Out Go the Lights


David Alexander recently published an article in Alert - the journal of the Institute of Civil Protection and Emergency Management, called Black-Sky Thinking. It's a really good article - deserves a read!


Article Title: "Black-Sky Thinking"

Download: David Alexander - Black-Sky Thinking (pdf)

The title is a pun and the subject is the possible effects of enduring, wide-area electricity outages. This isn’t just your “normal” power-cut – it’s days and possibly weeks without power.

David always gives good insight value, as readers familiar with his work will know. This article is no exception. It’s not that we don’t understand this risk. It is well documented and present in the UK National Risk Assessment. In fact, it’s one of the biggest risks.

But we haven’t been there – at least on the scale he is talking about. For that reason I particularly valued his focus on the shock effect on a society that is used to almost complete dependence on electricity. The term “paradigm shift” is over-used, often badly used and is also contested. It’s never entirely clear what people mean by it. However, it might apply in this case. That’s because a prolonged national electricity outage would inevitably change the way we think and probably the way we live thereafter. The event would be catastrophic, and leave a deep and painful legacy.

David asks …”if we became completely habituated to using digital technology, would we be able to think and act effectively in its absence?” That’s a good question, but I think the problem is that it’s not about if or when. It may be that we are already so habituated, and so have become critically vulnerable as a whole society to this this risk. Also, we shouldn’t be too parochial. Globalisation means that a major prolonged outage almost anywhere would have knock-on impacts that will be felt globally. This is a good article, which deserves a wider readership.

You may also be interested in the articles on David's blogsite:  www.emergency-planning.blogspot.com

and presentations on his Slideshare site: www.slideshare.net/dealexander