Call to action – 1/5/23

The HCP Project: Emerging Whole-of-World Resilience Collaboration for Extreme, Black Sky [1] Disasters


is facing serious, growing challenges to the fragile network of interdependent infrastructures that sustain our lives, risking irreversible, systemic disruption of modern civilization. Leading academic and research institutions, corporations, foundations and government agencies from across the globe are coming together to address this risk.


The Problem: systemic, global infrastructure fragility

The infrastructures sustaining our civilization have evolved to become a complex, tightly and globally interdependent system. This has brought society vital new efficiencies, but at a price: a new, systemic fragility. Disruption in any major sector today could cause cascading failures of all other sectors that depend on its operation.  

In a first intimation of this disturbing new fragility, our world has been gripped by successive waves of globe-spanning supply chain breakdowns; by a pandemic that radically altered daily lives in every nation on the planet; by shockwaves felt around the globe from war which has now returned to the European continent. All of this is taking place amid expanding global climate disasters, worldwide inflation and an international food crisis, with especially tragic consequences for many developing nations and disadvantaged populations.

The accelerating pace of these global crises has increased concerns over emerging Black Sky hazards, and the growing risk of unparalleled catastrophe.

The Opportunity

EIS Council has spent more than a decade hosting systems engineering-framed multi-sector, internationally-informed research on resilience to Black Sky hazards, which risk unprecedented, global disaster. The results, while sobering, were encouraging: A handful of tools and capabilities, widely deployed, could provide the essential starting point the world will need to address the most fundamental Black Sky resilience gaps.

Building on this starting point, some of the most respected research institutions and corporations in the world are now collaborating in the Human Continuity Project™ to address this risk, as a critical, civilization-scale priority. Utilities, government agencies and other key stakeholders are also participating, taking an advisory role to help ensure the project is focused on urgent societal priorities and social needs.

Committed, caring people and organizations. Collaborating; for all of humankind.

The plan

Infrastructure operators and emergency managers have identified a handful of particularly critical resilience gaps that will need to be resolved to even begin recovery operations, following an extreme disaster and a subcontinent-scale power outage.

Fundamental Black Sky-class resilience gaps – and the capabilities needed to address them

Robust, hardened, fully interoperable and interconnected Black Sky-class emergency communications will be essential to operators in all key sectors, precisely when normal communication media will be unavailable. And to manage the unprecedented chaos in such extreme scenarios, operators will also need powerful multi-sector decision support and situational awareness tools to identify critical, time-dependent priorities for chaos management. Time will also be key – power restoration from a massive outage will take weeks at best, so essential corporations’ facilities in all sectors, and their key suppliers, will need small, inexpensive, long duration emergency power cells for their most critical instruments.

Each of these capabilities will be key to supporting the complex “blackstart” (grid restart) process; and that process, in turn, is essential to the continuity and equitable resilience of our civilization, and the health and even survival of all elements of modern societies.  But ensuring that ongoing investment will be available to address both legacy and evolving “green grid” blackstart resilience gaps will require strengthening key policy incentives and grid technology enhancements.

All of these capabilities are available as either off-the-shelf systems or in-progress development. Yet if nations wish to be capable of recovering from an extreme, global-scale disaster, we will need to move on from this beginning.

Next steps

A comprehensive systems engineering process will be crucial to provide a full, multi-sector and multi-national context for this effort, to evaluate and prioritize other essential capabilities and to define an effective, regionally diverse development and deployment plan. Within this framework, the roles and priorities of critical, multi-level national and international supply chains must be examined. Key policy, economic and regulatory barriers – and practical, recommended solutions – will need to be assessed, from global, regional and national perspectives.  


Implementation: Inaugurating the Human Continuity Project™

The Research and Development Group: If we wish to be capable of recovering from an extreme, global-scale disaster, a civilization-scale effort will be essential. Recognizing this, some of the world’s most capable and highly respected research organizations, academic institutions, corporations and NGOs are now joining together in a collaborative research and development consortium.

The Advisory Group: Leading utility and infrastructure corporations, government agencies from multiple nations and other key stakeholders will contribute their practical “on the ground” experience to help ensure the project focuses on critical needs for these extreme scenarios, with practical, near term-implementable approaches, and with sensitivity to the needs of all segments of society.

  • This Group will include subgroups – Advisory Clusters – with interested Advisory Group members reaching out to their key suppliers, cross-sector, interdependent partners and other stakeholders to seek their input on relevant questions that arise.

Schedule and funding

The first phase of the overall project is anticipated to be a two-year externally funded effort, beginning in fall, 2023. The project team has estimated overall funding required for this initial phase at ~ $18M.

The inaugural stage of the project began in fall, 2022, as participating organizations began defining their roles, and development of a preliminary project plan got underway.

The formal inauguration of the project took place as part of the Resilient, Renewable Planet (R2P) Conference, hosted by EIS Council and Imperial College London, on Imperial’s campus in London on April 17-19, 2023. Delegates from utilities, corporations, NGOs, scientists and government agencies from many nations used this forum to begin defining some of the most urgent efforts that will be needed in the project’s initial phase. As a key element, delegates considered critical, time-sensitive resilience policy and technology recommendations for our world’s rapidly changing energy resource mix, as nations work to address urgent climate change priorities.

As a next step, these recommendations will be reviewed and utilized to frame a comprehensive, initial Project Development Plan, which will be briefed to candidate funding organizations in spring and summer, 2023.

[1]      “Black Sky” events: multi-week, subcontinent-scale power outages, causing cascading failure of all utilities, infrastructures, suppliers and critical facilities. Black Sky-class hazards include extreme terrestrial or space weather or seismic events in critical utility regions, extreme cyber or EMP attacks and high-morbidity pandemics

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