Human and Organizational Factors that Contributed to the US-Canadian August 2003 Electricity Grid Blackout

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The US-Canadian electricity grid is a network of providers and users that operate almost completely independently of one another. In August of 2003, First Energy’s (FE) Harding-Chamberlain transmission line near

The US-Canadian electricity grid is a network of providers and users that operate almost completely independently of one another. In August of 2003, First Energy’s (FE) Harding-Chamberlain transmission line near Akron, Ohio went offline starting a series of cascading failures that eventually led to 8 US states and 1 Canadian province totaling nearly 50 million people without power. The failure of transmission lines are common occurrences relating to the inability to exactly predict the electricity demand at any time (as will be discussed later in this document). The inability to properly monitor and react across multiple organizations to the downed line was the true failure that led to the blackout. This outage not only left homes and businesses without power but paralyzed critical public services such as transportation networks and hospitals. The estimated cost of the outage is between 4 and 6 billion US dollars.