HARRISBURG – Leadership and staff from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC), Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and Governor’s Office of Homeland Security today joined with government agencies, utilities, emergency responders and other stakeholders around the world in a first-ever transnational exercise to test responses to a large-scale power outage event.
Today’s Pennsylvania involvement in EARTH EX 2017 is part of a continuing collaboration of public and private sector leaders to strengthen the state’s effort to prepare for “Black Sky” events – defined as extraordinary, wide-reaching events capable of producing power outages that last significantly longer than typical weather or operational outages.
Because of the large-scale nature of Black Sky events, they have the potential to impact not only electricity, but also other critical systems, such as natural gas, water, wastewater treatment, telecommunications and transportation services. These events could be caused by a cyber-attack on the electric grid, severe weather or physical attacks.
“Black Sky events have the potential to disrupt essential services across large areas, impacting the lives of millions of people,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “It is essential that we work collectively to address these threats, because it will require the work of government, private sector and not-for-profit organizations to better safeguard our critical systems, strengthen our response and enhance our ability to recover from Black Sky events.”
“This exercise gives us the opportunity to work with our partners in preparedness, response and recovery to identify ways we can work together more efficiently and effectively in the event of a Black Sky incident,” said PEMA Director Richard D. Flinn, Jr.
“Planning exercises like EARTH EX are a critical part of developing an effective, coordinated response to a Black Sky event,” said Marcus L. Brown, director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Homeland Security. “The lessons learned will help all of the participants prepare for, and recover from, a catastrophic disruption of electricity and other essential services.”
Pennsylvania’s first Black Sky exercise – one of the first in the country – was held in June 2016, hosted by the PUC and Gov. Tom Wolf. Since that time, the PUC, PEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security have continued to integrate Black Sky planning and practice into broader discussions about emergency response planning.
Today’s EARTH EX exercise, developed by the Electric Infrastructure Security Council (EIS Council), is the first phase of a nearly year-long series of international exercises intended to develop, test and enhance planning and preparation for Black Sky events. EIS Council hosts national and international collaborations on resilience and whole community restoration and response planning, addressing severe, national and global scale hazards to lifeline infrastructures.
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