27, the National Geographic Channel will air “American Blackout”. This film, debuting a few days before a new television series of the same nature is launched, envisions a national power failure across the United States caused by a cyber-attack over a 10-day period.

According to Duane Highley, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation and Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., the movie appears to be more of a dramatization than an illustration of a realistic event. Although a few blackouts in U.S. history have been of a regional nature, the grid is designed to be able to keep most outages localized. Moreover, with the high degree of planning and preparation that the electric industry has engaged in over the last several years, Highley said that the electric utility sector is more prepared for cyber-terrorism than any other critical infrastructure sector in the United States.

“Electric utilities work directly with officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government through the Department of Homeland Security to ensure threats are detected, shared and neutralized,” he said. “Utilities work with the government to improve the ability to restore the grid, should any interruption occur. The electric utility sector is the only critical sector that has mandatory, enforceable cybersecurity standards designed to protect the bulk electric system.”

On Nov. 13 and 14 more than 200 electric utilities and government agencies from across the nation will participate in GridEx II to test emergency response and restoration plans. This exercise includes the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

“Government and industry work together by sharing threat information in real-time and through confidential briefings, by developing and enforcing mandatory cyber-security standards, by identifying individuals to receive government security clearances to allow for confidential dialog and by conducting joint preparedness exercises, such as GridEx II,” Highley said.

While electric providers cannot guarantee that power interruption will not occur, the providers are ready to protect against outages, whether cyber, weather or equipment failure. It is important keep in mind that weather causes most outages and most outage issues are local or regional, according to Highley.

“Ultimately, our people are dedicated to ensuring that our cyber security and our reliability levels are the best in the world,” he said. “Electric power sector experts are routinely deployed to improve cyber security standards and address regulatory directives and best practices, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology standards.”

The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas comprise 17 electric distribution cooperatives; Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a Little Rock-based cooperative that provides services to the distribution cooperatives; and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp. (AECC), a generation and transmission cooperative. The distribution cooperatives provide electricity to approximately 500,000 homes, farms and businesses in Arkansas and surrounding states.

For additional information, contact:
Rob Roedel, Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, 501.570.2296 or rroedel@aeci.com
www.ecark.org