EXERCISE – EXERCISE – EXERCISE: “Five million people are without power across the Eastern United States in what is being described as a coordinated physical and cyber attack against the bulk power system.”
On November 13-14, MISO reenacted a scenario similar to this fictional headline. Thankfully it was not real but was part of an important biannual NERC-sponsored grid security exercise known as GridEx V. With 6,500 participants in the United States and Canada—including more than 100 from MISO—representing more than 425 organizations from across the electric power industry and federal and state governments, the exercise tested our individual and collective systems.
Bombarded with a range of dramatic simulated conditions, such as fuel shortages, loss of control center functionality, physical and cyber attacks, and a compromised back office, MISO tested its resiliency and ability to respond and recover from a severe security event. While NERC supplies the overarching theme for GridEx, each organization is responsible for building their own scenarios to test. Subject matter experts from key areas were engaged to ensure MISO’s scenarios were accurate, realistic and designed to identify and test critical infrastructure area interdependencies and improve situational awareness reporting.
Over the two-day exercise, players were asked to be fully engaged, keep journals and provide immediate feedback after each of the eight scenarios. GridEx player and Transmission Security Planning Engineer, Amir Quadri, shared that this year’s exercise was more effective than in the past. “The scenarios were more plausible, and the lessons learned show where MISO has plans and procedures for real-time events. It prompted robust conversations during and after the exercise. Based on what we learned during this event, we are continuing to update our plans, create new procedures and train our teams on how to respond more effectively.”
As part of the exercise, the Unified Incident Response (UIR) team tested new incident criteria scales, situational awareness dashboards, roles and responsibilities and communication channels. “GridEx was the perfect opportunity to test MISO’s existing processes to build a more robust and unified approach to incident response before, during and after an event,” said Angela Weber, executive director of the newly created UIR. Weber engaged with the committees and players throughout the planning process and observed the exercise.
Trevor Hines, Outage Coordination Lead and Lead Planner for GridEx V declares the exercise a huge success as it provided a strong learning experience. Hines expressed, “Whether it’s a last minute change to the plan, changes in team structure or mitigating an issue that arises during the exercise, overcoming issues requires a good team and I’m thankful for the many people behind the scenes working well together and sharing the same passion for wanting GridEx V to be a success here at MISO!”
MISO’s planning for GridEx began in 2018 when a steering committee and core planning team were established. Of note, the communication plan MISO developed for GridEx was so thorough, it was presented as a best practice to hundreds of participants at the final national NERC planning meeting. Planning for GridEx VI begins now with the compilation and implementation of feedback from MISO, and then from the industry next spring. MISO is proud to announce it will host the national kickoff meeting for GridEx VI next fall.
All of us at MISO and our stakeholders can be thankful to the dedicated team that will continuously work to protect our bulk power system. Congratulations for a job well done!