Dams, levees, and related facilities are a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure, providing a wide range of economic, environmental, and social benefits through the delivery of critical water retention and control services. Therefore, incidents involving Dams Sector assets could result in severe economic losses, loss of life, and reduced public confidence in industry and government’s ability to provide essential services. Dam owners can enhance the overall resilience of their facilities through the development of a crisis management program inclusive of plans to guide emergency response, crisis communications, rapid restoration, and continuity of operations.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which serves as the Dams Sector Risk Management Agency, developed the Dams Sector Crisis Management Suite to help owners and operators to understand the principles of crisis management and build a crisis management program. The suite includes educational materials, planning templates, and exercise support to test the plans included in the program.
What is Crisis Management?
Crisis management is the ability for an organization to manage incidents that have the potential to cause significant impacts. Critical to the success of crisis management is planning for an event, or series of events, that have the potential to severely impact operations, ability to do business, relationships with key stakeholders, brand, or reputation. Dams Sector owners and operators have long focused on safety and emergency planning as part of the requirements to maintain their dam in a safe manner. An integrated crisis management approach can provide additional value by guiding response, rapid restoration, continuity of operations, and recovery for a broad array of potential scenarios.
CISA, in collaboration with sector partners, developed the following publications and training courses on the foundational concepts of crisis management:
- Dams Sector Crisis Management Handbook introduces crisis management concepts, explains how crisis management measures are an important component of an overall risk management framework, and highlights guidelines to apply these concepts to dams and related infrastructure.
- Web-Based Training Courses enable sector partners to learn at their own pace to understand security vulnerabilities in the Dams Sector, risk assessments, protective programs, and incident response capabilities.
Build a Crisis Management Program
A crisis management program primarily includes understanding the threats and hazards the organization is likely to encounter and the development of plans addressing these potential crisis situations. The Dams Sector Crisis Management Suite includes templates for the plans listed below. Depending on the type of facility, purposes, and operational characteristics, as well as risk environment and organizational priorities, some of these plans may not be applicable to a particular organization or could be consolidated as part of a program under a different title.
- Emergency Action Plans are formal documents that identify potential emergency conditions at a dam and specifies actions to be followed to minimize loss of life and property damage.
- Hazard-Specific Response Plans recognize that several types of incidents—including cyber, active shooter, and explosives—escalate quickly and therefore require additional planning specific to the type of hazard to empower personnel to respond to a security incident without unnecessary delays.
- Crisis Communications Plans enable the organization to proactively establish effective and consistent communication with affected stakeholders by explaining how the organization will handle the crisis.
- Recovery Plans are used to help prepare for quick damage repair to at least partially restore project functions as well as long-term repairs to fully restore the project.
- Continuity Plans help facilitate the performance of an organization’s essential functions during any situation that may disrupt normal operations.
Exercise Plans in a Crisis Management Program
While planning is essential for effective crisis management, more complete preparation requires periodic exercises that test the implementation of these plans. The Dams Sector Crisis Management Suite includes a comprehensive exercise toolbox to maximize the limited resources available for exercise purposes.
The Dams Sector Tabletop Exercise Toolbox offers four scenarios, including active shooter, international adversary, cyber incident (insider threat), and cyber incident (external adversary). Toolbox materials are consistent with the Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) and include a situation manual with scenario details and proposed discussion questions, briefing slides to guide the discussion, facilitator and evaluation handbook, exercise planner instructions, and feedback forms. The toolbox is available via the HSIN-CI Dams Portal.
Access the Dams Sector Crisis Management Suite
All resources included in the Dams Sector Crisis Management Suite are accessible via the HSIN-CI Dams Portal, which serves as the primary information-sharing mechanism for vetted Dams Sector partners and stakeholders.
For additional information on the Crisis Management Suite, please contact the Dams Sector Management Team at DamsSector@cisa.dhs.gov.