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Featured Staged Blackouts

  1. Aug 23, 2017 #21

    anorlunda

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    That could be arranged. Our operators drill blackouts on their simulator, but a company-wide drill is conceivable.
     
  2. Aug 23, 2017 #22
    It should get much more interesting in the years to come with the "push" to go all electric, or green.

    65,000 homes without power in the region, - 38, 000 clients in NDG area.
    Fallen trees and other damage, due to a severe thunderstorm and likely micro-burst(s) ( and/or tornado short lived )
    http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/severe-thunderstorm-watch-issued-for-montreal-area-2
    So for a random staged blackout, those people are experiencing one right now, courtesy of Mother Nature.
    At least it is in the summer and the people won't freeze to death inside unheated homes.
    The good decision makers of Montreal have begum a phase out of wood burning stoves, even offering conversion grants.
    How many homes convert, or just close off the chimney, due to finances, would be a guess. I don't know the poll stats.
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/montreal-to-ban-wood-stoves-by-2020-1.1403350
    Not to be outdone, the all knowing officials of the province of Quebec are keenly promoting the purchase of electric vehicles - by law that is.
    http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/quebec-e...-concern-within-automotive-industry-1.3253419
    Pardon the attitude.

    One can just imagine that in just a few years coming, a good old winter -20C service failure could mean an unheated home with no space backup, for you and the neighbor(s) all the way down the street, and you can't get out because the car isn't charged.
    Just sayin.
     
  3. Aug 23, 2017 #23

    anorlunda

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    Make it -40C or lower and it becomes more scary. I've experienced a multi-day -42C event not to far from Montreal.

    But more menacing than temperature would be repeats of the 1998 ice storm in Quebec which could present the utility with 200000 simultaneous contingencies to deal with and repair. In 1998, it took up to 3 months to restore service to all customers. It sounds criminal to forbid wood stoves and fossil fuel cars without a plan to deal with a repeat of 1998.
     
  4. Aug 24, 2017 #24

    OCR

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  5. Sep 1, 2017 #25

    CalcNerd

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    What about lost revenue. I always hear power companies want to keep the meters running "said in jest, but still it is said". When an area is blacked out, that is significant lost revenue, most of which is never recoverable. Would you want us to take a $100 out of your income every few months, just to see how you cope with the loss of revenue??
    .
    In essence, that is what you are doing to the power company on an imposed blackout test.
     
  6. Sep 11, 2017 #26
    Our family has made a habit of having backups and redundancies for critical systems for a couple decades now.

    But I hate to see fools viewing services like electricity as anything more than a relationship with the customer with the main goal to meet customer needs and desires. Trying to "teach" customers a lesson by shutting off their power is a fool's errand. I hope they would teach the power companies a lesson in return by breaking all the monopolies.

    A good company encourages customers to voluntarily understand and plan for interruptions in their service.
     
  7. Sep 11, 2017 #27

    anorlunda

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    Yes, but can you cite a case from anywhere in the world where that succeeded? In my OP, I cited the case of inadvertent outages hardening the population of Mumbai.

    Don't forget the other example of staged GPS, or cell, or Internet blackouts. Many people other than me have have decried the way we so thoughtlessly acquire dependencies on such things. Avoidable dependencies. Dependencies that make those services juicy targets for terrorism or cyberwar.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2017
  8. Sep 11, 2017 #28

    Averagesupernova

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    How can you say it has not? Do those things make the news? Do you think news would cover how thousands of subscribers have gotten by just fine in the event of a blackout? No. They are going to cover the problems people are having because they have no electricity.
     
  9. Sep 11, 2017 #29
    Lots of folks in S Louisiana have generators and plans for extended power outages. When we lived in rural Michigan, most families had plans for heat in the event of extended power outages even if they didn't have backup electricity. Independence and self-reliance tend to be higher in rural areas than in suburbia and urban areas. Drive around rural Michigan some time. Take note of all the homes with huge propane tanks, cord after cord of firewood, or a whole winter worth of coal. They are ready for a week or two without electricity.
     
  10. Sep 11, 2017 #30

    anorlunda

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    Look at recent hurricane news coverage There have been a lot of words about readiness, apart from news of the damage. So, that's a flaw in your argument about news.

    I say it from 45 years of reading accounts of blackouts similar to the one quoted in #8. You can read a fair number of such accounts yourself1985-present at http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/ Consider from #8 the example of a civil defense warning system that failed to work. Who could imagine that civil defense didn't plan for blackouts, or didn't test? Nevertheless when the time came it didn't work. There is no substitute for experience.

    But you raise an interesting point and looking at it another way. Say that X fraction of the people consider blackouts to be of small consequence, and (1-X) find it disastrous. What is the fraction X we find tolerable? I don't think any of us could answer that. I may have lost my winter home yesterday in Irma, yet I'm sure that more than 0.99 of Florida homeowners escaped with no damage, or injury. Does that make Irma inconsequential? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on that.

    But I have been looking at it from a different view -- as a question of public health. If the public has anxiety from fear that cyber terrorists can bring us to our knees by attacking the power grid, then we have a public health program. In my mind, staged blackouts would primarily be aimed at bolstering public confidence, and only secondarily to change the value of X.
     
  11. Sep 11, 2017 #31
    Indeed I think this is the crux of the problem when we approach the discussion from the standpoint of negative impact to life and livelihood this staged outage policy would precipitate. If it's so much as a car wreck because the traffic lights went out someone is going to point the finger of blame at the scheduled event.

    From a purely economical standpoint it's actually pretty easy to provide an answer. It's the value that we as a society are willing to pay out for relief to those subjected to the disastrous. One could say the return on this investment is to ferret out unpreparedness knowing that in the case of a genuine emergency the cost is paid out anyway, with interest, often in a time when many other uncontrollable circumstances make it a battle for resources. That may be a harder number to nail down.
     
  12. Sep 11, 2017 #32

    Averagesupernova

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    My view falls along the same lines as @Dr. Courtney . Many people in parts of the country are prepared for power outages. Some of them routinely or at least semi routinely have them. Those are the people that other folks can learn from. The news media typically concentrates on the 'bad' news as opposed to the good. Say all you want about current coverage of the hurricane, the general trend is always the same, more coverage of bad than good. So with this in mind you cannot say that nowhere in the world has a utilities advice to it's customers to be prepared ever worked. Pretty sure many folks have gotten by just fine and no one knew any different.
     
  13. Sep 11, 2017 #33

    Dale

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    That is interesting. Do you have a specific source for this cost benefit claim or is it just a gut feeling? This seems like something that could benefit from some actuaries actually calculating things. I wonder how much cost/benefit other drills produce.

    I think this may be a hard case to make quantitatively. A fire is very dangerous, so small increases in preparedness can be valuable. A power outage is only mildly dangerous, so small increases in preparedness will be correspondingly less valuable. On the other hand, power outages are more common and affect more people than fires.

    Maybe something more like the "stop drop and roll" campaign would be more effective than drills. Just some basic public education, e.g. Teach drivers what to do at an intersection with unpowered lights.
     
  14. Sep 12, 2017 #34

    anorlunda

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    Does anyone see the irony? As we debate in this thread, 6 million people in Florida are being subjected to an unplanned experiment in survival without power. I'm sure many stories will come out of that. Just think if the event had been in Quebec in winter with -20 to -40 temperature as @256bits mentioned in #22.

    To my knowledge it has never been studied. Indeed, the keep the lights on culture in the industry is so strong that I held back these opinions for more than 30 years in fear of instant dismissal if I voiced them while employed in the industry. But I see in cybersecurity and anti-terror circles that the word resilience is mentioned more and more often. Perhaps eventually it will mature to consider the public's resilience.

    Of course a plan for staged blackouts must minimize harm. The earliest planned events would be limited in scope and given wide publicity in advance. In fact, make an analogy to Y2K. If we had 3 years advance notice of a staged blackout, and if every business and government and individuals were pressured to certify blackout-readiness to their stockholders and insurance companies before the event, then much of the training value would achieved, even if the actual event was canceled at the last moment. That was immensely successful in the case of Y2K because of the pressure to not just claim readiness but to certify it by an independent source. That leans in the direction of less drastic means suggested by @russ_watters and @Dale.
     
  15. Sep 21, 2017 at 8:26 AM #35
    My first thought is I love this idea. I agree entirely that in America we take for granted luxuries that in other parts of the world are not nearly as common. We have a tendency to treat these systems as infallible until something happens to them. It's a form of self-denial that we see across a wide range of areas where the following conversation occurs:

    -What if X happens?
    -It won't
    -Well it's not a zero-probability event so it could happen; if it does what's your plan?
    -It won't
    -So you have no plan?
    -It just won't happen

    This sort of self-blinding attitude ultimately results in mass panic when Event X does happen. So I'm all for preparedness. The only issue I see is that with staging blackouts you can't notify people ahead of time, and there are emergency services that require power. You would have to be 100% certain that the backup power supplies for places like hospitals were functioning before you pulled the plug.
     
  16. Sep 21, 2017 at 9:15 AM #36

    anorlunda

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    You could start with staged blackouts given looks of warning and publicity.

    The goal is not necessarily surprise, but more to let them discover that things they believed O.K. Are not. If people test their own preparedness in advance, that's fine.

    Once again, compare it to Y2K. After Y2K, namely on 9/11/2001, businesses were much better prepared than they were in 1998.
     
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