IMG 1494

Vermont Electric Cooperative Chosen as Utility Participant in
National Guard’s “Vigilant Guard” Exercise

August 3, 2016

Johnson, VT- The final weekend of July 2016 was unlike anyother weekend at the headquarters of Vermont Electric Cooperative. While VEC is always prepared for emergencies and the unexpected, on July 30 and 31, VEC had the opportunity to participate in a national level emergency response

exercise called “Vigilant Guard”. The exercise, sponsored by the National Guard, was designed to improve cooperation and relationships between civilian, military, and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events. 

"Vigilant Guard is emergency management training," said U.S. Army 1st Lt Axel Larson, Vigilant Guard Project Officer, Joint Training and Exercise, Joint Force Headquarters. "The unique thing about Vigilant Guard is that it actually works with everybody from the men and women on the ground all the way up to the governor of Vermont." Vigilant Guard has a training goal for everyone involved.
VEC was proud to have the opportunity to participate in this valuable experiential training opportunity where unexpected scenarios were presented and responded to as if they were real. Over the course of the two days, VEC was challenged to manage the shutdown of essential communications infrastructure at one of their substations that was caused by a mock natural disaster. Later on that same day, the VEC team had to manage a simulated cyber-attack on the electric grid that had the potential to bring numerous systems down. VEC has been a utility leader in the area of cybersecurity, and the opportunity to implement emergency procedures allowed VEC to put those procedures into virtual action.
“In 2011, VEC helped to develop the national standard for cyber security, and in 2012 VEC was one of 14 electric cooperatives nationwide that participated in a development of a White House cybersecurity model now called C2M2”, said Christine Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative. “The simulated events provided a valuable test of VEC’s Emergency Operating Procedures, which include specific actions for response to a cyber-attack event”. The VEC Emergency Operating Procedure follows the National Incident Command System and defines how VEC operates during emergencies such as outages or cyber-security threats.
On Saturday, 30 military personnel unexpectedly converged at VEC Headquarters in Johnson Vermont, including Major General Steven Cray, who arrived by helicopter and toured VEC’s control center. These personnel brought highly specific computer and cyber expertise and provided information and valuable feedback to VEC after the exercise. These learning experiences will allow VEC to refine and improve operating procedures and will also be useful for those outside of VEC who need to prepare for such threats. Most importantly, the experience will facilitate the efficacy and efficiency with which various agencies will coordinate in the event of a real cyber-attack on the grid. Electric and energy companies have seen a disproportionate increase in the number of cyber-attacks, with some estimates showing 40 percent of the cyber-attacks on the United States directed towards the electric grid.
VEC would like to thank the Vermont National Guard for coordinating this exercise and the Vermont Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for their support during the drill. “While we always do our very best to be safe and to be prepared, when we are confronted by a real emergency we rely heavily on our sister agencies. It is reassuring to know we have such capable and competent partners,” said Hallquist. “We also are very proud to have been the Vermont utility chosen to participate in this exercise.”
"The Vigilant Guard scenario and disaster response exercise are going to be extremely beneficial to not only the state of Vermont and the Vermont National Guard, but also to all of our regional partners because it gives us an opportunity to come together and to actually work together," said U.S. Army Capt. Konrad Stawicki, Deputy Directorate of Military Support, Joint Force Headquarters, Vermont National Guard.