Engineer on safeguarding U.S. power grids

Electrical engineer on how to safeguard U.S. power grids


Three power substations in the Tacoma, Washington, area were vandalized Sunday, knocking out power to around 14,000 customers, police said. 

The first substation, located in Spanaway, Washington, and belonging to Tacoma Public Utilities, was attacked around 5:30 a.m. local time, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. Nothing was stolen, but equipment was vandalized, leading to outages in the area, police said.

A second nearby TPU substation was also vandalized, police said.

A substation belonging to Puget Sound Energy was also vandalized sometime in the early morning, police said. Power went around 2:30 a.m. local time. Police were notified around 11:30 a.m., and when they arrived on the scene, they found “the fenced area was broken into and the equipment vandalized,” similar to the other two substations.

No suspects are in custody and it was not immediately clear if all three substations were vandalized by the same person or people or if the attacks are related.

As of 11:30 a.m. local time, Tacoma Public Utilities said that around 2,700 of the 7,300 customers who lost power were still in the dark.

The three incidents come less than a month after someone opened fire on a substation in North Carolina, knocking out power to some 45,000 people. The “deliberate” attack raised concerns about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid to sabotage, as many substations are protected by little more than chainlink fences.

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