Information Exchange: Publications

Need for National Critical Infrastructure Vulnerability Assessment and Mitigation Planning Program

Author: Daniel L. Dornan, P.E. Vice President, Infrastructure Management Group, Inc.

"On September 11th, commercial airliners were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. In addition to the loss of over 6,000 lives, these tragic events demonstrate the vulnerability of our nation’s public-use infrastructure to terrorist acts. The aftershocks of these attacks demonstrate the importance of infrastructure assets and networks to the nation’s economic well being, as well as to our collective sense of security. As a free and mobile people, we rely upon these facilities and systems to go when and where we want to without constrain. We also depend upon our infrastructure systems to sustain our way of life and our economy, through the delivery of water, power, fuel, communications, and commodities of all kinds. The events of September 11th shattered our collective sense of security regarding our infrastructure assets, as business travelers and vacationers cancelled air travel plans and postponed long-distance trips. As the rescue crews searched the rubble in lower Manhattan and the Pentagon for signs of life, questions began to emerge regarding how these terrible events could have occurred and how they could be prevented in the future.


Prudence suggests that we should safeguard vital public-use infrastructure, particularly in light of the continuing menace posed by terrorists who remain on our soil and the likelihood of hostilities breaking out in those nation states that sponsor terrorist groups. And what are these infrastructure facilities that we need to protect? They include not only our aviation system, but also our highways, bridges, tunnels, transit systems, railroads, water supply systems, power plants and transmission lines, and telecommunications systems. They include water treatment plants, hospitals, dams, levees, and ports. They also include vital private sector facilities, including rail lines, pipe lines, and refineries. These facilities and networks sustain our economy and support our way of life. We often take them for granted, paying attention only when they break down or become congested. On September 11

Safeguarding our nation’s vital infrastructure assets will require a concerted effort to assess the vulnerability of these assets and to develop effective mitigation measures, involving the following steps:

1. Identify and prioritize public-use infrastructure facilities and networks in terms of their functions and strategic significance.

2. Assess the vulnerability of these assets to damage or destruction, from both naturally occurring events (such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods) and terrorist-induced events (bombings, release of chemical or biological agents, or cyber-sabotage).

3. Determine the likely consequences of these events, both direct and indirect, as well as crossover effects involving other parts of the infrastructure system or the economy.

4. Develop and deploy mitigation or hardening measures to reduce the risks or consequences of damage or destruction, regardless of the cause.

The fate of our infrastructure assets is too important to be left to chance. We need to secure our vital infrastructure assets and reduce the risks posed by natural or terrorist threats through the provision of both preparedness plans and contingency arrangements. This white paper describes how a Critical Infrastructure Vulnerability Assessment And Mitigation Planning Program might be carried out on a statewide or metropolitan area basis."

Date Created: October 2001; Date Posted: March 2002





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