Critical National Infrastructure
Airports and utilities are important sectors of the critical national infrastructure in the U.S. Airports efficiently move people and cargo, support commercial activity and economic development, and enable the country to respond to emergencies and crises in a timely way. They provide the vital commercial and general aviation backbone that connects communities and people across the nation’s span of urban, rural and remote localities.
It is in the national interest that this critical transportation sector develops a sustainable internal capacity for operational resilience. Because each of the thousands of U.S. airports serves as a vital element in the lives and livelihoods of Americans everywhere, the extended or prolonged loss or disruption of function and capacity at any of their facilities poses a significant community, regional or national threat. The U.S. economy and way of life depends on a vital and uninterrupted aviation sector.
Similarly, energy and water utilities sustain life and communities, support industry, transportation and recreation, and play a critical role in protecting the environment. Virtually every community is served by an electric utility, water or water/sewer operation varying widely in capacity, water source, and regional challenges.
The vital services of these entities are either irreplaceable or extraordinarily difficult to provide elsewhere if capacity is lost or severely degraded. Life and livelihood literally depend on their ability to anticipate disruptive incidents, maintain some base level of operations during them, and then recover and restore essential functions in a timely and predicable manner.
Industry in its Infancy
The record of business continuity planning in the airport and utility sectors is surprisingly mixed. Some have developed their internal capacity for operational resiliency to an adequate level, while many others have no formal recovery planning process in place at all. Part of the explanation may be that essential airport and utility operations and processes depend on dedicated physical assets and resources – such as water sources, desalination plants, co-generation facilities, taxiways and runways – making alternative planning a challenge. Another factor - making continuity planning complex - is that many essential functions that these entities are the operational responsibility of third party contractors, lessees or federal agencies like the TSA, FAA, Ice and CBP, rather than the airport itself, as one example.
Risk Solutions International believes that there is a great opportunity to assist these critical national infrastructure entities in moving their continuity practices to a threshold level of competence that aligns with accepted standards and federal continuity of operations planning (COOP) guidance. We cannot think of a more important sector than our airports and utilities in which to have well-exercised operational resiliency plans in place. The operational impact of recent regional-scale natural disasters on utilities and airports reminds us that risk factors for critical infrastructure operations may be increasing.
Airport Business Continuity Planning Software
Risk Solutions International is perhaps the foremost practitioner of business continuity planning for airports, port authorities and water utilities. We researched the airport industry's business continuity practices for the Transportation Research Board (the TRB is administered by the National Academy of Sciences and funded by the F.A.A.) and developed an automated business continuity planning software tool for use by the entire U.S. industry.
In November 2013 the Transportation Research Board published a business continuity planning guidebook written by Risk Solutions International for the airport industry entitled Operational and Business Continuity Planning for Prolonged Airport Disruptions. The project is described in the July/August issue of the Transportation Research Board's "TR News" publication. It can be downloaded or purchased from the Transportation Research Board at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/acrp/acrp_rpt_093.pdf.
The guidebook is accompanied by software that enables airports to develop their own site-specific business continuity plan by answering a detailed operational survey. The survey uses a first-of-its-kind conditional question path approach that guides airports through increasingly detailed questions about their essential operations, recovery priorities and restoration strategies. The software actually develops a complete business continuity plan based on their answers, and dynamically renders it on screen in HTML format and in a fully paginated PDF format with table of contents. (See the press release)
Business Continuity Planning for Utilities
We also develop business continuity plans for water utilities across the country. The tools we design are easy-to-use, intuitive, survey-based applications that build complex business continuity plans "on the fly" from participants' answers to a series of online questions about the unique operations at airports or utilities.