How to build resilience using black sky scenarios

Register now for EARTH EX III which is open for play until 31 October 2019.

Our infrastructure is interconnected and interdependent. A major incident in one location can cascade rapidly and have an impact on critical infrastructure systems elsewhere, affecting their ability to function, to connect communities, provide essential services, or to protect society.

How well prepared are we as a society for such an event? How prepared is your organisation? How prepared are you?

The impact of a major loss of electricity supply would rapidly expand into water, communications, food supply, finance, and beyond. Known as ‘black sky’ events, these can be caused by natural hazards such as extreme terrestrial weather – storms, floods, fires – but also extreme space weather such as solar flares. Malign attacks could also be a cause – cyber-attacks, terrorist attacks on the grid, or an electro-magnetic (EMP) pulse attack.

Juliet Mian, Resilience Shift Technical Director, explains. “The Resilience Shift is pleased to have partnered with the pioneers at the Electric Infrastructure Security Council (EIS Council) to explore how a simulated catastrophic scenario encourages multi-sector stakeholders to think about their role within the whole system and challenge their response and recovery plans.”

As a way to build resilience for large and small organisations, EARTH EX is a unique opportunity to test your response to a major power outage and better anticipate and prepare for such an event.

As a multi-sector international exercise – noting that cascading failures can cross national borders – it provides a scenario that contributes to a growing understanding about the interdependencies of your firm and the wider impact on all of your stakeholders including your employees. Watch this video from the EIS Council about the ‘black sky’ we never imagine.

John Heltzel, retired Brigadier General and formerly leader of Emergency Management Kentucky, USA, is EIS Council’s, Director of Resilience Planning. He says, “I honestly believe that as a people, not just the USA or any one country, we are not as resilient as we need to be to the new levels of interdependencies that have emerged in the last 30-45 years.”

“We became dependent when electricity happened 100 years ago, more so 75 years ago when telecommunications became a very real service, but since the advent of the internet in the last 30-40 years, we are so interdependent now that if we lose one sector, one element, some parts of our society are going to be damaged to a degree that they can’t restart without a lot of coordination.”

EARTH EX uses state of the art, high quality video simulations for setting the scenario and for the video injects that move the exercise forward. It is designed this year around a very realistic real-world threat-based scenario and builds on years 1 and 2 which tested situational awareness, communications, and on the need to develop courses of action.

John says, “This year we put you in the decision-making seat – you have to choose what to do, and then follow that path. It’s going to be a very unique environment to work through.”

“For organisations, the exercise is an opportunity to pull your team together and assign a facilitator, to pull out your policies and your procedures and immerse yourself into the scenario and decide what actions you need to work on to become more prepared.”

For individuals and families, this year will also test your ability to make life and death decisions. The exercise aims to put individuals in a position where they can become part of the response solution if they choose.

“There are obviously a lot of materials on the web for what a family should be prepared to do and I think that most people inherently know the idea that you need to have so much water, you need to have so much food”, says John. “This year’s EARTH EX goes way beyond that.”

“We’ve seen around the world that the people who are able to take care of themselves and then be able to help their fellow man, or fellow community member, survive. That’s the best possible situation to be in. They are the ones who make a difference.”

“For an individual or a family, the idea that you can actually make a difference in your community is an amazing thing to get involved with and EARTH EX 2019 will give you the opportunity to explore that.”

When can I play?

This year, the exercise is extended thanks to feedback that people and organisations wanted to participate for longer, in some cases making it a one day or multi-day exercise. It also means that you have more choice over when you take part.

EARTH EX opened on 21 August 2019 but will remain open for play until 31 October 2019.

Register and play the exercise at https://www.eiscouncil.org/EarthEx.aspx .

If you are taking part in it, we would love to hear from you through our social media channels #EarthEx2019 @resilienceshift

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