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Posted on 23 August, 2018 by

Categories: Events,

Preparing for resilience to black sky hazards

 

EarthEx is an online interactive exercise sponsored by the Electric Infrastructure Security Council (EIS) aiming to provide organisations with a forum to discuss, develop and test organisational plans to improve resilience to Black Sky Hazards.

The Resilience Shift participated in the exercise this year both as an organisation, and in the individual and families game. Xavier Aldea Borruel took part on behalf of the Resilience Shift and explains how it worked.

The exercise is structured in a similar way to an online game. Players are presented with a black sky event in which a cyber attack has caused some systems to stop working properly. As the exercise develops, the severity of the impacts increase, seriously affecting basic lifeline support systems and risking not only the continuity of the business but also the safety of society.

In the professional / organisational version, the exercise allows the user to play using different ‘lanes’ or sectors. The black sky event always remains the same, but the specific challenges vary depending on the sector that we’ve selected to play. The exercise presents situational videos in which the information about the event is presented and updated through the exercise. In our case, we’ve played the exercise as the private sector, but here are 33 different lanes to choose from, so anyone can adapt the exercise to their specific sector.

Once the players have completed their situational awareness, the exercise is designed to promote facilitated discussions within each organisation that participates in it, by posing a series of questions. This includes thinking about the best course of action in a specific situation, listing priority actions, challenging existing procedures and, in sum, to think about necessary decisions that are needed to successfully survive a black sky event. In the end, the exercise also provides some space for reflection on what would need to change in order to more effectively deal with a situation like this one.

My take home message from participating in this exercise is the clarity in which interdependencies play a key role in cascading failures in an event like this one. A bit like the butterfly effect, a small disruption can lead to catastrophic consequences. Improving the preparedness by improving cross-sectorial communications and applying systems thinking to critical infrastructure could be the way forwards to mitigate the impact of this kind of events.

In addition, the ‘butterfly’ in this years’ exercise was a cyber attack – once again highlighting the need for a balance between fragility and resilience when we rely on technology and smart systems everywhere. It is important to understand these challenges and ensure that all sectors are prepared to deal with the kind of threats that can arise from these situations.

Overall it’s been a fun exercise, played by hundreds of organisations worldwide and thousands of individuals, which I’m sure will help to understand the way forwards for initiatives aiming to improve resilience.

Helen Civil played the individuals and families version and found it very entertaining but also thought provoking. She explains more.

How would you keep your family safe during a ‘black sky’ event? I took part in the exercise as an individual and it was very entertaining. The interface was well designed and set up to help you think about what might happen if large scale outages took place. Also what you might need and how you might respond – thinking about the best way to help yourself and others.

At the end of the exercise you can download an emergency preparation checklist of things to have at home – so expect a worldwide rush on batteries, water purification tables, can openers, battery operated radios and flashlights.

As I have a family with two adults and four small children, let alone the wider extended family, the exercise really made me think about how I might need to respond. How could I feed and water my four hungry boys, let alone myself and their father, how would I keep them safe?

We might have a laugh at survivalists but it makes common sense to have some basic items at home to be prepared in case of a power cut, a water outage or ultimately if a black sky hazard should happen.

You can still take part in the exercise at Earth Ex and play the game with all those “working together to secure our world”.

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