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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

Infrastructure is Critical (and beyond your control)

Updated: Mar 19

Business continuity looks a lot at micro-level events: the ones inside your four walls (and even slightly beyond). One is so macro, it impacts everyone: infrastructure.

Critical infrastructure is so vitally important to the daily lives of Americans that if there’s any disruption to one of the sixteen sectors (transportation systems; energy; water and waste management; commercial facilities, to name a few), it's considered a severe risk to national and economic security, public health and safety or a combination of any of them. Each sector is heavily regulated and has specific federal agencies that oversee its risk management.

There’s nothing you can do to prevent critical infrastructure incidents unless you're part of the percentage of various infrastructure sectors that are owned by the private sector (like gas pipelines or water management). It’s not in your lane, but it will impact you - an impact you can prepare for to some degree to ensure your internal systems continue to run when there’s an issue.

The power grid is a big one, and one most prevalent right now as the summer months and prolonged heat events cause a massive draw on the system. Especially as mentioned a few blogs ago about how the draw is even bigger due to work-from-home causing air conditioners to be on at home between 8am and 6pm M-F when previously it was just one building for hundreds. Another thing to consider: energy being used by charging electric vehicles. There is always a trade-off.

Have you considered what you're going to do if you have a few days of a blackout or sustained, rolling brown-outs (which makes things even more unreliable: we have power, but how much for how long and more of the same tomorrow)?

Water is another part of critical infrastructure that many businesses need. If not just for toilets and sinks for the employees' use, perhaps as part of the integral parts of your operations, like you have a restaurant. We've seen some ingenious ideas borne from winter-blast pipe bursts as well as contaminated watersheds from wildfire ash (paper plates, bottled water). These are not season-specific issues, clearly.

Solutions to water issues are very cost-intensive for some with the desire and means. In Mississippi, Byrum, one small town, relies on the water provided by nearby Jackson. Welp, a total of 3 times in 2022 did the water lines fail in Jackson, cutting off Byrum entirely. Instead of waiting for Jackson to invest in repairing, Byrum decided to invest in its own water system.

Almost all of us are still familiar with the headache of the supply chain disruption at the ports during the covid pandemic. Ports are part of critical infrastructure. The ports themselves did not have the necessary infrastructure to un-fu@< themselves (there were political means, but that's a whole other blog post and soapbox I've spoken about before).

As a whole business owners thought of some work-arounds (secondary suppliers, like-in-kind substitutions, making their own supplies). Some are banking on this not happening again. Eeeeks!!! This is one global disruption we should not let go to waste - learn from it and adapt so next time is less painful.

Main lesson: out of your control doesn't mean you lack options. Be smart about what you can do. Be creative when there is seemingly nothing you can do. Be agile so you can innovate, survive, and thrive.

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