JEA is trying to be prepared for potential cyber or physical attacks that could cut power to the utility’s 514,000 customers.
The utility this week conducted a two-day training exercise called GridEx — the largest grid security exercise in North America, according to JEA.
JEA brought together utility officials and government agencies Tuesday and Wednesday to simulate an attack and work out areas that might be a concern if an attack actually happened.
The exercise modeled an attack from a different country, similar to the electrical grid attacks on Ukraine in 2015 and 2018. In 2015, Russia was able to disrupt power for more than 200,000 people in Ukraine.
Ricky Erixton, vice president of electrical systems for JEA, said exercises like this one are important to keep staff fresh and up to date on response procedures. After the exercise, the utility analyzes the staff’s response to see where improvement is needed.
“We’re going to try to improve and make sure our reliability stays good so we can serve our customers and our community,” Erixton said.
Apart from a cyber attack, one of the more memorable physical attacks in this country occurred last December in Moore County, North Carolina, where substations were intentionally shot at and damaged. The incident cut off power to the county’s 100,000 residents.
To deal with physical attacks, JEA partners with national and local law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to protect their infrastructure in Northeast Florida, Erixton said.
The utility also uses various technologies to protect the system from physical attacks, though JEA does not divulge details.
“We have very comprehensive procedures that we follow in a potential incident, and so having these exercises to make sure that we can execute on those procedures regularly ensures that all of our staff remain top of mind in terms of what they need to do in a potential incident,” said Brad Krol, JEA’s chief information officer.
This week’s GridEx exercise happens every two years, but JEA also participates in simulations with other utilities around the state.
The last GridEx exercise in November 2021, consisted of 7,000 people across North America. More than 500 organizations participated.
JEA says you can help play a role in protecting JEA’s infrastructure by reporting suspicious activity near facilities by calling 855-352-7233.