How safe is the US power grid?

Power lines (WLUK image)

FOX 11 is digging deeper into the safety of the U.S. power grid. As we've reported this week, some people say it could be a target for terrorists.

From charging your cellphone to keeping your food cold, electricity is part of our everyday life - something that most people could not live without.

It's delivered through a network of power plants and transformers. Connecting it all: more than 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. From there, the power is delivered through a series of small, low-voltage lines, allowing you to power up your electronic devices and appliances in your home.

And because of our reliance on electricity, some counterterrorism experts believe the U.S. power grid could be a potential target.

Here in Wisconsin, a bill was signed into law this year, increasing penalties for those who intentionally try and target power sources.

State Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, was one of the lawmakers behind the push.

"Becoming a model piece of legislation that is likely to be introduced in many states across the nation," he said. "It's one more step to prevent those type of rogue nation-state attacks on our energy infrastructure from occurring."

One of the biggest concerns is something called an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP. It could release a seismic burst of energy, that would overpower the system. Experts don't believe terror groups like ISIS have the capability to pull off such an attack, but they say they threat would come from nations like Iran or North Korea.

RELATED | How vulnerable is our nation's power grid to an electromagnetic bomb?

"There are reports, over a dozen of them, in the last few years coming from Iran, Russia, other places around the world, in which our energy infrastructure is being targeted," Steffen said.

The U.S. power grid is split into three separate sections. They are the Eastern, Western and Texas Interconnections. Wisconsin is powered by the Eastern Interconnection.

Through a statement, Wisconsin's Public Service Commission says, "Utilities must meet federal standards to safeguard against largescale outages of all kinds."

It goes on to say, "The PSC coordinates efforts on the topic of these utility security plans with multiple entities on the state and federal level."

The commission says it also holds various emergency drills. Several groups participate, including the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs and State Emergency Management.

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