Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dominion Power, Emergency Preparedness meets with Arlington neighborhood residents to talk about readiness

This evening (Tuesday, May 13, 2014) I attended a community briefing of the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association in Arlington VA, on emergency preparedness.

A spokesperson from Dominion Power described the priorities in the process of restoring electricity after a disruption.  There is authorization from the state to begin some undergrounding work, but extensive work would require SEC approval.  To put all of Arlington’s lines underground would cost $30000 per consumer. 

The spokesperson noted that it was getting difficult to hire repair linemen in this area.  Increasingly, more line repair technicians are women.  Dominion also showed charts showing a sharp increase in power disruptions related to weather or climate since about 2004.   Winds over 60 mph will usually cause some outages (the derecho led to winds over 80 mph).

A representative of Arlington Emergency Preparedness spoke frankly.  Mass evacuations are usually impractical and never happen after sudden catastrophes (hurricanes are the one major reason in coastal areas).  But she urged that everyone be able to survive 3-5 days not only without power in a small area like one’ s home, but in a whole metro areas, so far a very rare occurrence.  Having some cash was suggested.   

One possibility mentioned was that the 2011 earthquake could have been much worse, resulting in collapses and search and rescues.  But other real disasters are possible.  Nuclear weapons and dirty bombs were mentioned.  I asked about concerns from not just the right wing but from Oak Ridge Laboratories and the National Academy of Sciences about the possibility of solar super storms (like Carrington) or of an EMP terror attack (which could be localized and non-nuclear with flux devises in use by the military today in combat areas).  All of this was acknowledged as at least possible.  Dominion Power says that, in view of the reports about the incident in California in April 2013, it has steadily increased substation security.  And attention was being given to harden major transformers and switching equipment to electromagnetic disruption as well as cyber and physical attacks.  Large tornadoes have occurred in the area (Frostburg and La Plata) but don’t seem to be increasing in frequency with climate change.   

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