Analysing the risks of failure of interdependent infrastructure networks

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The Future of National Infrastructure: A System-of-Systems Approach, 2016, pp. 241 - 267
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© Cambridge University Press 2016. Introduction: Sustainability of national infrastructure systems (energy, transport, water, waste and information and communication technologies (ICT)) is contingent on several factors, one of which is reducing the risks associated with infrastructure failure when the system is subject to shocks, be they man-made or natural in origin. Under normal operating conditions infrastructure systems have capacity limitations, contain components nearing the end of their useful life, and face constant stresses in response to technological, demographic, social and lifestyle changes. These changing demands placed on infrastructure systems have been the subject of most of this book. This chapter deals with the more extreme, and fortunately less frequent, situation in which infrastructure systems are subject to conditions that can lead to cessation of service provision. The inter-connectedness of infrastructure system-of-systems means that widespread and cascading failures are possible, leading to major disruption to society and the economy. Avoiding, as far as possible, such damaging events, and planning to cope during those events and enable recovery, is therefore an important aspect of public policy regarding infrastructure provision. If the process of building long-term sustainable, adaptive and resilient infrastructure systems is to take place efficiently then it will need to be underpinned by an approach to understanding infrastructure risks under a range adverse impacts and infrastructure configurations. The starting point for managing the risks of infrastructure failure, and building resilience to shocks is to understand the performance of infrastructure system-of-systems. What are the hazards to which these systems are exposed? What are the points of vulnerability? What are the potential consequences should failure occur? What are the actions that could be taken to reduce the risk of failure, promote graceful rather than catastrophic failure, enable coping during disruptive events and promote recovery to an enhanced state of resilience? How should potential actions to enhance resilience be prioritised? This chapter addresses the problem of understanding risk of failure in national infrastructure system-of-systems. It thereby provides the basis for targeting remedial actions. By quantifying risks in economic terms, we provide methodology that can help to make the case for investment in resilience. Focusing on the risks of infrastructure failure and the implied negative economic and social consequences, this chapter introduces a risk assessment methodology to assess failures in interdependent infrastructures.
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