By Patrick Foxworthy
Multi-discipline systems engineer
Kettering University, 2008
In light of recent events here in Virginia, namely the 5.9 earthquake felt early this afternoon, I began to think about how our wide range of IE skills can be applied to the practices of emergency preparedness, response and recovery. Fortunately, at the time of this writing, it appears there has been minimal overall impact to our critical infrastructure, although as usual our wireless communications networks were stressed to capacity for up to 20-30 minutes following the actual event.
Preparing for events that are extremely difficult to predict and whose actions and impact are even more undefined seems almost an impossible task – perfect for IEs to tackle! Of course, IEs can actively forecast required resources and plan effective and efficient evacuation routes. But what about something more exotic, like developing the right level of signage/communication for stressful times during an emergency event? Or planning effective exercises to determine capability gaps in current preparations? These actions can be used to build resiliency into our systems, mitigating risks, and increasing our overall preparedness.
IEs are also suited to playing the role of immediate responders once an event does occur. Our ability to think on the fly, rapidly assess situations, and systematically approach problems from a generalists point of view, serve as a great basis for immediate response and coordination of efforts. IEs can identify the most critical and value added activities in a response effort by identifying those areas that are most affected and that will recoup the most capability in the timeliest manner. The ongoing need to be prepared ensures that there will always be new and unique challenges. The skills and knowledge IEs possess can help mitigate the risks of emergency situations.
Moving into the recovery phase, IE are masters of communication, change execution, and project management. These skills provide the ability to lead the large-scale recovery and improvement efforts necessary in a long-term recovery effort. In partnership with our inherent desire to learn and grow, we can effectively partner to recover and build resilience into our infrastructure systems.
As young professionals, we need to explore these potentially new areas of interest for IEs. Are any of you out there working in these areas? Can you think of other ways for IEs to be involved in protecting infrastructure?