Five things you need to know about critical infrastructures


By Dr. Simone Sandholz

Today is the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Five things you need to know about critical infrastructures:

1. What is critical infrastructure?

Critical infrastructures are facilities and services that are necessary so a society can function properly. Examples are energy, water, food, transport, telecommunications, healthcare, or banking. However, which infrastructures are critical varies among different countries.

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2. How does critical infrastructure differ across the globe?

The access and availability of critical infrastructures vary significantly among countries. For example, in 2015 a German citizen faced on average 15 minutes of power outage per year, while a Nepali citizen had to deal with up to 91 hours per week during load shedding. However, no country is safe from critical infrastructure failure.

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3. What is a critical infrastructure failure?

What happens when critical infrastructures fail can be seen in Puerto Rico at the moment. After Hurricane Maria left most of the island without electricity, problems quickly multiplied: A lack of clean water, refrigeration (and thus safe food), and difficulties providing medical care were just some of them.

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4. How does critical infrastructure relate to disaster reduction?

Not only do critical infrastructures need to be protected as much as possible from damage by disasters, but their existence and upkeep can directly affect how future disasters impact an area. Maintaining or quickly restoring road access, drinking water supply or healthcare can save lives. On the other hand, if infrastructure is already poor before a disaster strikes, the negative consequences are often exacerbated.

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5. How can people prepare for critical infrastructure failure?

Even if you live in a relatively safe part of the world, do not rely on existing infrastructures and government support alone. Preparation - in form of water and food supply or by stockpiling needed medication – is recommended.

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