Resilient Critical Infrastructure: Involving public and private stakeholders for a safe and prosperous city

In a resilient city, ‘the show must go on’. Business continuity and undisrupted services are essential for a safe and prosperous city. These elements ensure that the city is resilient – able to withstand (unexpected) shocks and stresses.

By Rosalie Fidder & Suzanne Robert

What is resilience critical infrastructure and why is it relevant?

A core element to ensure business continuity and undisrupted services, is resilient critical infrastructure. This concept encompasses any type of infrastructure that enables the flow of people, goods, and services such as telecommunications, energy supply, and transportation. A disruption of critical infrastructure may result in significant (economic) damages and will produce cascade effects resulting in obstacles elsewhere in the city-system.

For example, loss of energy supply and telecommunications could result in disruption to the banking district (e.g. Wall Street, during hurricane Sandy, in New York). Disruption of the transportation network, in turn, hinders emergency services, which reduces the city’s capacity to respond adequately to a shock. These issues will all result in (financial) losses, and city planners can try to avoid these through resilient critical infrastructure.

Resilient critical infrastructure may sound like a technical solution to enhance a city’s resilience but developing resilient critical infrastructure does requires both technical and engineering expertise. The local community is an essential factor in enabling critical infrastructure resilience. In other words – critical infrastructure resilience cannot be accomplished without the involvement of both public and private stakeholders.

An engaged community is a resilient community

Different layers of community involvement can be distinguished. First, the community itself should be resilient. A community’s resilience can be increased in many ways, such as through increased awareness on potential risks through education, strong and innovative leadership, and effective long-term planning. Second, the community should be engaged in the resilience planning of a city or district. Community engagement enhances not only the resilience of the community itself (through increased awareness and agency) but will also improve the resilience of the project or city. For example, through successful community engagement, local knowledge of the system can be leveraged to create more resilient solutions. In the long run, this may save resources such as time and money, and will foster more effective and cost-efficient solutions.

Community engagement is no rocket science, but it does require three main ingredients that are sometimes overlooked in project planning: dedicated and sustained effort, time, and resources. Community engagement is an immersive process. It cannot be ‘sped up’ to suit project deadlines. Effort is required in order to build relationships of trust. And it’s only through this relationship that local knowledge and expertise can truly be incorporated into a project design. A first step to foster this relationship could be to engage community members in leadership roles in throughout the project phases. It may sound scary at first but, over time, it will lead to better results as well as a safe, prosperous and more resilient city.

Rosalie Fidder
Suzanne Robert



Suzanne Robert

Consultant Water Management +31 (0)6 1110 1248 Ask me a question
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