Disaster resilience: strengthening critical infrastructure to endure emergencies

The NSW Government is developing a Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy to make sure that when disaster strikes, key infrastructure will provide continued service and can be restored quickly.

The NSW Office of Emergency Management and the NSW State Emergency Management Committee have created a discussion paper that invites infrastructure managers and organisations to provide input on what the future strategy should include.

The Hon. Troy Grant MP Minister for Police, and Minister for Emergency Services, believes this strategy will help protect critical infrastructure assets from disasters.

“The NSW Government is developing a Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy. A state wide critical infrastructure resilience strategy will help keep the lights on, water running, and transport and trade routes open for people and goods to flow, even in emergencies,” Minister Grant said.

“Part of this process is the release of a discussion paper to seek feedback on what the strategy should include. I invite individuals and organisations to provide submissions to help develop the strategy.”

Risks to critical infrastructure assets

In February 2017, households across New South Wales were asked to cut their electricity usage in response to unprecedented heatwave conditions and the threat of rolling blackouts and power outages.

In the same month the Sydney metropolitan district and parts of the Illawarra, South Coast and Central Tablelands suffered telecommunications outages to more than 32,000 services due to extreme weather conditions including heavy rainfall and damaging winds.

The critical infrastructure of NSW is exposed to many threats, hazards, shocks and stresses.

Disruptions to critical infrastructure can lead to loss of life, psychological distress and result in a negative economic impact.

Increased interdependencies between different sets of critical infrastructure can amplify the consequence of these risks.

Recent events such as the 2015 and 2016 East Coast Lows and the devastation caused by Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie demonstrate the significant impact on all infrastructure provided by local government, state government and the private sector.

Natural disasters of greater magnitude and a heightened risk profile in relation to criminal or malicious threats, including cyberattack, mean NSW’s infrastructure and organisations must be more resilient than ever. Long-term stresses such as aging infrastructure, increased population density, and climate change, add to the challenge of infrastructure resilience.

What is critical infrastructure?

Critical Infrastructure (CI) is the assets, systems and networks required to maintain the security, health and safety, and social and economic prosperity of NSW. They are underpinned by the organisations and people that support them.

Currently NSW benefits from critical infrastructure that provides secure and reliable essential services, such as food, water, energy, telecommunications and health care. Without these services, our economic prosperity and public safety are detrimentally impacted.

To ensure we can continue to enjoy these benefits, the growing risks to critical infrastructure must be managed through an all-hazards approach.

The NSW Government’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy proposes to address the consequences to the people and communities of NSW, rather than specific types of infrastructure outages.

It is essential that a collaborative strategy is developed to ensure critical infrastructure withstands the shocks to continue operating; is returned to service as soon as possible after any disruption; and responds to long-term stresses.

Creating a safer, secure, more disaster-resilient state

The NSW Office of Emergency Management and the NSW State Emergency Management Committee have developed a discussion paper to seek feedback and submissions on what a future Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy (CIRS) should include.

This discussion paper is an opportunity for organisations to provide submissions for consideration in developing a future NSW strategy for the next five years, and contribute to enhancing the state’s critical infrastructure resilience.

The intention is to develop a strategy that benefits critical infrastructure providers, all levels of government, and most importantly, the people, businesses and community of NSW.

The expected benefits of a future strategy include:

  • Enhanced resilience against foreseen and unforeseen hazards and threats
  • Stronger relationships between business, government and the community
  • Reduced service interruption (less disruption to the people and businesses of NSW)
  • More effective emergency management arrangements for NSW communities
  • Enhanced response capability and coordination for all agencies after a disaster event
  • Reduced response, recovery and reconstruction costs arising from threat and hazard events
  • More resilient communities, reducing the social costs of disasters
  • Improved adaptation to stresses such as climate change and population growth
  • Improvements of critical infrastructure resilience through recognising and addressing vulnerabilities of interdependencies between critical infrastructure types
  • Stronger cultures within critical infrastructure organisations to meet business challenges presented by disaster events
  • Reduced total cost of asset ownership across the entire asset management lifecycle
  • Insurance premiums for critical infrastructure providers, government, and the community that incorporate the benefit of critical infrastructure resilience and hazard mitigation activity
  • Enhanced reputations and increased business confidence for critical infrastructure providers

The NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy intends to foster and encourage collaborative partnerships between government, infrastructure providers and the NSW community.

The strategy demonstrates a commitment to work together to build a strong and resilient NSW that can withstand, respond, adapt and thrive when threatened by emergencies.

The input of organisations and workers within the industry is important for guiding NSW’s future strategy.

By having a Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy and putting it into action, the NSW Government aims to move closer to creating a safer, more secure, and more disaster-resilient NSW.

The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy: Discussion Paper and summary of questions to guide feedback can be found at www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/publications/guidelines-legislation-policies/critical-infrastructure-resilience-strategy.html. 

Submissions can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: GPO Box 5434, Sydney, NSW, 2001.

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