Business Continuity: Risk Analysis – Infrastructure Safety

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Risk Analysis


Infrastructure Safety

HEADLINE: Virginia quake highlights overlooked danger: decrepit dams

SUMMARY: In the wake of last week’s Virginia-centered earthquake, which shook most of the East Coast, Scientific American points to concerns about the integrity of thousands of dams, many built before seismic engineering came of age. Some of these dams have the potential to release tsunami-like flash floods in the event of a seismic breach. In 2009 the American Society of Civil Engineers released a survey of the state of infrastructure in the United States. The group found that of the more than 85,000 dams in the United States, more than 4,000 are unsafe or deficient, and nearly 1,800 of those are located in areas where a breach would cause serious damage to life and property. STORY LINK
Analysis by –Kenneth O’Dell, S.E. M.ASCE, Principal, Firestorm MHP

As with much of the news, it is often the back-story that carries the more critical message. The report referenced above is a 2009 Report Card of the American Infrastructure Needs prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). ASCE regularly reviews infrastructure needs and provides an updated report. The 2009 report covers a wide gamut of infrastructure needs, such as dams, bridges, levees, schools, etc. and can be found at the following link: Infrastructure Report Card.

The clear story behind this report is that the infrastructure of America is aging at a rate significantly faster than the ability to address it in the current political/economic environment.

What does this mean to each of us on a personal or business level?

As highlighted by the Virginia earthquake and the immediately following impacts of Hurricane Irene, when infrastructure fails we are each impacted in immeasurable ways. With entire towns cut off in Vermont and New Jersey by failed roads and utilities, we become aware that our pre-event planning becomes critical. The 2009 Report Card by ASCE clearly indicates that we will not always be able to rely on the everyday aspects of life that we take for granted. At some point, failure of systems will occur. As the recent natural disasters have shown, those failures tend to be catastrophic when compounded by events out of our control. However, while we may not be able to control the specific event, we can control how we prepare for it and how we respond to it.

Much of the answer lies not in spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in responding to a disaster, but rather in spending strategically before the event occurs. Unfortunately, with today’s attitude of Disaster Denial it is easier to fund response than it is to fund mitigation and preparedness.

In order to be in the best position to respond, we must be willing to recognize that each of us has a duty to our families to be prepared, and every business executive and manager has a duty to the business stakeholders to have a plan for preparedness. The plan needs to address pre-event mitigation strategies as well as post-event response. It is clear that every pre-event dollar spent will save significantly more dollars from having to be wasted just getting back to where you were before the disaster struck.

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