States and cities are confronting new energy risks that are challenging their ability to respond to and recover from energy emergencies. The changing threat landscape is driving officials to update their state and local energy assurance plans to respond to emerging threats such as cyber attacks, solar storms, terrorist attacks, and cascading impacts from interconnected infrastructures. Understanding the possible consequences of energy emergencies and the responses of private, federal, state, and local partners helps strengthen energy assurance and resilience.
Nexight Group is working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration Division and the National Association of State Energy Officials to conduct regional energy assurance tabletop exercises that simulate energy emergencies. The tabletops are designed to help state and local agencies evaluate their emergency preparedness and test their energy assurance plans against hypothetical energy disruptions that affect multiple states. Nexight Group’s Jack Eisenhauer and Lindsay Kishter help design the tabletop sessions, lead facilitated discussions, and elicit lessons learned from the exercise. So far, more than 480 people representing 43 states and territories have participated in regional tabletop exercises conducted in the Southeast (Raleigh, NC – March 2011), Northeast (Boston, MA – June 2011), and Midwest (Chicago, IL – August 2011); a fourth exercise is planned in the West (Phoenix, AZ – November 2011).
Each tabletop exercise brings together state and local government officials, private energy providers, and federal representatives to work through a series of natural and man-made disruptions (e.g., hurricanes, fuel supply shortages, drought, cyber attacks, and worker strikes) that escalate to create an energy emergency for the region. Exercise participants must quickly 1) evaluate the situation, 2) identify immediate and follow-on response actions, 3) identify communication channels, 4) analyze interdependencies, and 5) indicate how their Energy Assurance Plan addresses the energy disruption.
Nexight Group will support the upcoming energy assurance tabletop exercise in the West, drawing on experience gained from previous exercises. Nexight Group has also conducted 20 tabletop exercises for the chemical and commercial facilities sector in support to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including active shooter and improvised explosive device exercises for chemical facilities.