Delivery of electricity needs to be protected better against threats

During the past year, there have been instances (too few in my opinion) when a person in the know has publicly professed alarm about the lack of “hardening” of the electrical and communication webs of conductors around the nation. This “hardening” is to protect the network of cables and wires that bring our electricity and communication services on which our whole national security and our personal safety, rely on us. Not only do we as individuals, but also to all business and even our defenses against external and internal threats, depend on reliable and uninterrupted delivery of these vital services.

The worst case statements have been to the effect that three properly placed atom bombs detonated at an elevation of several miles would produce an “EMP” (electrical magnetic pulse) that would render all unprotected electronic devices destroyed in seconds. The theory being that this electric surge would burn up and render all electric and electronic equipment unusable in an instant. A book on the subject, written as a novel titled, One Second Later, indicated that all the newer cars and trucks with computer controlled operations would be rendered junk. Other information available to me earlier would suggest that equipment not in operation at the time would not be affected.

On a more current level it has been my contention for a number of years that such equipment and cables should be buried to every extent possible, or economically feasible. A few years ago the City of Tulsa embarked on a project to widen South Yale Avenue from two to seven lanes from 71st to 81st streets. The telephone cables were already buried and my suggestion at a town meeting was to have the overhead power and TV cable lines buried, since the construction was of a major nature. That was, of course, ignored by both city and utility personnel, stating it was too costly. It boggles the mind to understand how having to replace and/or repair poles and lines damaged or destroyed by ice, snow, wind or vehicle collision damage could be afforded when the burial also would protect from EMP.

Then in the January 1 issue of the daily newspaper, there was a story credited to Holbrook Mohr and Garance Burke of the Associated Press bearing the headline, “Under the weather.” The sub-headline read: “Severe storms are increasingly causing blackouts.” The story covered almost a full page of print, divided into two pages, with pictures of repair work being done to replace downed lines in different places due to weather instances. Instances have happened here in Oklahoma where lines in the same location have come down more than once in a decade. The failure of the utilities to bury all lines when major street or highway construction requires the existing ones to be moved seems like mismanagement to me.

Also, the presence of the major extra-high voltage transmission lines is known to be a potential health hazard to people living or working near or under them from the magnetic field generated by the lines, particularly if they are alternating current. Even the very low power emitted by the so-called smart meters is claimed by some to have caused severe medical problems, with some justification.

It seems to me that the governments involved could work with the utilities to require lines to be buried whenever other work requires them to be moved. Both entities, in my opinion, are derelict in their service to customers to the detriment of them. Where the utility operates under a monopoly for their installation, the government involved could take a stronger hand, but maybe the political campaign pay-offs are a significant detriment to good government.