AMU Law Enforcement Original Public Safety

Power Substation Attacks and Protecting Our Electrical Grid

According to CBS News, Moore County in North Carolina recently declared a state of emergency due to an outage at two electrical power substations. This failure was the result of intentional damage caused by gunshots.

The power substation attacks resulted in about 45,000 people losing power. In addition, the power failure caused wastewater pumps to become inoperable, traffic lights went out and emergency shelters had to be opened.

What is most concerning is that these deliberate power substation attacks occurred at multiple sites. They were likely coordinated by attackers who intended to cause potentially life-threatening conditions for those people who depend on electricity.

Power stations must be protected because our electrical grid powers most of our daily activities.

The electrical grid is an extremely important part of the energy sector of our critical infrastructure, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Our electrical grid powers most of the things that we do in life, and a constant supply of electrical power is crucial for emergency services.

How Did the North Carolina Power Outage Impact Residents?

NBC News notes that the power outage in Moore Country caused several accidents. In addition, robbery attempts occurred during the power outage, and there was one fatality that may be linked to the electrical failure. According to NBC News, the FBI has joined state and local authorities as they investigate these intentional power substation attacks.

A lack of electrical power creates a lot of problems. For example, food may become difficult to access if grocery stores are closed or if the food has rotted in unpowered refrigerators and freezers. Similarly, schools had to close due to a lack of heat and electrical power, and homes became cold, posing a health risk to residents vulnerable to low temperatures.

RELATED: Ensuring the Right Response for Predictable Disasters

Additional Attacks to Electrical Substations Have Occurred in Other States

Unfortunately, the power substation attacks are not limited to North Carolina. According to Fox News, Washington and Oregon have also experienced similar attacks on their electrical substations, and a federal law enforcement memo stated there have been “physical attacks on substations using hand tools, arson, firearms, and metal chains possibly in response to an online call for attacks on critical infrastructure.”

The federal law enforcement memo also stated that the aim of the attackers was to “to cause widespread power failures with the potential impact of social disruption and violent anti-government criminal activity. In recent attacks, criminal actors bypassed security fences by cutting the fence links, lighting nearby fires, shooting equipment from a distance, or throwing objects over the fence and onto equipment.”

Our Critical Infrastructure Needs to Be Closely Guarded and Power Substation Attacks Should Be Promptly Reported

Overall, there seems to be a trend growing toward this type of deliberate attack. In February of 2022, the Department of Justice announced that three men pled guilty to a scheme that involved attacking a power grid with the intent to cause economic suffering and civil unrest to further their political agenda. Anyone who observes suspicious activity at or near an electrical substation or power plant should contact law enforcement immediately.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. Jarrod can be reached through his website at for more information.

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