KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm
The Dialectics of Complexification
Complexity, clearly, is one of the most important and fundamental concepts in infrastructural studies. In my talk I will reflect on infrastructural complexity from an historical and a geographical point of view. Complexity is closely related to the concepts of risk and vulnerability, in a double way: while complexity has often been the outcome of efforts to manage vulnerability in infrastructures, it has historically also given rise to new infrastructural risks and threats. To understand this dialectics of complexification in the urban setting we need to look not only at urban areas as such but also at their role in a wider geographical context, taking into account the relations both between different cities and between cities and non-urban areas. I will also discuss complexity as an historical phenomenon in relation to the vision of infrastructural “control” – a deeply contradictory vision, as I will argue, because critical infrastructures cannot really be controlled.
University of Warwick, Coventry; New York University
Futureproofing City Infrastructures: Transitioning From Risk Towards Resilience
In recent years, resilience-thinking has extended the performance of risk management and sought to advance ways of coping and thriving in an uncertain and volatile future premised upon advancing an all-encompassing, integrated approach to engage with future uncertainty. Significantly implicated in this endeavour has been critical urban infrastructure as a result of the frequency and severity of recent crises that have channelled attention to vulnerable physical assets, the removal or suspension of which from normal service, would significantly affect public safety, security, economic activity, social functioning or environmental quality.
After 9/11 critical infrastructure protection was prioritised and conventional risk management principles were adopted in an attempt to maintain the essential functioning of infrastructure lifelines. Over time, the increased acknowledgment of such complex and interdependent risks has led to ideas of resilience being increasingly utilised in the practice of critical infrastructure resilience. Despite the clear parallels between critical infrastructure and resilience as mainstream policy concerns, there has be little interconnection between theory and practice despite a greater appreciation of the interconnectivity and interdependence of critical infrastructure networks
Within this context, and drawing on then results from a number of EU-wide projects focused on operationalising infrastructure resilience, this paper provides a critical assessment of how resilience shapes the ways infrastructure providers’ deal with complex risk and the tensions elicited in the paradigm shift/transition from risk management towards resilience. Also highlighted are the implications for organisational governance in seeking holistic and integrated ways of assessing risk across multiple systems, networks and scalesin order to futureproof our world.
State Fire Service Institute North Rhine Westphalia
Fire Service and Technical Relief – a Structure in Space and Time
Germany has more than one million firefighters – about 95 % of them volunteers – and additionally 40.000 specialists in technical relief at its command. Fire services and relief units have countless operational bases even in small villages and are well equipped with emergency vehicles. Consequently, German fire services claim to reach every larger human settlement within ten to fifteen minutes. However, even with these enormous resources, German fire services and relief units sometimes reach their limits even under normal circumstances, e. g. by a narrow availability of volunteers during working hours. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that these emergency services are a critical infrastructure themselves with a certain vulnerability to defaults in other areas. In case of a power failure, the communication of fire service units, which is mainly based on PPDR (Public Protection and Disaster Relief) radio, can be maintained only for a rather limited time. Furthermore, extremely few gas stations will be available in a case like that, so it will be a challenge to fuel emergency vehicles. In case of a pandemic, it is to be feared that a high percentage of emergency personnel is not available since they are either personally affected or have to take care of family members who have fallen sick. Nevertheless, emergency services are well aware of these limitations and are working on solutions to strengthen their resilience against disruptions. Practitioners from civil protection, scientists in security research and solution providers from industry are collaborating in several research projects aiming at the extension of their ability to cope with failures in infrastructure. The talk will comprehensively describe the problem and present the state of the art in this field.