A power outage hit the London Underground and rail system Thursday, causing 1,800 trains to stop for about an hour stranding many commuters on their way home during rush hour. While the power outage was not as severe as the one in New York City last week, it still raises the question of how well maintained power grids really are and how well prepared we are for events such as the blackout.
Soon after the power outage in New York was resolved, experts pointed out that the system was in many ways simply outdated. The real cause of the massive power outages on the East Coast are still being investigated. One thing should be clear, however: Neither New York City nor London were very well-prepared when the power outage hit.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone told the BBC, “We’ve never had this catastrophic failure before and we clearly can’t have it again.”
One possible solution would be to further subdivide the power grid. Right now massive parts of the nation are interdependent. If one part fails, the entire part of that subsystem is supposed to cushion the blow. If it were many smaller subdivisions instead, one system might go down, but not the entire East Coast like last week.
It naturally should be a major goal of all parties responsible for the U.S. power grid, as well as other nations, to ensure that outages like these do not occur anymore.
While this sounds obvious, as it is hardly in the nations interest to have Wall Street remaining without power for a couple of days, not to mention a couple million households, it would also ensure that such weaknesses in the system that led to the outage could not be exploited by terrorists.
When the mass exodus of people walking across Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan started last week, many TV commentators compared the images with the ones of people fleeing the city after Sept. 11. The evacuation of people leaving their job’s location on a long trek home went in a much more orderly fashion than the one immediately following the attacks but the comparison was a fitting one nonetheless.
As military strategists have said in the past, you do not need to kill your enemy if you can simply incapacitate him instead. Causing a major power outage would be enough to shut major cities down, as we have seen in the last days. It has to be ensured that such a thing cannot occur again, be it through accidents or terrorism.