In research and policy great attention is paid to maintaining critical or vital infrastructure during a flood, and to restoring this infrastructure quickly after a flood. This includes transportation infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports, hospitals (in particular during a flood), as well as utilities such as electricity supply, water supply and sewerage. Furthermore, special attention is needed for industries and facilities that can severely aggravate the consequences of a flood, such as nuclear power plants and chemical industries.
In the Netherlands the importance of ‘vital and vulnerable’ infrastructure has been reinvigorated in recent years. In the Delta programme it was agreed that the vulnerability to floods of thirteen ‘vital and vulnerable’ is to be addressed. This includes functions such as energy production and distribution, telecom, healthcare, transport and chemical and nuclear industries. The effort regarding vital and vulnerable functions is part of the broader aim to make the Netherlands more water robust by 2050. In the coming years, studies into all thirteen functions will provide greater insight into actual risks. These studies are interrelated, as many causes and effects connect the various networks. For example, if the energy network fails, this could have a large effect on the functioning of pumps, resulting in severe flooding. When the transport systems fail, this will have a large effect on the functioning of medical facilities. These type of interrelations are investigated using pilot projects. It is expected that realistic goals will be established for the selected functions, with the period to 2050 being required to adapt infrastructure. By connecting investments to the existing cycle of maintenance and renewal of the networks, it is hoped that costs will be saved.
A good practice that is already more developed than the debate in the Netherlands is found in England, which is described below.
The critical infrastructure system in England is a complex and interconnected system. Building resilience in this infrastructure is important to reduce the vulnerability to natural hazards. The National Infrastructure Resilience Programme promotes the integration of resilience within the infrastructure, supply and distribution systems and business planning. The programme is led by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat and was established in March 2011. It encourages organisations to build resilience in their networks and for systems to be able to absorb shocks and recover after an event.
Resilience is described in terms of ‘resistance’, ‘reliability’, ‘redundancy’ and ‘response & recovery’. Where resistance is focussed on providing protection in order to prevent damage or disruption. The reliability component ensures that the infrastructure (elements) are inherently designed to operate under a range of conditions and mitigate damage or losses from an event. The availability of backup installations and spare capacity describes the element of redundancy and enables operations to be diverted or switched to other parts of the network during the event to ensure continuity. The response and recovery element describes planning, preparation and exercises in advance of events to enable a fast and effective response to and recovery from disruptive events.
A guide has been written that elaborate this model of resilience (Cabinet office, 2011). It shares good practice and advice for owners and operators of critical infrastructure in England (and the UK) to improve security and resilience of their assets. The regulators give support where relevant and needed, but the guide is not embedded in additional regulation or standards (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.3, see §8.2.1).