Prepping for Storms -- on the Sun

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Emergency planners are ready if solar activity interrupts cell phones and other technology.

    Emergency planners are preparing for the fallout from solar storms.

    NASA experts are warning of an increase in solar activity. The storms could lead to a greater number of disturbances on Earth because of the explosion of wireless and satellite technology.

    Wireless cell phones, satellite-based navigation systems and smart electric meters could all be interrupted by extreme radioactive activity from sun storms.

    Solar Storm Smart Meter Warning

    [DFW] Solar Storm Smart Meter Warning
    NASA scientists are warning that solar storms may threaten smart power grids like the one Oncor is rolling out in North Texas.

    “We do look like those kind of events and contemplate how we would respond to those things and the effect that it would have on the city and the county and the region if we had some kind of major incident like that,” said Dallas Emergency Operations Director Kenny Shaw.

    The Dallas Emergency Operations Center is equipped with the latest computer and communications technology. Under a worst-case sun storm scenario, all of the technology could fail and officials have considered what they would do.

    “We’d be talking face to face in here,” Shaw said. “We’d bring in key people and be making some decisions, and then that word would go out to the police and fire departments and other city departments as necessary.”

    Oncor Electric Delivery said utilities have learned from past electric grid disruptions from solar storms.

    “The kind of disruptions that we have seen in rare cases from solar storms have been to radio frequencies that we now know to avoid using,” Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar said. “We have moved our data communication to a part of the spectrum less likely to be interrupted.”

    Oncor is installing digital smart meters throughout its service area. The smart meters are wireless devices that provide the company with remote control of a customer’s service.

    Cuellar said benefits of smart-meter technology outweigh the risk of disruption from solar activity.

    “It’s like the Y2K problem -- we take it seriously, and we’re prepared for it, but the most dire possibilities are extremely unlikely,” she said.