Insufficient situational awareness about Critical Infrastructures by Emergency Management

Source: TNO Defence, Security and Safety
Authors: Eric Luiijf and Marieke Klaver

This paper discusses critical infrastructures (CI) and their dependencies, with as central theme the hypothesis that a lack of CI situational awareness and protection in emergency management operations results in unnecessary amplification of the consequences. This paper discusses the hypothesis and findings along some well-known international emergencies analysed from the perspective of the hypothesis.

Societies are increasingly dependent on a set of products and services which comprise the Critical Infrastructures (CI). CI are those assets and parts thereof which are essential for the well-functioning of critical societal functions, including the supply chain, health, safety, security, economy or social wellbeing of people (European Commission, 2008). Failing CI may have serious consequences to citizens and society as a whole. One would expect that emergency management functions have full situational awareness of the state of CI during a major incident and of the responsibilities to protect them. CI (public and private) are important to emergency management and disaster response in three ways: for one’s own operations inside the incident area including one’s own C3I structure as well as for one’s static commandinfrastructure, for  the population in the incident area, and for critical infrastructure services to the area around the incident area.

Empirical evidence from reports about emergencies and disasters in various regions in the world shows that situational awareness and caretaking for CI is a weak spot in emergency management unless the disruption of a CI is the emergency itself. This causes unwanted extensions of the duration and size of emergencies with more casualties, more suffering, and more damage than needed. If, however, emergency management has a proper situational awareness and takes proper care of the protection of CI, it may even help to decrease the consequences and speed up recovery. Apart from awareness-building, this paper presents several recommendations for Emergency Management.

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