We explore some of the real-life risks that inspired the new Sky TV show, 'Cobra'.

Any emergency management practitioners out there who are following the Sky TV series “Cobra” will have formed their own opinions by now. We gather that reviews are mixed. The Independent wrote: “Cheap-looking series that creaks along” and were generally less than enthused. It described the air crash scene as looking as if it was “put together in a car park with a few leftover fireworks”.

The Telegraph was happier. It called it a “propulsive thriller that gripped” after pointing out that it is also “implausible and clichéd”. We’re just glad that it’s a little better than the Hollywood action film of the same name by Sylvester Stallone (1986). Cobra is, of course, COBR – there is no “A”. But let’s not get picky here.

What we see here in the plot is two potentially related risks being conflated for dramatic purposes. If you want a quick run down on the reality of those two risks you’re in luck – we’ve posted on both of them quite recently.  They reflect the way these risks are modelled for use in the National Risk Register (NRR) – which is a public domain document.  You can find it here.

The solar flare risk (usually referred to as space weather) models its reasonable worst case on a coronal mass ejection which leaves the Earth in the path of a massive outburst of highly-energised particles from the Sun’s atmosphere.  It’s more dangerous than it sounds, mostly for electrical and electronic systems. We’ve had a few near misses relatively recently and one stand-out case from 1859. That was before the electronics and digital revolutions, but we can use the records to model the effects it would have today. Our post was called, 'Here Comes the Sun'. Read it here.

The real national black-out risk is based on a possible technical failure of the national grid and does model a nation-wide loss of electricity. It hasn’t happened yet but it is considered a technical possibility. Not surprisingly, it’s a very significant risk and sits close to the top of the list of big ones.This post was called, 'Out Go the Lights'. Read it here.

Enjoy the rest of the series of “Cobra” – and watch out for more in our series of risk-related posts and publications.