R. Ranger Dorn, Exercise Coordinator, EIS Council

Organizations exercise in different ways. Some repeat the same thing over and over again, always reaching the same conclusion so that they can pat themselves on the back with their readiness. Others repeat and admit that they still are not ready- again. Some organizations challenge themselves by introducing a bad day event to game out. They often win the game. Several organizations just do exercises to check the “required exercise” box. Some organizations challenge themselves with something that will likely never happen – a Zombie Apocalypse, for example. A very few organizations step out from the pack and consider what we call a Black Sky Event. We will examine this in more depth.

A Black Sky Event is one of a number of natural or man-made events that cause widespread, long-term power outages. Many of these are taken from history, and others are realistic potentials. A Black Sky Event in the 1800s or even much of the early 1900s would not have been much of a life-changing event. Starting around WWII and up to today, the need for power to run and manage our complex society has increased exponentially. Most of our processes in society are now electric power dependent. Loss of power means loss of communications now or soon. It means cascading consequences in communities and the supply chain. Transportation, water, and wastewater systems require power to function, as do retail of most types. A weeklong loss of power in a region will also cost lives, hospitals, homes, and elsewhere. A one-month regional power loss will have many long-term impacts. This takes us to what a Black Sky Exercise is.

No one wants to experience a Black Sky Event, and few want even to ask what the impacts and consequences might be. For those adventurous few, a Black Sky exercise is an opportunity to do so. We provide a scenario from one of the potential events a region and an organization might encounter. We make it a bad day in the exercise with no easy solution and an apparent extended recovery period. Then we introduce the very realistic cascading consequences. Communications fail in a few days. The internet goes down in the region. Fuel is scarce. Store shelves have been stripped bare. Water systems are no longer operating. Hospitals are now without power. The list goes on much longer.

How an organization deals with each is the true test of plans and resilience. The Black Sky Exercise allows organizations to perform a reality check in a no-fault environment without a bad day happening. It allows discretionary time to prepare for that rare but very possible Black Sky Event. Consider what happened to the Ukraine this week as an example.

Information on two Black Sky Hazards will be presented on February 24 in a Webinar Prognosis: Terminal. Subject – Black Sky EMP and Cyber Register at: https://grcom.eiscouncil.org/cyber-and-emp/

In future exercises, don’t hit the “Easy Button,” try a Black Sky Exercise. If you would like to know more, visit the EIS Council website https://eiscouncil.org/plan-exercise-train/ where we have asked “What can go wrong?” and provided some answers for “What can we do about it?

Our annual EARTH EX Exercise provides another opportunity to challenge your assumptions. Tens of thousands in over 40 countries have participated in EARTH EX over the last five years.

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