As congressional hearings about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina rage on Capitol Hill, the threat of natural disasters and a need for critical infrastructure resilience are replacing terrorist threats as key issues affecting infrastructure security.
The impacts of hurricanes Katrina and Rita helped expand discussions at the annual Infrastructure Security for the Built Environment conference, held Feb. 15-17 in Washington, D.C. Terrorism has been the dominant theme at past events held by conference co-organizer, The Infrastructure Security Partnership.
Marc Levitan, director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center in Baton Rouge, La., said he hopes to see a shift in priorities among federal, state and local officials in how they view infrastructure threats
“On homeland security, we've done a great job and we haven't had a major event since Sept. 11,” Levitan said. “The problem is that it's been at the expense of natural hazards. We’ve forgotten about them.”
A multi-hazard approach underscores TISP’s push to focus on infrastructure resiliency, not just protection, said James Woods, TISP program chair and executive director of Building Diagnostics Research Institute. While protection measures have been at the heart of past conferences, TISP expanded its outlook this year to the ability to withstand and recover from disasters.
“When you're looking at protection, you’re looking at single hazards and it can get fairly myopic from an engineering perspective,” Woods said. “In all forms of our infrastructure, we need to look at all of the hazards, all of the solutions and the cost-effectiveness of those solutions.”
TISP also released a 25-page report to help guide development of regional disaster resilience plans. TISP hopes it will help preparedness and response efforts stay focused on a local level.