What could be worse than a nationwide downing of the U.S. electrical grid after a devastating cyber attack? How about a grossly inaccurate fictional account of needless panic and despair produced by National Geographic.
If you missed the premier of the wildly inane and ridiculously under-researched tale “American Blackout” that aired Sunday evening, you are among the fortunate ones who were spared a few hours of nauseating distraction.
If you were unfortunate enough to catch it, read no further and just tend to your mental health needs after suffering through the onslaught of FUD.
The producer pitched the movie as “the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told in real time, over 10 days, by those who kept filming on cameras and phones. You’ll learn what it means to be absolutely powerless. Gritty, visceral and totally immersive, see what it might take to survive from day one, and who would be left standing when the lights come back on.”
How bad was American Blackout? From the outset, the mini-drama got the fundamental facts wrong in that the North American grid is interconnected with Canada and Mexico, so any widespread disruption would not have been isolated to the U.S. alone, but that’s just a minor oversight.
“If – and it’s a BIG IF – we suffer a widespread outage as a result of equipment loss, we would have islands of power back up within a very short time – we practice outage scenarios all the time,” says Patrick Miller (@PatrickCMiller), managing partner at the Anfield Group, founder of EnergySec, and a Principal Investigator for the National Electric Sector Cybersecurity Organization (NESCO).
“Sometimes just because we know it’s the right thing to do and sometimes because mother nature gives us an opportunity. We should always prepare for disaster scenarios. We should never become complacent and think it’ll never happen to us. The part of this story that is left out is the fact that the electric utilities are some of the most prepared organizations imaginable,” Miller continued.
Miller says the scenario is possible, but only because anything is possible, but it is extremely improbable, and was not an accurate portrayal on any level.
“The North American grid is profoundly resilient. The engineers that currently design and maintain the grid are some of the most creative and innovative people on the planet. Every utility operations employee knows the dependence of this nation on electricity. They take their jobs very seriously,” Miller said.
As testimony to the unbridled silliness of the production, when it looks as if all hope is lost and people are about read to start eating one another, the power comes back on and everyone breaths a collective sigh of relief while one woman triumphantly hold up her cell phone and exclaims “I have coverage!”
That was the last spoken line of the movie. Seriously, that’s what she said.