Over the weekend, severe thunderstorms wrecked havoc on Washington, D.C. and Maryland, knocking out power to thousands of residents. The storms left some 430,000 customers without power, according to press reports.
Of course, with power outages come traffic problems as traffic lights within the District and Maryland were out on a number of major roadways. Trying to drive in was a nightmare, as many residents took the opportunity to ignore traffic laws, rather than act amicably and with prudence.
When approaching an intersection with all lights out, the intersection is supposed to become a 4-way stop. However, some drivers thought it really presented an opportunity to flout traffic laws and drive as they wished.
While this outage was caused by a natural disaster, it is similar to what has been touted as a possible result from a cyber attack on the nation’s power grid. What if another nation, or terrorists, were able to take out the U.S. electrical grid in the Washington, D.C. area?
In such an event, traffic lights would be out and power to homes shut off. If you don’t have a car or a radio with batteries (and really, who does have a radio with batteries these days), you have no way to get information.
If you are able to get information regarding the situation, knowing that the Washington, D.C. area is under cyber attack is likely to spread panic and cause citizens to flee the city quickly. Which brings us to the problem of no traffic lights.
As evinced by the recent driving chaos with the storm, power outages can cause some drivers to behave inappropriately and unsafely on the roadways. Imagine how that would escalate in the instance of a cyber attack, with people trying to flee the city as quickly as possible. Who knows what might follow the cyber attack? Perhaps a terrorist explosion or a conventional assault?
While this might seem a bit far-fetched, the panic levels in the city would rise and the situation would only get worse. If people are willing to be complete jerks on the road from a natural disaster, imagine how they would act if they feel their lives are threatened.
In that case, survival of the fittest (or meanest) would rapidly come into play.