Purdue researchers, students help nation prepare in case of blackout

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.- For the next two days, most of the nation will continue turning on electronic devices and flipping light switches without a second thought. But at Purdue University, researchers are taking part in a nation-wide simulation called GrixExII. The experiment takes a look at weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the country’s power grid and how well-prepared the nation is to handle a blackout.

“They’re coming up with ideas about what an attacker might do and then using modeling, they’re not actually attacking the power grid, they’re using simulations and modelings of what the power grid looks like and using simulations about how these attacks would work, what would go down,” said Marc Rogers, Director of the Cyberforensics Lab at Purdue.

He said most people take technology and electricity for granted and relying too heavily on it leaves the country vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Small blackouts have happened due to storms like Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Katrina. Rogers said a total blackout would be much, much worse and would cause complete chaos.

“You’d have a lot of these what are called cascading failures and basically the country would be dark, it would be black, no power.  There would be no heat, so if you’re in the northern united states in the winter time, that could be devastating,” Rogers said.

The GridExII simulation aims to develop response procedures to a blackout and to fix weaknesses in the power grid once researchers identify them, explained Rogers.

The data collected during Wednesday and Thursday’s simulations will be analyzed and used to make changes to the grid. After that, some of the findings will be published in a public report.