Privately-Owned Critical Infrastructure SEC/471 – Water Treatment Plants
Choose one of the following examples of critical infrastructure:
Water Treatment Plant
Nuclear Energy Plant
Import/Export Shipping Port
Write a 1,400- to 1,750-word protection plan to prevent or mitigate threats against the chosen critical infrastructure.
Include the following in your protection plan:
A risk assessment for the selected critical infrastructure with consideration for potential terrorism and natural disaster threats
The effect on surrounding businesses and commercial interests if a critical incident were to occur
The private sector\’s responsibility in establishing a prevention and mitigation plan
Available support through mutual aid agreements and volunteer groups
A scalable review of likely responders starting with first responders and ending with a full scale national response
Potential response complications and benefits
Privately-Owned Critical Infrastructure SEC/471 – Water Treatment Plants
Privately-owned water treatment plants play an important role in ensuring the sufficient supply of clean and safe water for domestic and industrial use. The plants have key infrastructures and facilities enabling effectiveness in the treatment, management, and supply. The impact on the socio-economic life of such companies in the US is significant and, therefore, they need effective risk management to prevent the occurrence of any activity that would disrupt water supply or cause contamination. Terrorism and natural disasters pose a major threat to privately-owned water treatment companies. The assessment of the critical infrastructure on matters terrorism and the disasters is critical for the development of an effective protection plan for preventing and/or mitigating threats against water treatment plants. This protection plan considers the risks, the possible impact on the society, the responsibility of the companies, the possible complications, and the necessary response.
Privately-owned water treatment plants face a significant threat from terrorism and natural disasters. The threats pose a significant concern of disrupting water operations or contaminating the water supply making it unreliable and unsafe for use. Unsustainable water supply in the US would cause major implications impacting the citizenry and the economy considerably. On the one hand, natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, blizzards, snow storm, and tornadoes among other pose a significant risk to the private water treatment plants (EPA, 2015). These disasters often destruct water systems making the operations and supply of sufficient and clean water by the plants almost impossible. For instance, tornadoes and floods are likely to destroy water systems and disrupt water operations of hit areas. Moreover, blizzards and snow storms cool the water systems causing solidification of the water therefore making supply domestic and industrial supply almost impossible. The common occurrence of these storms in the US makes them a high-risk to the water treatment plants.
On the other hand, terrorism is a major threat to privately-owned water treatment plants. According to Brebbia and Schleyer (2016), terrorism threatens the destruction of the water systems disrupting supply or the diversion of water through cyber-terrorism control of the systems. Bioterrorism, cyber-terrorism, and terrorist activity that destroys water infrastructure are a great concern in the US. The FBI states that water treatment plants are a target for domestic and international terrorism. Each of the water treatment plants serves a significant number of Americans and, therefore, destruction or contamination would pose a significant impact. According to Doro-on (2012), recent threats of bioterrorism and chemical attacks on the treatment plants shows the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Even though the threat of terrorist attack through contamination is seemingly low considering the few incidences in the past, the EPA argues that it is likely for an attack to occur (EPA, 2002). The primary threats such as bioterrorism, destruction, damage or interference with the supply are critical concerns that every plant must consider. It is important to establish an efficient risk management strategy and protection plan for preventing and mitigating the threats.
Natural disasters and destruction from terrorism causes affects operations and supply and contaminates the water. For instance, as the EPA reports, hurricanes and floods destroy water storage, treatment, and supply systems. Washouts and uprooting of trees by the disasters disrupts operations and causes contaminations from sewage spills, dirty water, and other contaminants. The EPA (2015) states that floods cause combined sewer overflows thus contaminating clean water. Most importantly, however, the destruction of the systems such as the pipelines, communication system, and the testing facilities causes an even greater challenge. Hurricane Sandy, for example, affected almost 700 wastewater and clean water providers across the US (EPA, 2015). Other hurricanes such as Matthew and floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and blizzards among others cause equally impactful challenges. The possibility a terror attack and the occurrence of natural disasters call for the implementation of effective risk management and prevention plans. These would enhance response, minimize the effects, and ensure fast recovery.
Impact on Surrounding Businesses and Commercial Interests
Natural disasters on or terrorist activity directed towards private water treatment infrastructure have diverse impact on the surrounding businesses and commercial interests. Natural disasters and acts of terrorism destroy water infrastructure and affect the distribution of the resource. Most businesses depend on water for basic industrial and commercial operations. Lacking sufficient water for operations influences organizational operations significantly. According to Doro-on (2012), water plays a fundamental role in promoting organizational efficiency and profitability. The destruction of water infrastructure limits the supply of the resource making it difficult for the businesses to operate efficiently. This influences the profitability of the businesses that depend on water supplied by the privately-owned water treatment company affected by a disaster or terrorism. Most importantly, the influence on the employees and their performance is even greater. A threat of bioterrorism including biological, chemical or radiological attack may cause panic and fear among surrounding communities. People are more likely to avoid using or buying water supplied by the plant for fear of falling victims of the terrorist attack. Additionally, the distraction of property that comes with natural disasters may influence their performance, lowering productivity.
The Private Sector’s Responsibility and Support
Terrorists target critical infrastructure for its impactful consequences and ripple effects upon an attack. The private sector has a key role to play in the development and implementation of an efficient prevention and mitigation plan. The sector must have a clear risk assessment for the identification of the vulnerabilities that can be manipulated for a terrorist attack. Additionally, a risk assessment for determining the resistance of private facilities to natural disasters is critical. The private water treatment sector must engage with the public sector to develop and implement a prevention and mitigation plan to ensure preparedness on matters natural disasters and terrorism. The first step is to assess and outline the major vulnerabilities and formulate the possible mitigation programs and procedures. The assessment of the threats and areas of weakness is important for the identification of the most effective ways of addressing the vulnerabilities, threats, and risks.
Secondly, the private sector has a responsibility of reducing the risks and enabling preparedness. Prevention and mitigation plans remain ineffective without proper reduction of risks and promotion of emergency preparedness. The sector should design and implement measures that reduce the identified risks and prevents the possibility of terror attacks, vandalism, or theft of water infrastructure equipment. Further, the creation of awareness on natural disasters and preparedness to act in cases of emergency are other important responsibilities of the private sector. The communities must be aware of how to act upon the announcement of an attack or the occurrence of a natural disaster. Moreover, the sector must have programs that work towards strengthening the private-owned water treatment plants’ capabilities and capacities to manage emergencies. In cases of a bio-attack, chemical, radiological attacks or vandalism, theft or destruction by natural disasters, the water companies must have the capacity and competence to address the emergencies efficiently.
The private sector receives support in the establishment of prevention and mitigation plan and in addressing emergencies after an attack or a natural disaster. The involvement of different agencies through mutual agreements facilitates the processes of training, creating awareness, and responding to emergencies. The private water treatment sector in the US must engage the communities in which they operate, create awareness, and train volunteers for emergency response. Mutual aid agreements are important arrangements for the provision of support in the processes of prevention and mitigation and help pre, during, and post-disaster or attack. The sector can forge such agreements through relationships with state and local agencies, communities, and groups. Support from emergency management agencies, private and public institutions such as public works and wastewater companies, and sewage haulers, and NGOs goes a long way in enabling effective emergency response and recovery from disasters. Further, forging relationships with communities, local, state, and federal agencies, and other organizations allows sharing of information on possible attacks thus assisting in their prevention. Such relationships ensure that the parties involved benefit from the Critical Information Act, which allows the disclosure of information about threats targeting critical infrastructure (Doro-on, 2012).
Response, Benefits, and Potential Complications
Emergencies require fast and efficient response. The first responders following a terror attack or disaster on a water treatment plant depends on the emergency. For instance, in case of a natural disaster, the management of the plant must notify the local, state, and federal agencies to receive response assistance. The local emergency response team is often the first responders. The team implements the emergency prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery plan to ensure as minimal impact as possible. They work concurrently with the company’s emergency response team. Other responders include the state emergency response teams and the federal emergency team depending on the impact of the disaster and the ability or inability of the first responders to respond efficiently (Department of Health, 2016). On the other hand, terrorist activities mainly involving explosives, biochemical weapons, and cyber-attacks among other specialized terror attacks require expert knowledge and skills. Therefore, the expert department in the company in conjunction with the federal and state agencies specializing in handling the specific scenario(s) respond to the issue. In all the cases, the safety and security of the people come first. If the water is contaminated then users are notified accordingly.
Effective response protects the workers, surrounding communities, and users of the water from harm. The security and safety of the people come first and, therefore, the responders prioritize this issue. Advising people on the appropriate measures minimizes casualties and the impact of the attack or disaster on the health and wellbeing. Additionally, effective response reduces loss, enables fast repair and recovery, and ensures the normal functioning of the affected company and society (Department of Health, 2016).
Despite the effectiveness of the
response teams, there are potential response complications. Destruction from
natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or other terrorist activities may cut power
and communication. This may inhibit communication affecting the response and
recovery significantly. Poor communication, as a result, may result in deaths caused
by the disaster or the attack. Secondly, complications may arise from the
involvement of multiple agencies and groups. This may affect the chain of
command leading to ineffectiveness in the process from delayed decision-making
and poor communication (Doro-on, 2012). The result would be
prolonged impact with effects lying majorly on the users, communities, and businesses.
The consideration of these potential complications is important for effective emergency
response and recovery.
Brebbia, C. A., & Schleyer, G. K. (2016). Infrastructure Risk Assessment & Management: Structures under shock and impact XIV. Southampton: WIT Press.
Department of Health. (2016, January). Emergency Response Planning Guide for Public Drinking Water Systems. Retrieved from Washington State Department of Health: http://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/331-211.pdf
Doro-on, A. (2012). Risk Assessment for Water Infrastructure Safety and Security. New York: CRC Press.
EPA. (2002). Large Water System Emergency Response Plan Outline: Guidance to Assist Community Water Systems in Complying with the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 . Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-04/documents/2004_04_27_watersecurity_pubs_small_medium_erp_guidance040704.pdf
EPA. (2015, January). Hurricane Impacts on Water and Wastewater Utilities. Retrieved from United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-06/documents/hurricane.pdf
FBI. (2017). The FBI and America’s Water Resource Infrastructure. Retrieved from The Federal Bureau of Investigation: https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/terrorism-are-americas-water-resources-and-environment-at-risk