Boulder Dam wires. Photo by Ansel Adams, from U.S. National Park Service.

Boulder Dam wires. Photo by Ansel Adams, from U.S. National Park Service.

The nation’s electric grid touches every aspect of our lives. But few of us give it a second thought. Until something goes awry – when we’re suddenly groping in the dark for flashlights, worrying about what might spoil in the fridge.

Consider this: the average customer loses power for 214 minutes per year, according to a study by Carnegie Mellon that found the United States ranks toward the bottom among developed nations in terms of the reliability of its electricity service.

BURN’s new hour-long special “The Switch” is about our aging electric power grid: a half century-old patchwork system – stretched to capacity – that transmits and distributes electricity from plants to consumers.

Host Alex Chadwick and BURN’s producers and reporters explore how the grid works, and what happens when it breaks under storms and floods.

We talk to the people who help fix it, a family that’s left the whole thing behind, and the innovators working to make our national grid safer and smarter.

Click here for photos, video and more from BURN’s special The Grid.