Case Studies

Below are a handful of case studies showing how communities have integrated infrastructure dependencies and resilience solutions into planning.

The Green River Area Development District (GRADD)

The Green River Area Development District (GRADD), a regional planning agency serving seven counties in northwestern Kentucky, undertook to enhance their hazard mitigation planning efforts by focusing on infrastructure and resilience.

Green River Area Development District OfficeAs part of the 2020 update to their FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Plans, the GRADD took part in a collaboration project between the Kentucky Office of Emergency Management (KYEM) and the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) during which GRADD was able to pilot tools and resources from CISA’s Infrastructure Resilience Planning Framework (IRPF). Tools included a dependency discussion guide and infrastructure owner/operator interview guide that helped the GRADD assess their constituent communities’ dependence on infrastructure systems. Facilitated dependency discussions with communities led to identification of new, specific mitigation projects which improved the general actions GRADD had in their current mitigation strategy. For example, a city’s sewer lift stations were identified as a critical need for backup power due to their dependence on energy infrastructure and the local schools’ and emergency shelter’s dependence on these lift stations for wastewater service. Consideration of dependencies also led to identification of key infrastructure stakeholders, such as the local river port, that should be included in hazard mitigation planning due to its importance in providing export/import functions that support local, regional, and national industry and economy. CISA was also able to provide GRADD with supplemental GIS data for utilities located within the district and surrounding counties. This allowed the GRADD to better identify natural hazard risks to infrastructure that would affect the region.

The following benefits were recognized from the planning pilot:

  • Dependency discussion tools met the biggest challenge of getting people to think about how systems are dependent on one another and what their most critical function is.
  • The Meeting Facilitation Guide helped to focus the conversation, kept it short, promoted knowledge sharing, led to identifying new key issues, inspired new mitigation ideas, and moved projects forward. The meeting was very productive and got the participants to think more deeply about what they rely on.
  • Taking infrastructure and dependencies into account during assessment.

Fort Collins Regional Resilience Assessment

In 2016, the City of Ft. Collins, Colorado and Larimer County sought to implement the NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide to enhance regional resilience and leverage the extensive comprehensive planning that had already been done by jurisdictions within the region. As part of this effort, they undertook a review of more than 20 local and regional plans to identify and understand potential planning conflicts and gaps that might impact their resilience.

Recreational bikers riding through Ft. CollinsWith the support of CISA, partners identified key infrastructure systems and dependencies that could impact local and regional resilience. These twin efforts yielded an integrated set of key infrastructure assets and systems throughout the region, as well as a number of resilience issues and findings about otherwise complete current planning.

Specifically, it was determined that:

  • Fort Collins, Larimer County, and the local university did not have integrated response plans for two potential high consequence hazards: 1) a long-term, areawide power outage; and 2) train derailment and hazmat release.
  • Fort Collins and Larimer County did not have integrated emergency plans to address fuel supply disruptions.
  • Networking and information technology (IT) functions are vital to Fort Collins and Larimer County, but City and County continuity plans do not adequately account for the impacts of IT disruption.

These findings provided the basis for a series of planning activities aimed at addressing these gaps.

The San Francisco Lifelines Council

Historically, infrastructure resilience efforts in the San Francisco had focused on commercial and residential buildings. Recognizing a resilience gap, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) released a report in 2009 that examined resilience from the perspective of lifeline services. This report highlighted the regional nature of lifeline infrastructure and the interdependencies between systems, ultimately recommending that the City convene a council to bring together public and private infrastructure owners to improve lifeline resilience.

San Francisco office buildingIn 2009, the City of San Francisco formed a lifelines council to improve the city’s resilience to natural disasters. The council consists of over 30 member organizations, including public and private lifeline service providers and the government offices that interact with them. The San Francisco Lifelines Council is a collaborative body the city relies on to improve resilience measures and inform city goals.

In 2014, the Council published a study that highlighted the interconnected nature of the city’s critical infrastructure and examined the effects of interdependencies on recovery operations in the wake of a significant earthquake. The study surveyed 11 lifeline service providers to better understand their response and restoration schemes, as well as their dependencies upon other lifeline systems. Because some organizations were understandably reticent to share proprietary quantitative information or sensitive data, the council agreed to a qualitative study using structured interviews with questions vetted by members.

The study identified three areas for improvement: geographic and infrastructure choke points; coordination of planning and preparedness activities among service providers, the City of San Francisco, and other providers; and coordination of mitigation efforts to improve system performance after disasters. To address these priorities, the council created a five-year implementation plan that included both short-term goals, such as conducting tabletop exercises with service providers, and long-term goals, such as conducting additional interdependency studies assessing the risks of flooding and sea level rise. With a well-defined direction and tangible goals established, the Lifelines Council organized into smaller working groups to carry out its objectives. The city used this report to create a five-year plan for improving resiliency. The Lifelines Council also enabled key service providers within the region to open new lines of communication, uncover and mitigate weaknesses, and pursue the goals established in the five-year plan.


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