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Just a week after the Southern Lights dazzled Australian skies, government agencies have gathered in Adelaide today to ‘war game’ what would happen if a more severe event damaged or disabled the country’s critical services, including GPS, power grids, electricity and radio communications.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and the Department of Home Affairs, is delivering the latest National Crisis Exercise - Exercise Aurora.

Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt said NEMA has brought together Australian, State and Territory government officials with industry leaders to test responses to an extreme space weather event.

“While today’s exercise has been planned for some time, the beautiful sights of Aurora Australis across large parts of the country recently was a good reminder that space weather events can occur at any time," Minister Watt said.

“The likelihood of an extreme space weather event that significantly impacts Earth is low, but the possible consequences could be catastrophic, so we need to ensure essential services are prepared.

“One of the great ironies is that, as we advance technology and investments in Australia’s capabilities to respond to all hazards, this reliance on digital technology exposes us to new types of threats.

“Through this exercise, we’re aiming to enhance national coordination and resilience in the event of space weather, and stress-test response and recovery plans across all levels of government and industry.”

Deputy Coordinator-General NEMA, Joe Buffone said Exercise Aurora will primarily focus on the decisions that will need to be made prior to an extreme space weather event reaching earth to ensure effective consequence management of the impacts on critical energy and telecommunications infrastructure.

"Through the National Crisis Exercise Program, NEMA supports Australia’s preparedness for novel and catastrophic events,” Mr Buffone said.

“Power and telecommunications are critical to saving lives, supplying essential humanitarian needs and preventing further harm to the community.

“During response and early recovery we know that getting power and telecommunications back up and running is paramount to ensuring positive outcomes for Australia and our long term recovery.

“I welcome the opportunity to work closely with our government and industry colleagues through Exercise Aurora to ensure that Australia is prepared for whatever may come – regardless of the likelihood, preparedness is key.”

This release was originally published on the Ministers for the Department of Home Affairs' website.