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Infrastructure Resilience Conference 2018

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A Resilience Engineering Perspective on Essential Notions and Directions to Enhance Resilience in Critical Infrastructures

The term resilience has emerged during the last decades as a key concept for society to deal with many challenges. Based on a commonly increasing awareness of the inherent shortcomings in the prevalent approach to risk and crisis management, the concept of resilience is however used differently in diverse areas. In addition, a gap is still significant between the compelling theoretical or empirical descriptions of resilience and its adoption in critical infrastructure practices. The proposed tutorial will describe the notion of resilience and its applicability to critical infrastructures (CIs) from the perspective of Resilience Engineering, a field stemming from decades of research and practice in human factors and safety especially. Within this field, resilience is defined as the capacity of systems to maintain essential functions in the face of changes, disruptions or opportunities, whether expected or unexpected. This definition results from specificities of human/work systems that differentiate them from other systems of interest within the large resilience-related research body, such as built structures or ecological systems: human systems are purposeful; they can analyse and anticipate situations, adapt and coordinate; and they are reflective. An essential challenge CIs face is that their operational environment is constantly evolving and always presents uncertainty. CIs therefore regularly need to adapt in the face of disruptions or opportunities, always within time constraints. Because of the complexity of work systems, the success of adaptation is nonetheless dependent on the capacity to maintain coordination over interdependent roles and functions, and manage trade-offs such as competing goals. These considerations suggest that essential capabilities that support resilience are associated with making sense of situations experienced, adapting to them, managing coordination and trade-offs, and, finally, understanding and learning from what goes wrong as well as what goes right is such situations. Illustrations from research conducted in high-risk / high-consequence work domains will be used throughout the tutorial to ground concepts and approaches to enhance resilience into real-world situations. Recurring themes and patterns observed across these diverse domains will be described, and lead to propositions for how to enhance resilience in critical infrastructures, especially with regards to time-critical events such as crises. Specific cases from urban firefighting[1] and cyber security in the energy sector[2] will be used to present in detail the central issues and themes associated with resilience. This presentation will lead to the description of three fundamental patterns of adaptive failure: (a) decompensation, resulting to the (in)ability of systems to handle the tempo of disruptions, resulting in a sudden collapse; (b) working at cross-purposes, related to systems’ (in)ability to cope with complexity, especially horizontal and vertical (cross-scale) interactions; and (c) stale adaptive processes, related to the (in)ability of systems to detect that the conditions of operations have changed and require new ways of functioning than those that were successful in the past. These patterns are useful to identify and understand performance in terms of resilience or its absence (i.e. brittleness). This understanding and the observation of systems that handle the patterns successfully suggest directions for improvements through the design of technology or through changes to work organisations and processes. Concrete examples of associated resilient practices will be proposed from the domains of industrial maintenance[3] and crisis management in critical infrastructures[4]. The tutorial will describe a process for rapid anomaly response during power plant maintenance operations, which was designed to quickly involve remote experts in collaboratively making sense of the problem at hand and exploring paths for its resolution. An overview of some resilience management guidelines developed for critical infrastructures will then be given, focusing especially on the assessment of resilience and brittleness, the first step in the identification of directions to enhance resilience in an organisation.

__ [1] Woods, D. D., & Branlat, M. (2011). Basic Patterns in How Adaptive Systems Fail. In E. Hollnagel, J. Pariès, D. D. Woods, & J. Wreathall (Eds.), Resilience Engineering in Practice (pp. 127–144). Farnham, UK: Ashgate. [2] Branlat, M., Morison, A. M., & Woods, D. D. (2011). Challenges in managing uncertainty during cyber events: Lessons from the staged-world study of a large-scale adversarial cyber security exercise. In Proceedings of HSIS 2011: ASNE Human Systems Integration Symposium, October 25-27, 2011. Vienna, VA. [3] Lay, E., Branlat, M., & Woods, Z. (2015). A practitioner’s experiences operationalizing Resilience Engineering. Reliability Engineering & System Safety. [4] Branlat, M., Woltjer, R., Save, L., Cohen, O., & Herrera, I. (2017). Supporting resilience management through useful guidelines. Presented at 7th Resilience Engineering Association Symposium, June 25-28, 2017. Liège, Belgium.

Matthieu Branlat


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