helps assess threats to critical infrastructures
of School of Engineering and Applied Science
if an earthquake destroyed Wall Street? What if a disgruntled
former employee poisoned the public drinking water supply in Los
Angeles? What if a coordinated terrorist attack simultaneously
shut down the power grid in the five largest cities in the United
Haimes worries about such "what ifs." Haimes, the Quarles
Professor of Systems Engineering and Civil Engineering, is the
founding director of the Center for Risk Management of Engineering
Systems at U.Va. Through his research and the work of the center,
Haimes, with the help of students and colleagues, is developing
a system that will enable federal, state and local government
agencies to identify and assess a broad array of potential threats
to critical infrastructures. The center's work will allow government
planners to weigh the current and future costs, and the risks
and benefits of various courses of action as they draft and update
disaster response plans.
these lines, the U.S. Department of Defense has commissioned Haimes
and his team to conduct a nationwide study of the best practices
used by the private sector in protecting critical infrastructures.
Their draft report was submitted in December.
its infrastructure modeling, the Center for Risk Management of
Engineering Systems is creating a simple, logical road map to
guide analysts through the complicated process of risk assessment,"
Haimes said. The nation's critical infrastructures include a number
of different sectors, such as telecommunications, transportation,
electric power, gas and oil, water treatment plants, water distribution
networks, financial services, health services, and military command,
control and communications systems.
nation's electric power system is a good example. A strongly interconnected
grid of power plants, transmission networks and large-scale distribution
systems, the power system transforms fuel into energy and sends
it over lines to be distributed to residential, commercial and
of these infrastructures are interdependent and an analysis of
the risks facing each one involves many variables. The potential
threats are diverse and include natural disasters, such as floods
and earthquakes; software hacking by disgruntled employees or
foreign agents; and chemical, biological or nuclear attacks by
threats to our national critical infrastructures are real, but
they are not of equal likelihood, or of equal impact," Haimes
said. "Risks that are unlikely to occur, but would have dire consequences
if they did, still must be considered both by public and private
sector planners. Government agencies and the professional community
need to move the issue higher on their agendas."
rise in terrorism against American targets over the past decade,
both overseas and at home, spurred then-President Clinton in July
1996 to establish the Presidential Commission on Critical Infrastructure
Protection, which called for the development of a coordinated
national response to threats against critical infrastructures,
based on an analysis of their vulnerability.
months later, a U.Va. team headed by Haimes presented to the commission
a comparative analysis of the Charlottesville and New York City
water supply systems -- as a benchmark for the U.S. water system
-- which demonstrated that without the institution of basic organizational
and technology-based safeguards, the nation's water supply can
be extremely vulnerable to natural hazards as well as terrorist
the relationships among natural, willful and accidental hazards
is an important step in improving the protection of critical infrastructures,"
Haimes said. "We do that by looking at the data that's been gathered
over the years on the effects of natural hazards, such as floods
and hurricanes. Looking ahead, we need to keep in mind the dynamic
nature of these systems and remember that current decisions have
an impact on future options and on their consequences."
For the past two years, a team of three Engineering
School faculty members has surveyed large U.S. corporations
that have put into place systems to protect essential operations.
Haimes was joined by research assistant professor Jim Lambert,
associate director of the risk management center; and Stan Kaplan,
visiting professor of systems engineering, as well as several
students. The U.Va. team expects to continue its work for the
Defense Department, Haimes said. It also is collaborating with
a consulting company, Science Applications International Corp.,
to develop risk-based tools and methodologies to protect critical
infrastructures in the civilian and defense sectors for the federal
Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
Haimes also is a member of a working group on infrastructure interdependencies
formed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The group is involved in assessing risks to the nation's critical
interdependent infrastructures, in research and development, and
in educational outreach to officials in industry and in state
and federal government.