Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

National Preparedness Month: Regional Infrastructure Coordination

The challenge of succinctly predicting and modeling the cascading impacts of disasters on critical infrastructure was highlighted this year when Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty) supported a nationally-funded exercise in the Washington metropolitan area which examined the ability of all levels of government, private industry, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to protect against, respond to, and recover from a major Mid-Atlantic hurricane.

During exercise design, subject-matter experts, including geographic information systems (GIS) personnel, modeled and contextualized the impacts of the scenario on the mid-Atlantic region. Though a number of modeling and prediction tools currently exist, the level of complexity and effort required to predict the cascading effects of an acute shock were so significant that it deeply underscored the need for regional collaboration. Hagerty has identified a strategy to help address this challenge, based on our experience in the case studies that follow.

Seeing the Connectivity

Petroleum shortages are often caused by events that affect multiple states, but in most instances, planning does not account for cascading impacts across regional jurisdictions. For instance, one state’s evacuation plan has fuel implications for another, or the fuel transport regulations in one state may prohibit a neighbor from being able to provide additional fuel when needed.

To address these challenges and to take proactive strides toward comprehensive regional planning, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), and the United States (US) Department of Energy (DOE) partnered on a regional petroleum shortage planning workshop in early 2018. Hagerty supported the workshop which involved participants from twelve states and industry partners. The project’s ultimate goal was to enhance regional petroleum shortage response coordination to bolster the overall energy resilience of the southeast and south-central regions of the US.

The workshop included discussions between industry partners and federal and state government officials. As part of the project, workshop participants examined the current state of petroleum shortage planning, created a vision of successful coordination, and discussed steps to reach those goals. The identified areas for future growth (i.e., public information, external coordination, data and evaluation, regional coordination methods, and prioritization/allocation decision-making) were summarized in an executive summary and made available nationally.

Starting the Conversation

It is critical for states and regions to have conversations on the impacts of long-term power outage and the cascading impacts that can span across regions. To help in facilitating this process, NEMA, through a cooperative grant from DOE, created a project for states to test and discuss their response and recovery from such an incident. Hagerty supported NEMA to create an expert-informed tabletop exercise (TTX) that led key decision makers through a discussion of how their actions would be shaped based on a cyberattack, as well as how their response would be prioritized, given the uncertainty surrounding the attack and the impending cascading impacts associated with a power outage.

The project began with research on best practices aiming to identify and characterize recommendations from major national organizations and national efforts associated with energy assurance planning. We reviewed findings from real world events and exercises to capture best practices that improve response and recovery efforts and enhance energy resilience, captured in a report titled, Energy Assurance Planning: Current State and Promising Practices. This report included the findings of a survey that Hagerty concurrently developed and worked with NEMA to disseminate to all state emergency management agencies.

To develop the exercise templates, Hagerty worked with a NEMA-assembled panel of subject matter experts from utility consortiums, state emergency management agencies, and like partners to develop objectives, scenarios, and discussion questions for the TTX materials. Hagerty led pilot TTXs with three pilot states representing different parts of the country, different levels of state and utility coordination, and different levels of private vs publicly owned utilities to obtain feedback. Each exercise revealed different areas for improvement, but there were several key findings which transcended all three exercises. These findings included the need for intrastate and interstate collaboration to prepare for an event of this scale. Following the exercises, Hagerty modified the materials to reflect any lessons learned from the pilot exercises, before disseminating them to NEMA to be uploaded and hosted on the NEMA website.

Improving Our Understanding of Cascading Impacts

To effectively prepare for cascading impacts that are difficult to predict and model, Hagerty has helped our clients bring together the stakeholder groups necessary to analyze the threat to increase their regional resilience. For any jurisdictions struggling with these same challenges, we recommend:

  • Identify regional hazards. NEMA, DOE, and NASEO are addressing regional fuel-shortages by recognizing interdependencies between states when sharing and accessing fuel. Conduct a systematic review of the hazards impacting your jurisdiction and identify threats, regulations, shared resources, or legal requirements that are likely to impact your jurisdiction and your neighbors.
  • Size up the potential problem. Lean on subject matter expertise from local, state, and federal levels to understand the scope of the potential cascading impacts. Invite a broad range of stakeholders and experts from the public and private sector, and consider leveraging resources and personnel from academia.
  • Strategize a path forward. By understanding the problem, your jurisdiction and region will be better equipped to determine a path forward. Consider using an exercise to identify areas for improvement, prioritizing specific topic areas or concerns, or conducting a discovery change workshop to identify a vision for the future and the immediate actions your region can undertake. Follow-up on these outcomes by publicizing any resulting reports or strategies and generate support for the improvement strategy across the region. Hold regular check-ins to report on progress and refocus the group when attention wanes.

To learn more about how Hagerty’s Preparedness Division can help your region enhance regional infrastructure planning, visit hagertyconsulting.com/preparedness.

Kris Ledins is an emergency management professional with over seven years of experience in emergency management and public safety. He has a proven record of success in developing and implementing innovative, sustainable and cost-effective planning, training and exercise programs for both governmental and NGOs. Kris continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter/emergency medical technician (EMT), where he is able to experience first-hand the impacts of both effective and ineffective emergency management practices.

Kayla Slater is a Managing Associate with Hagerty who primarily supports pre-disaster recovery planning and cybersecurity preparedness working in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Georgetown University’s Emergency and Disaster Management Program, Kayla enjoys helping clients develop innovative and useful plans and tools to support response and recovery. In her spare time, she bakes, reads, and bikes to donut shops.

Ashley Wargo is a Managing Associate out of Hagerty’s Austin, Texas office with a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Florida State University and a special passion for critical infrastructure, the energy sector, and resource management. She attributes her passion for building a more resilient energy sector to her lifelong fear of the dark.