During the 1993 flood on the Mississippi River, the Des Moines Water Plant flooded and was out of operation for weeks. “It shut down the city,” said Gerald Galloway, Jr., the Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. “When a major part of the infrastructure that supports a community goes under, the community can go under at the same time.”
In the second panel of the workshop, four representatives of major utilities, Marcia St. Martin, Justin Augustine, Greg Grillo, and Frank Wise (Appendixes B and C), discussed what is necessary to recover from a major disaster. As moderator, Galloway listed three categories of questions for the panelists to consider:
1. Governance and Finance: How is resilience viewed in your organization? Is disaster resilience a core component or objective of operations and planning in your organization?
2. Lessons Learned: What lessons were learned over the past decade about the resilience of your infrastructure in the face of natural or man-made disasters? Based on lessons from the past decade, what postdisaster performance standards and objectives have you established for your infrastructure? How do you propose to fund necessary upgrades?
3. Interdependence: To what extent does the full functioning of your infrastructure depend on the functionality of other kinds of infrastructure for normal operation? For survival during a disaster? For recovery after a disaster? Is there a “Lifelines Council” where these shared issues and vulnerabilities are being honestly discussed?
WATER AND SEWER SERVICES: MARCIA ST. MARTIN
The Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans is responsible for providing drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater services for the city of New Orleans and parts of Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes, said its executive director, Marcia St. Martin. But because much of New Orleans is significantly below sea level, the agency faces distinct challenges and is well versed in the concepts of resilience and recovery.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the agency has been rebuilding its infrastructure to be more resilient. Following the storm, the wastewater treatment plant contained 18 feet of water, and the city cannot exist without viable wastewater treatment. The plant was dewatered within about 10 days of the closure of the federal levee system, and it was doing primary treatment 30 days after that. Since then, controls have been moved to a higher level, and berms now protect critical infrastructure around the plant. The plant is being rebuilt in such a way that employees will not have to be evacuated as they were during Katrina. And the agency is engaged in a wetlands assimilation project involving its wastewater treatment plant, in which ash and solids from the plant are being deposited into adjacent wetlands to enhance the levee. “It is a holistic process,” said St. Martin.
The Sewerage and Water Board could not make these and other advances without partners. For example, protecting the city from an incoming storm surge is the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Sewerage and Water Board is working with the corps to rebuild infrastructures around the levee system. The agency is also responsible for the purification and distribution of drinking water, which requires electrical power. The agency has relied in part on a 1903 25-cycle power plant that is being rebuilt to be more sustainable and reliable.
A key component of infrastructure is not just the hard structures but its employees. A major challenge of Katrina was that 80 percent of the agency’s team had lost their homes. The people who were on duty the day of the storm were suddenly homeless. “How do you provide for their mental stability, their financial stability? [How do you] plan for that in the future?”
The agency was able to bring in professionals from other parts of the water industry, and local jurisdictions provided assistance following Katrina. Employees from New Orleans also were able to continue working for New Orleans from surrounding jurisdictions. “We had some employees up to 6 months working in water utilities throughout North America.”
Another important lesson of Katrina was learning how to respond to the financial impact of losing both a major portion of a customer base and strong bond ratings. The agency sought to keep in touch with its customers around the country who still owned abandoned homes. The agency also had to spend more than $1 billion in restoration and recovery without being able to draw on the
capital market, but disaster recovery through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) generally involves a reimbursement process. Thus, it was not just the physical and human infrastructure but the financial infrastructure that had to be rebuilt.
Future climate change could pose severe challenges to the drinking water system, St. Martin said. If sea level or the volume of water coming down the Mississippi River changes, water quality, the ability to treat water, and the availability of water could all be affected. One way the agency has been preparing for the future is to increase its work with comparable agencies in other countries. Water industry engineers, researchers, and administrators from New Orleans have been working with their counterparts in the Netherlands as part of the rebuilding effort, just as the Dutch have come to New Orleans in the past to learn about living below sea level. “We are talking with the Dutch about how we can live with water, not hiding from water but incorporating water into our daily lives,” said St. Martin.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: JUSTIN AUGUSTINE
The business of public transportation is to move people. Doing so requires both equipment and people, observed Justin Augustine, chief executive officer of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and vice president of Veolia Transportation. Managers thus need to understand both the needs of employees and the deployment of resources to survive a disaster.
The physical infrastructure has two components: rolling stock and hard infrastructure. Most of these assets cannot be moved out of the city. Rolling stock needs to be moved to emergency locations. During Katrina, New Orleans lost 31 streetcars, which cost an average of $1.2 million per car to rebuild. It also lost 80 percent of its bus fleet. “That’s not a capital cost you can replace very easily,” said Augustine. “You have to understand where to locate those vehicles in case of a natural disaster.”
In addition, the streetcar network is powered by an electrical grid. In an emergency, the streetcar system needs additional substations that are singly powered for emergency purposes. Public transportation is part of the emergency evacuation system in New Orleans. When government officials tell populations to evacuate, some people will not react, said Augustine. “We have to go and get these people and bring them to wherever the evacuation stations are.”
Operating the public transportation requires people. But drivers and other employees have wives and children who also need to evacuate, and procedures need to be in place to accommodate that process. People are also needed to rebuild the physical infrastructure. Following the storm, Veolia Transportation was able to muster the capital expenditures to secure property, build temporary housing, and bring people in and make them feel comfortable. Augustine also
praised the contributions of the network of transport professionals in and around New Orleans and across the nation for providing assistance following Katrina. The network was “an absolutely great resource,” he said.
As facilities have been rebuilt, resilience has been enhanced. For example, traditional bus pits extend 5 feet below a slab that, in the case of New Orleans, was already below sea level. New facilities are being built with portable lifts that can be quickly removed. Similarly, electrical panels have been raised above the surge height. Portable generators can be loaded onto truck beds and quickly moved. A mobile command center is located in a truck to ensure that communications and operations can continue during an emergency.
Finally, Katrina demonstrated that the transportation network needs to work with all its partners in the community to maintain effective operations. Today, representatives of public transportation work with local, state, and federal groups, meeting on a quarterly basis and practicing emergency responses.
ELECTRICITY AND GAS: GREG GRILLO
Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company headquartered in New Orleans that employs nearly 15,000 people. It has about 2.7 million electric customers and 180,000 gas customers in the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. It has 15,500 miles of transmission line, 100,000 miles of distribution line, 30 fossil fuel plants, and nine nuclear power plants.
Resilience is a core value of the company, said Greg Grillo, director of transmission project management construction and incident commander for Entergy. For each of the past 12 years, the Edison Electric Institute has presented the company with an award for its recovery efforts in an area where it operates or for helping others to recover.
Recovery is also an essential aspect of business continuity, which was a “huge challenge” with Katrina. Grillo clarified by saying, “We thought we had a good business continuity plan. We had a decent business continuity plan. I can tell you now we have a very good business continuity plan. We’ve learned a lot of lessons from Katrina.”
As with other utilities, the human infrastructure is as important as the physical infrastructure. Many of Entergy’s employees in New Orleans were without homes even as they were out working to restore service. Employees need to be empowered to make decisions and also feel that they are supported by upper management, said Grillo.
The dependability of other infrastructure functions is critical to the energy industry. Reliable poststorm communications are essential. Transportation systems are needed to recover quickly. Particular components of the infrastructure also require special attention. For example, Entergy is considering the use of steel
and concrete poles rather than wooden poles since the transmission infrastructure is so critical after a disaster.
With regard to guiding principles, the first such principle is the need for safety. “Safety will always trump speed,” said Grillo. The second such principle is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Preparation requires weather monitoring and damage predictions to determine resource needs. It also requires planning and drills to prepare for different kinds of disasters in addition to hurricanes, such as ice storms or earthquakes.
Logistics are critical following any disaster, said Grillo, including backup plans if initial plans fail or need to be modified. This requires a clear command structure. It also requires the ability and willingness to make quick decisions and take risks. “There are always those Monday morning quarterbacks who will second guess what you did. We make the best decisions we can with the information we have at that time, and we think we’ve done a good job so far.”
COMMUNICATIONS: FRANK WISE
Business continuity and disaster recovery are also part of Verizon’s “DNA,” said Frank Wise, executive network director for Verizon Wireless in Florida. “We aren’t the cheapest provider out there from the wireless service perspective, so we pride ourselves on being the most reliable.”
Wise agreed that logistics are critical, even before a disaster strikes. Critical elements of infrastructure need to be moved out of harm’s way. Redundant systems and backup facilities need to be designed into infrastructure. Multiple providers of services and equipment ensure diversity if something goes wrong. For example, Verizon tries to have backup generators at its cell sites in case primary power is lost.
Many employees who are critical in a recovery effort can be emotionally wrought in an event as dramatic as Katrina. “Some of them were transfixed, watching the constant stream of media that portrayed this disaster almost to the point where it was hard for them to focus.” Verizon brought in people from outside the area in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to give its employees time to take care of their personal affairs before they returned to work.
Good communications among federal, state, and local authorities are essential during an emergency, Wise said, but during Katrina the chain of command sometimes broke down. Wise added that government entities also need to work well with each other to provide consistent and useful information that others can use to respond to an event and recover.