Protecting Our Infrastructure With Unified Disaster Planning

February 16, 2011
By Christine Robinson

Individuals, communities, industry, and governments often neglect to plan for secure normal and contingency operations until a disaster strikes. Rather than planning them separately, why not plan normal operations, physical and cyber security, emergency preparedness and disaster recovery, and integrating renewable energy resources? Military and civilian operations on every level and every nation can benefit both before and after an emergency strikes from adopting industry and government best practices and available technologies available around the world today.

Arlington County, Virginia, currently incorporates this approach in its near- and long-term plans. Arlington bears leadership responsibility for Washington Metropolitan Area operations before and after an emergency, having led the entire operations at the Pentagon during 9/11. Dr. Joe Pelton, chair of the Information Technology Advisory Commission, recently said, "The partnership between the Arlington Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission and the Arlington IT Advisory Commission leadership can help the county and the residents it serves save substantial scarce resources, improve county normal and emergency operations, and help transform county environmental sustainability through our united efforts. The challenge to governments in the 21st century will be integrated and interdisciplinary planning across the traditional sectors that define public services."

Power, communications, and water represent the three most critical resources. As Hurricane Katrina, the Tsunami, and the Haiti Earthquake so vividly illustrate, lack of these essentials can cause utter chaos, devastate a region, and cause human and environmental suffering and death, not just during the aftermath, but for months and years to come.

Alternative energy resources such as wave energy, free-flow micro hydro, bio power, solar, and small wind generators offer many renewable energy choices for communications, water, and power and other necessities for normal and contingency operations.

Security and privacy provide the foundation for all operations. After Hurricane Katrina, officials turned away well-meaning volunteers because they were unable to verify their identities through trusted authorities via "identity management and credentialing." On the other hand, inadequate background checks enabled pedophiles and other criminals open access to hurricane victims. We must also assure that unauthorized personnel do not access or tamper with vital cyber assets, particularly after a disaster strikes, as essentially the entire world depends upon the Internet.

The February 2011 rolling blackouts in Texas and New Mexico caused extreme hardships resulting in a "state of emergency." Some communities lacked natural gas necessary to provide heat and hot water during a bitter cold front, sometimes for five days or more. Success stories evolved on how communities came together to help each other. Daniel Miera, town manager of Taos, New Mexico, stated, "Routine training and incorporating contingency practices into daily activities offer not just preventative measures but can also help develop communities universally. Taos prides itself on its emergency preparedness and disaster training, responding jointly with local and federal agencies to natural disasters, fires, storms, extreme cold and drought. Numerous military bases, Los Alamos Labs, and Sandia Labs represent considerable U.S. defense risk in New Mexico. Taos incorporates alternative energy resources to help reduce energy costs and augment traditional infrastructure."

Christine Robinson is president of Christine Robinson & Associates, LLC; an enterprise architect currently on assignment to the Air Force Strategic Visual Information Mapping (SVIM) initiative; advisor to Arlington County; and advisory board member to EmeraldPlanet and its global television show. Robinson writes extensively and speaks about security to audiences worldwide.

The views expressed by our guest bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of AFCEA International or SIGNAL Magazine.

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