Around the globe, where significant utility infrastructure is located in or near major fault zones, earthquakes risk causing substantial physical disruption, with associated long-duration power outages. For example, the New Madrid Seismic Zone in the southern and midwestern US spans large areas in 7 states: Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. According to the US Department of Energy, a recurrence of the 1812, 7.7 (richter scale) earthquake on that fault could damage or destroy electric substations, transmission lines, and generating stations on a subcontinental scale, as well as natural gas pipelines supplying generators in many regions of the US power grid. Geologists advise that quakes of > 7.0 magnitude have occurred periodically on this fault zone. Such an event occurring today could cause a vast multi-region power outage directly affecting 100-150 million people across the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest United States. Given the interdependent disruptive effects of such an outage on critical national and international supply chains and all other sectors (e.g., food, water, pharmaceutical, finance, shipping, transportation), such an event could create an unprecedented civilization-scale complex catastrophe. 

This represents a particularly complex threat to the US and to the entire world, on a scale that could threaten societal continuity across all nations.  While significant resilience work has begun, headed by the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC)1, the success of CUSEC’s efforts will depend on broad availability of Black Sky-compatible tools and capabilities essential for multi-corporate communication, situational awareness and emergency power continuity, and on reversing an alarming national decline in blackstart assets.  At present, such tools and capabilities are not widely deployed in the United States.

For more information on Black Sky-compatible tools and capabilities, and on the development of “EPRO Handbook V: Blackstart Restoration for a Greener Grid,” a new blackstart enhancement research initiative contact us.


1 CUSEC is a partnership of the federal government and the seven states most affected by an earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Those states are Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Extreme Pandemics

COVID-19’s historic and continuing tragic cost in lives, health and societal well-being represents the first near-Black Sky-class pandemic event in modern times. A similar pandemic with a higher morbidity, could lead to a global,  complex catastrophe, associated with large scale infrastructure disruption, and the potential for unprecedented risk to societal continuity. Risk to the fragile […]

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Hurricanes and Other Severe Weather Events

Edison Electric Institute’s report, “Before and After the Storm,” documents the nationwide array of investments and emerging best practices that investor-owned utilities are making in response to lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy.

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