Power grid attacks reported across nation, including Washington

SEATTLE — The recent power substation attacks in North Carolina put thousands of customers in the dark recently.

Many are just now getting their power back on. Currently, law enforcement believes these attacks were intentional.

“It’s not just an inconvenience for preventing me from streaming my favorite show, you know. What’s it doing to that person that is on a dialysis machine? I mean, it could be life-threatening,” FBI spokesperson Steve Bernd said.

But North Carolina isn’t the only state dealing with substation attacks. In a recent memo sent out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there were reports of other physical attacks at substations in parts of Oregon and here in Washington.

In a statement, Puget Sound Energy confirmed two separate incidents at substations in November.

“We are aware of recent threats on power systems across the country and take these very seriously.

We are monitoring our infrastructure and can confirm we have had two incidents occur in late November at two different substations.

We can’t comment on the incidents because they are both an on-going investigation involving the FBI.”

Bernd told KIRO 7 that the FBI cannot directly comment on active investigations, but said this sort of attack is a serious matter.

“It’s something we want the public to remain vigilant to. It’s vastly important to everyone involved that our infrastructure is protected,” Bernd said.

Companies throughout Puget Sound emphasized the importance of strong security. Seattle City Light, which has over 450,000 residential customers, tells KIRO 7 every employee is trained on proper security protocol.

“That is very much ingrained into what everyone here at Seattle City Light does. Even myself who works in an office building, I have a security protocol that I have to follow,” said Seattle City Light media relations manager, Jenn Strang.

Strang said Seattle City Light works with a private security company when it comes to watching its substations. She also said Seattle City Light is constantly communicating with DHS and other agencies.

“We are constantly receiving alerts from the Department of Homeland Security and what we call NERC, which is the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which is part of the electrical grid system for the nation,” Strang said.

But those who live near substations in town, like Casey Evans, believe security can improve — especially since Evans said there have been some dicey situations outside the substation off Denny Way before.

“That was actually shattered, the one with the patch on it. That was shattered from the gunshots for probably about eight months before they actually decided to fix it,” Evans said.

He hopes that after the recent attacks across the nation, power companies will keep their word and keep the grid running.

“But I know that living right next door to it, it’s an incredibly disconcerting and disheartening thing to think about,” Evans said.

“And we are making sure that our customers are safe and secure and that our grid is safe and secure,” Strang said.

Snohomish County Public Utility District declined an interview on this topic. However, it said that it had not received any recent threats or incidents at its substations. The district also stated that it has robust security, including cameras and mobile security patrols.

Anyone who sees any suspicious activity outside a substation should call 911 immediately.

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