Many European countries have been crossed from a snow storm during the last days. I read that about 450 people are dead and that East has been the most wounded area (particularly Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Also large part of Italy was covered from heavy snow and got very low temperature. Storm and frozen hit even a usually mild temperature town such as (the beautiful) Rome.
I'm not writing to take either the side of those who say that this is a further demonstration that the weather is becoming more and more unstable (because of pollution, nuclear tests, etc etc), or the side of those who say that this is just winter time. I'm interested about some lessons learned (in my opinion) that can help to building or improving a governance model for "Critical Infrastructures Crisis Management".
In fact the storming event in Italy made a deep impact on transports, electricity and gas supply chain that are with no doubt critical infrastructure since their survivability is essential for business and social life.
For a few days railway transportation has been under chaos in many Regions and car traffic has been very difficult for long time in some areas. Few villages are not reachable even today. Thousands of people have been without electricity for hours and hours, also including a large hospital in a main town in the North and few others deficiencies in the infrastructure of other medical buildings.
The gas supply chain was also stressed from this natural event. You must know that Italy import about 90% of his consuming energy from abroad. As you can imagine, last days we've asked our suppliers to provide us more resources because of the low temperature. Unfortunately our requests could not be satisfied since our suppliers (mainly from Russian) were experiencing bad weather conditions and we've seen our stocked resources going dangerously down and for this reason it was decided to reduce energy to 400 enteprises (that indeed had months ago agreed to subscribe a more convenient contract that includes the reduction of energy in case of emergency)
I think I made clear that during the last days Italy managed a crisis over some national Critical Infrastructure (and besides it is expected another snow storm coming on Friday night!)
Was it well managed ?
I think it was managed at the best from the people that were engaged with all the different situation I told before, but that indeed we would have done much better with a single point of coordination.
Not less important of course would have been to attribute a leading role to coordinate all the prevention activities in the area of Critical Infrastructure, since it came out that resources in place (over different fields) were not available (e.g. it was not possible to delivery snow chains for public bus in Rome and for this reason they couldn’t travel for 1 day)
At least for the first aspect, that is crisis management, we were in a better position in the past than now. Just as an example, about 2 years ago Italy experienced a terrible earthquake in a region called Abruzzo and we were able to nominate one person in charge with crisis management after only a few hours the catastrophe happened (even if it was night time). That man was the Chief of a governmental body called Protezione Civile (trad. Civil Protection).
Unfortunately recently something changed in the national legislation that doesn't allow it to happen anymore so easily. In fact now every region need to activate a formalized process to get the support of the central body....and that may takes days/weeks not hours. Eight days was the time needed to complete this process for the Concordia crisis (do you remember the cruise ship that sank in front of L'Isola del Giglio a couple of weeks ago?). Even more important now the cost (other than coordination) of this kind of activities has been delocalized into the region while before the central body of Protezione Civile kept the budget, so they don’t take easily a decision to declare a national emergency situation (they didn’t actually for the consequences of this natural event even in the more devastated regions)
That is not really a good thing since in the future we're probably going more often to manage crisis that have interactions over different critical infrastructure. That depends from the obvious fact that our social and business life is going to depend more and more from global networks that are interdependent one with the other. Besides factors that may cause a deep impact over a critical infrastructure are increasing significantly with the evolution of the threat landscape related with the cyberspace. Cyber attacks (because of sabotage, war, etc) might determine a severe outage of any critical infrastructure since Information Technology and IP network have deepened into energy and power distribution, transport, and of course telecommunication
I hope this considerations are agreed from the people that are defining the national approach for the protection of the critical infrastructure.