National Geographic broadcasts fictional docudrama "American Blackout" Oct. 27

National Geographic broadcasts fictional docudrama "American Blackout" Oct. 27

“American Blackout” is a fictionalized National Geographic Channel docudrama that imagines the story of a national power failure in the United States caused by a cyberattack — told over 10 days. It’s scheduled for television broadcast on Sunday, October 27. For more information about “American Blackout,” read on.


Remember, it’s fiction - technically science fiction. Here’s what we’re doing to make sure this scenario stays fictional:


Our national association has a research arm called Cooperative Research Network (CRN). CRN has been very actively involved in cutting-edge research to improve utility sector cybersecurity.  A couple of weeks ago, the Department of Energy awarded CRN $3.6 million to develop cybersecurity management tools that will be available to the nation’s network of co-ops. 


CRN is working with Honeywell Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University and Cigital on this project.  You can find out more about our cybersecurity program on


·       Filmed as a fictional docudrama, National Geographic Channel’s “American Blackout” depicts the first 10 days immediately following a nationwide blackout caused by a cyber attack that takes down the entire electric power grid.

·       The movie focuses on several different storylines of how people deal with the blackout.  The movie is presented in “real time” by using video clips from recent events, like Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, the 2003 Eastern US blackout, and footage of President Obama speaking to the country during Superstorm Sandy. 

·       The movie is intended to appear real, and it is presented in such a way that some could be confused as to whether or not this is a real event.  Information and video clips from the movie can be found here:

You should also know:

·       This fictional movie presents a total electric grid failure which is highly unlikely in the real world based on the current design and operation of the grid.

·       Electric cooperatives take cybersecurity seriously; they have and will continue to take significant steps to protect the reliability and security of the electric system – transmission, generation and distribution.

·       Thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy, the Cooperative Research Network is developing an advanced cybersecurity management tool that will be accessible to small, remote utilities.

·       Electric cooperatives are partnering with federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and Homeland Security, to research threats, strengthen security measures and mitigate risk.

·       Electric cooperatives devote significant resources to preventing outages, and are continually improving response and recovery procedures for when outages do occur, regardless of the cause.

·       Thanks to a grant from the Department of Energy, the Cooperative Research Network is developing cloud-based software that will make advanced cybersecurity technology accessible to small, remote utilities.

·       Electric utilities, including co-ops, that own and operate critical infrastructure assets follow mandatory cybersecurity standards that are subject to fines by regulatory agencies of up to $1 million per day per violation.

 In case you miss the airing, here’s what you need to know:

·       The movie is fictional and is not real. 

·       The movie’s fictional cyber attack causes significant physical damage to the U.S. electric utility infrastructure that within a day causes a cascading effect that brings down the entire grid.

·       The attack causes transformers of all sizes (pole-mounted and at substations) to explode.

·       The film does not identify the source of the attack.

·       Throughout the film, there are dramatic scenes of physical destruction and a rapid deterioration of social order. 

·       In the film’s final 2 minutes (day 10), authorities announce they have “isolated the malicious code that took down the grid” and a “system-wide reboot is starting.” It also states that it will be months before all physical assets that were damaged in the attack are restored.

·      A subtext to the movie appears to be that individuals and organizations need to plan for catastrophic events and to take comprehensive preparedness measures before disasters occur.

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