• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Left in the Dark: Blackouts 101

    Photo of a vacant 7-11 in San Diego closed due to the blackout. Photo taken by Flickr user @nathangibbs

    Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and now blackouts? One might say Mother Nature is on a rampage.

    On Thursday around 3:45 p.m., 1.5 million people lost power. A mass blackout occurred spanning California, Arizona, and parts of Mexico. Affecting major cities throughout the region, the high-voltage power line outage between Arizona and California left millions without power. Sweltering heat and massive traffic pileups activated emergency operations in areas like San Diego. Blackouts continued throughout the evening, leaving small hope that any relief would come prior to late Friday.

    Blackouts can come from electric disruptions, damaged voltage lines, natural disasters, explosions, and/or technical shutdowns. They can last for minutes, hours, or days. Until proper electricity and energy sources are fixed, the affected areas will remain without power.

    Blackouts are dangerous because of their immediate effects. All major cities depend on electricity for daily functions. Computers, nuclear reactors, stoplights, hospitals, air conditioning, air traffic control, airport security screening equipment—all become useless. Security must be available in order to minimize riots, crowds, and looting.

    Many remember the 2003 East Coast blackout, which left 50 million in Canada and the U.S. without power. During the past two decades, such blackouts have been on the rise. In less than 20 years, the incidence of blackouts in the United States increased 124 percent—up from 41 blackouts between 1991 and 1995 to 92 between 2001 and 2005, according to a study by the University of Minnesota.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has guidelines titled “Rolling Blackouts into Disaster Planning.” FEMA is right to promote preparedness, but it is local governments and authorities, rather than the federal government, who ought to take the lead in preparation for blackouts. Instead of continuing its pace of responding to all manner of disasters, FEMA should focus on responding to those that are truly catastrophic in nature, coming to the aid of state and local responders when their resources and capabilities are overwhelmed.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Left in the Dark: Blackouts 101

    1. zff says:

      "In less than 20 years, the incidence of blackouts in the United States increased 124 percent—up from 41 blackouts between 1991 and 1995 to 92 between 2001 and 2005, according to a study by the University of Minnesota."

      Wow, that is about as blatant a cherry picking as I've seen. Looks like they picked two random sets of years. What about before 1991 or after 2005? Why randomly pick 1991 to '95, jump ahead about seven years and then stop at 2005 when we are at eight years later since then? The study is from 2010, so don't tell me they didn't have data after 2005. This 'study' proves absolutely nothing. Looking at the link, the 'study' looks to me like a thinly veiled attempt to push for "infrastructure spending" and to advocate for a 'smart' grid, which by the way can be used by the authorities to shut off your power when they don't like how you are using it.

    2. This is why blackout preparation is so important. Unfortunately, most people haven't taken the time to prepare for any type of disaster, let alone a blackout. Hopefully events such as these will get people to take the initiative and become prepared BEFORE the next blackout occurs.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.