Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

and so forth), decision informatics is clearly multidisciplinary in nature and, depending on the problem being considered, could include experts from science (information, cognition, sociology, and so forth), engineering (telecommunications, biomedical, chemical, and so forth) and other disciplines (religion, terrorism, culture). It provides a systematic and consistent way to address real-time emergency issues, including those concerned with the preparation for a major disruption, the prediction of such a disruption, the prevention or mitigation of the disruption, the detection of the disruption, the response to the disruption, and the recovery steps that are necessary to adequately, if not fully, recuperate from the disruption. More importantly, one must approach an urban emergency management problem in a systemic or holistic manner, especially given the interdependencies of the underlying infrastructure systems.

Although the focus of this paper is primarily on terrorist disruptions, it is obvious that the decision informatics approach is likewise applicable to the preparation, prediction, prevention, detection, response, and recovery steps associated with the emergency management of any major urban disruption. The remaining sections of this paper deal with the types of disruption, the stages of or life cycle in a disruption, the decision informatics paradigm, and the combination of types, stages, and decisions in the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its academically based Homeland Security Centers of Excellence, followed by some concluding remarks.


Modern society relies on the reliable operation of a set of human-built systems—each being a combination of people, processes, goods, services, physical structures, and institutions—to sustain people themselves, infrastructures, and commerce. In the United States, the constructed systems—most of which are privately owned and operated—are so essential that they have been called the nation’s lifelines. They are included in the broader set of critical infrastructures defined by the President’s Council on Critical Infrastructure Protection (PCCIP) (U.S. President, 2001) to be those physical and cyber-based systems essential to the minimum operations of both the economy and the government.

Historically, the nation’s critical infrastructures have been physically and logically separate systems that had little interdependence. However, as a result of advances in information technology and the necessity for improved efficiency and effectiveness, these infrastructures have become increasingly automated and interlinked. In fact, because the information technology revolution has changed the way business is transacted, government is operated, and national defense is conducted, the U.S. President (2001) singled it out as the most critical infrastructure to protect following September 11, 2001. Thus, while the United States is considered a superpower because of its military strength and economic prowess, nontraditional attacks on its interdependent and cyber-supported infrastructures could significantly harm both the nation’s military power and economy. Clearly,

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement