HAP Blog

Why Power Plays an Important Role in Emergency Preparedness

January 30, 2023

Cyberattacks aren’t the only external threats on the rise. Lately, we’ve been monitoring vulnerabilities within our power grids and substations.

Since last year, there has been a number of physical attacks on this critical infrastructure. While there has been some publicity about these incidents, it’s our role to look beyond the headlines and think of the bigger picture.

We know our hospitals are large energy consumers, needing power 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for lighting, security systems, operating room equipment, and other essentials. As we look at the potential hazards on the horizon, we must consider the vulnerabilities within our grid.

Common themes

Our power substations are critical to our infrastructure, and that makes them a natural target for bad actors. With many of these incidents, it appears perpetrators have the ability and knowledge to identify critical substation components that, when damaged, create outages.

The rise in these incidents should raise regional, community, and health care risk scores. It’s important for hospital officials and emergency managers to be vigilant and monitor these external events.

This includes attacks at substations in Florida, a series of attacks on electrical substations in Oregon and Washington, and countless other reports that have led to outages across the U.S.

Pennsylvania isn’t immune from these incidents. During June 2020, an attempted attack was conducted at a substation near Hershey. This incident did appear to be different than some of the others targeted attacks, as officials believe a small drone was used with the intent to cause an outage or disruption.

What you can do

Hospital officials and other health care partners should communicate and share information. Has anyone experienced an issue? Also, consider completing an internal evaluation of vulnerabilities and processes.

Here are some important questions to ask and key considerations:

  • Has the facility experienced any recent or past events—large or small? Have they been reviewed and have mitigation strategies been implemented? 
  • Has facility management and/or security seen any issues outside of normal operations—anything witnessed, anything reported?
  • Communication is key. Potential outages and attacks on substations pose significant concerns to affected areas.
  • Is access to critical infrastructure areas limited? And, what staff and personnel have access to boiler rooms, power, generators, water, etc.?
  • Are mechanisms like locks and swipe entry systems working properly?
  • Are security cameras positioned properly and functioning? Just because the camera is there, do not assume it’s working properly.

We take our energy infrastructure for granted when things runs smoothly, but we all notice when the power goes out. Remaining vigilant to potential hazards is a core principle of situational awareness, and it gives us the ability to act quickly in the event of an emergency.

For more information, contact Matthew Linse, HAP’s manager, emergency management. 

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