Hazards and “Critical Infrastructure” – What can we do?

by Nathan Barton

I recently was in a training class on Critical Asset Risk Management.  That is a fancy term and acronym (CARM) for identifying what physical infrastructure is critical for society to function, what threats or hazards may cause damage or destruction to that infrastructure, and what can be done to prevent or mitigate damage/destruction and make them functional again after they’ve been damaged or destroyed (called recovery).  Been hit by enough jargon yet?

It really is pretty simple: bad things happen to physical things – and nothing lasts forever. You need to figure out what bad things can happen (and how likely they are to happen), and what needs to be done to reduce the damage when bad things happen  And what needs to be done to restore those physical things to again function, both immediately and long term.  What do you have to do to prepare for disasters, and how do you respond?

Physical infrastructure means things like roads, railroads and ports (water and air), and buildings/sites like hospitals, transportation stations, power plants, water sources and plants, waste water treatment, and such.  The things that are used every day to provide people water, food and other materials and services we need (or think we do) to live – and make a living.  There is a lot of it: pipes and pipelines, power lines, bridges and streets and roads and gutters. Schools and (gasp!) government buildings and facilities, like city hall and fire stations and emergency communications and such.  And things that might be government or non-government: hospitals and clinics and landfills and schools.

Every one of those is potentially vulnerable to threats.  We divide threats into three general classes: natural (hurricanes, storms, floods, and such), technological (vehicle accidents, hazardous materials spills, computer system failures, fires, etc.), and “human-caused” (intentional actions whether vandalism or “terrorism”).  Stupidity is usually considered “technological” unless there is intent to do harm.

These things are important to us – our standard of living depends on them; for many of us, our very lives depend on these things.  Power supplies, water, sewage service, the medical facilities themselves, supermarkets, and all the rest.  If we lose some of these facilities, and therefore the services and goods that we obtain through them, we might be able to survive.  And if our planning and preparation are adequate, we might be able to survive indefinitely, if far poorer (in the terms of regular standards of living) than before.

But how many are really prepared?

Too many people – even those who claim to be libertarian – depend on government for maintaining and protecting that infrastructure.  That, my friends, is incredibly stupid.  And incredibly common.

One of the good things about the training was that it was NOT just government personnel who took the training.  There were a lot of private companies represented there – power companies, and communications companies, and engineering firms.  Often, all government can do (beyond a certain, very limited point) is call on private business to go out and fix things.  The road department has enough personnel and equipment to reopen the highways after a fairly bad blizzard, but if there are 30 inches in six hours (with 40 mph winds), they have to call on construction companies and their big equipment and “extra” people.  Same thing when a school burns down – they look to private business to find a place to teach children.

Some things are more difficult.  And it became clear that we (as a society, as people) are NOT prepared.  And despite billions spent to prevent, protect against, respond to, and mitigate the damage from natural disasters, accidents, or attacks, government isn’t prepared, either.  And never will be.

The solution is for people to think about, plan, prepare, and be ready to work with their neighbors to deal with this – even when it is infrastructure that belongs to governments or big companies.  And learn/remember how to do without.

(And sometimes, it means being able and willing to cooperate with governments and those big companies – or at least their employees.)

Mama’s Note: Just remember that, all too often, the non-voluntary governments at all levels make it almost impossible to prepare or do anything much about such disasters, and may even make those efforts “illegal” one way or another. Could you organize armed patrols to guard against looting and other crime after a serious disaster like a hurricane? Could your community “legally” repair a “state” bridge or road on their own after a flood or mudslide? Probably not.

The politicians and bureaucrats do not want anyone to be independent, by any means. Never “vote” for politicians who promise to take care of it for you.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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