Experts prepare for events that could bring society to its knees

Former assistant defense secretary: 'We're nowhere near where we need to be'

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday to sanction Russia for suspected hacking of last year's election.

Meanwhile, 200 experts from 24 countries and dozens of states, including Florida, are in the nation's capitol, planning for what they are calling 'Black Sky' events: Catastrophic occurrences caused by man or nature that bring society to its knees. The cost of preventing a devastating blow is likely to show up on your electric bill.

Cars would have no fuel. Restaurants and grocery stores would be bare. Electricity could be out for months in such an event.

“Malicious or natural hazards (are) happening at a level that cut off critical resources for too long for society to continue,” Electric Infrastructure Council CEO Avi Schnurr said.

The damage caused by Russians who hacked into the Democratic National Committee last year was child’s play compared to what these experts said the hackers are trying to make happen.

“As former President Reagan said, there really is a bear in the woods,” former Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Stockton said.

Infrastructure executives are pushing the idea that industry, not government, needs to lead the way.

“Responding to 'Black Sky' events is all about industry in the lead and government in support," Stockton said. "Folks, we’re nowhere near where we need to be for that.”

The bottom line is that somebody is going to have to pay for billions in improvements to infrastructure. And in all likelihood, it’s going to be everyone.

Proponents have said $1 a year is not too much to ask from utility customers.

“There is a moment in the life of every problem that is big enough to be seen by reasonable people and still small enough to be addressed," Rep. Trent Franks said. "We are in that window, but it is closing.”

Later this year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will hold tabletop exercises, planning for sustained electrical outages in major cities.


Experts said an extended disruption in the electric grid could be caused by extreme sun activity or by manmade, low-level nuclear devices.