Communication in a Catastrophe

Avi Schnurr, CEO, and President of Electric Infrastructure Security Council

Communication

Ok, here’s the (apparently seriously tough) tricky question:

Do we want to be able to survive and recover if a really, really bad thing happens — massive cyber or EMP attack (e.g., Russia? North Korea?), COVID-19, extreme solar storm, megaquake, etc., that shuts down a seriously big piece of the national power grid?

From food, water, and medicine to transportation, communication, finance and security, all the services and products that keep us alive and happy depend on each other, and they’re all anchored in the power grid. A catastrophic black sky event that shuts all this down will affect everyone, making it either everyone’s job — or no one’s. After all, how many communities or businesses have “Preparing for Catastrophe” as a designated job category?

In short, two plans, two choices. Inform yourself and get involved at some level – or not.

Plan A: Survival

Do something. If you think it would be cool for our society to survive, click “like” after this article, share it with colleagues and friends, call a meeting in your organization to consider possible initial steps, or find some other way to show your support, and get involved.

Plan B: Societal Suicide

Do nothing. Go have a cup of coffee.

As it happens, almost all nations have selected “Plan B: Post-catastrophe societal suicide.”

But … wait. How can that be? 

Emergency management agencies, corporate resilience and business continuity plans, cyber protection, they all exist!

How can anyone suggest we’re not planning for societal survival in a catastrophe?

Let’s Select Plan A

Societal Survival

Most government agencies, major corporations, hospitals, and food and pharmaceutical suppliers have emergency communication systems. Most will work fine in a conventional disaster. Some even have systems that will allow their personnel to communicate internally in a catastrophic, multi-week grid outage. Internally.

Unfortunately, no corporation or government agency is an island. We all need each other to survive. To recover from a major catastrophe, power companies, water companies, food and medicine suppliers, transportation companies, fuel providers, the finance and banking sector, government agencies, and critical product and service suppliers will all need to work together to survive. Therefore, robust communication will be essential.

The embarrassing secret?

There is no all hazard-protected voice and data emergency multi-sector communication system deployed today that can operate through an extended, subcontinent scale power outage.

None.

Sorry folks – we’re working on Plan B: societal suicide.

Are there systems that could do the job?

Yes.

Are there courageous decision makers and corporations actively working to take the first steps toward a deployed, all-hazard, all-sector emergency communication network?

Yes.

A small but remarkable handful of decision makers are working diligently on Plan A. Even though it doesn’t fit their corporation’s core mission/job description.

It’s called leadership.

Want to help? Join us in our mission.

 

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