The growing complexity of global interconnected risk suggests that a shift has occurred in the way emergency planners need to improve preparedness and response to cascading events. With reference to the literature from the physical, social and political sciences, this paper analyses extreme space weather events and cyberattacks. The goal of this work is to produce a replicable scenario-building process, based on cross-disciplinary understanding of vulnerability, that could be complementary to probabilistic hazard assessment. Our hypothesis is that the technological and human component of critical infrastructure could be the primary vector for the escalation of secondary emergencies. While not themselves having direct implications in terms of loss of life, elements that are common to different risks could provide particular challenges for disaster management. Our findings identify some vulnerable nodes, such as Global Navigation Satellite System technology and remote-control systems, that could act as paths for the escalations of events. We suggest that these paths may be common to various known and unknown threats. We propose two scenarios of Massive, OveRwhelming Disruption of OpeRations (M.OR.D.OR.) that could be used for testing emergency preparedness strategies, and increasing the response to highly complex, unknown events. The conclusions highlight the open challenges of seeking to increase societal resilience. The limitations of this work are described, as are the possible challenges for future research.