CRA Hosted Black Sky Workshop

The CRA partnered with the Electic Infrastructure Security Council to hold a Black Sky Workshop on July 9, 2019.

Here are some highlights from that workshop:

  • A Black Sky event is a wide-spread long-term power outage. The name is a reference to the fact that the night sky will be dark (black). A Black Sky event will also require a Black Start. A restart / re-energizing of the electric grid from nothing – electric companies are required to have a plan for this, but there is uncertainty about whether they would actually work.
  • Black and Gray Sky events differ in terms of size, length of time, and scale. For Gray Sky events there is still power elsewhere in the system to help restart / re-energize the impacted grid.
    Today for our world to work we need electricity. Without power we would find ourselves without the most basic things we depend upon for everyday living. Societies as we know them can’t survive long outages.
    Our infrastructures are like an organic organism with al its systems interconnected. Disrupting one impacts all of the others.
  • We are in a window of opportunity regarding Black Sky, where the problem being big enough to be seen, but small enough to address if we come together to address the interdependent challenges.

Planning & Response Considerations

Communications, Decision Making, & Leadership

  • Emergency communications, what are your essential elements of information?
  • Because of the timeframe for restoration and recovery, there may need to be a change in decision making priorities, such as considering the long term viability of the company if the outage goes on too long.
  • Decision making is based on data feeds, where will your data be coming from?

Employees & the Workforce

  • People’s patience starts running out around 72 hours – there will be cascading impacts on emotions.
  • Communications will be disrupted, employees need to know how to do assessments without directives from the top down.
  • Consider whether to keep employees local or relocate them elsewhere.
  • Access to skilled workforce for restoration and recovery may be a challenge as there are only a certain number of people with the specific skill sets needed for restoration of certain systems.
  • Incentivizing employees to get back to work by including provisions for families.

Supply Chain & Access to Resources

  • What are the re-entry procedures for the jurisdictions where you have facilities?
  • Where will replacement parts come from?
  • Supply constraints will likely lead the the emergence of black markets.
  • Resources pools are going to be further than desired and resource prioritization will be a challenge
  • Resource requests will exceed available capacities.

Restoration – this is not really trained, we teach response and recovery, but not restoration. We need to get better at restoration.

For some organizations it may be easier to plan for a Black Sky scenario by focusing more on the non-bad-actor threat sources such as solar/geomagnetic storms.