Building disaster resilience into our critical infrastructure

NSW residents and businesses are set to benefit from a new strategy that will help keep the lights on, water running and transport moving, even when dealing with disasters.

The NSW Government has released the inaugural NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy (CIRS) which seeks to improve the resilience of the essential services that our communities rely so heavily on.

Critical infrastructure is increasingly recognised for its interconnectedness with the social well-being, economic prosperity and environmental values of the people of NSW. This strategy is the result of a collaborative partnership between government, the NSW community, and infrastructure owners and operators.

Nationally, Australia will spend over $1 trillion on infrastructure before 2050. The Australian Business Roundtable has shown us that on average natural disasters cost NSW $3.6 billion per year ($13.2 billion nationally), and that cost is likely to increase to $10.6 billion per year by 2050 ($39.3 billion nationally).

These financial costs are just one reason the CIRS is encouraging leaders in business and government to support the NSW community by improving critical infrastructure resilience across the state.

Almost all major infrastructure is a multi-decade investment and most infrastructure will be exposed to many hazards during its life.

NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Hon Troy Grant MP, said risks to our critical infrastructure come from natural disasters such as bushfires, storms and floods, but increasingly also from threats of cyberattack and terrorism.

“These threats must be managed through an all-hazard, collaborative approach to ensure the safety, security and resilience of our community,” Mr Grant said.

Embedding resilience in NSW infrastructure creates a “double dividend” of avoided costs from disasters, but also improvements to economic growth and social well-being that arise even in the absence of a disaster.

Additionally, resilience improvements can improve our understanding around the interconnectedness of complex infrastructure systems, reducing the likelihood of cascading failures in multiple essential services.

Minister, Troy Grant, Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, and Transgrid CEO, Paul Italiano, in a secure underground Transgrid substation that aims to protect the state’s electricity supply from all types of hazards.

Creating a clear plan

The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy aims to enhance resilience across three key areas:  

  1. Improved Infrastructure Resilience: focuses on the resilience planned for, designed and built in to assets, networks and systems
  2. Improved Organisational Resilience: focused on the resilience of the organisations, personnel and processes supporting the infrastructure to supply
    the service
  3. Improved Community Resilience: focused on the role the community plays not only in building and maintaining its own resilience, but in assisting infrastructure providers to maintain their services

To achieve these outcomes, priority is given to:

  • Partnering for shared responsibility around critical infrastructure resilience. This is best achieved when all infrastructure providers partner together and with all levels of government
  • Preparing for all hazards, not just the ones we can foresee. All threats, all hazards, acute shocks and long-term stresses need to be considered and exercised. An all-hazards approach to building resilience is needed so that we are ready for the expected threats and hazards, but also the ones that are less easy to predict
  • Providing critical infrastructure services with minimal disruption. Embedding resilience in the planning and design of services pays back during operation and maintenance of services

Resources for users

The NSW Government and the NSW Office of Emergency Management are looking to encourage and support tangible improvements in infrastructure resilience. A series of user resources to support the implementation of the strategy is under development. These practical guides will contain tools, resources, links to best practice and case studies to assist infrastructure providers to build infrastructure, organisational and community resilience.

User resources will be split into sector specific information and will not only reflect sectors represented on the federal Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) — energy, banking and finance, communications, food and grocery, transport, water and health — but also include education and local government.

A number of shared resources will address the specific topics of infrastructure resilience, organisational resilience, community resilience, infrastructure planning, criticality, and infrastructure design, operations and maintenance and cyber security.

The development of the NSW CIRS is a proactive step by the NSW Government to support communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters.

“The work we all do before an emergency or disaster helps save lives, protects property and prepares communities for those challenging times during and immediately after a disaster,” Mr Grant said.

The NSW CIRS will help move the state closer to a safer, more secure and more disaster resilient NSW.

The NSW Office of Emergency Management is looking for more case studies to include in the user resources. If you believe your organisation already demonstrates or embraces resilience in planning, design or operations of your assets and would like to be shown as a leader in the field, please get in contact with [email protected].

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