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July 2, 2013 -
Critical facilities — including data centers, network operations centers, communications centers, command and control centers, emergency response sites, and public safety and law enforcement facilities — need to be sufficiently robust to remain in operation and survive under stress, whether caused by natural or human agents. Carefully developed parameters should be determined at project initiation to identify optimal site characteristics or vulnerabilities that cannot be fully mitigated.
More importantly, sites not meeting minimum criteria thresholds for disaster resilience in critical facilities use should be identified and eliminated from consideration as early as possible. After-the-fact measures to address deficiencies are most often extremely costly and still subject to failure under duress. A planning professional can guide the site evaluation team, including facilities planning and risk management personnel, in determining specific evaluation criteria based on operational mission and optimal site characteristics while identifying vulnerabilities for specific sites.
Public safety officials often speak of "incidents on top of incidents" as events that create unpredictable challenges to continuity of operations. If the facility is properly sited, and external risks are fully considered and, if necessary, mitigated, the facility will be in a better position to respond to such challenges.
A site risk assessment should not be considered a static event, but an ongoing process of continual assessment and reassessment of systems and measures in place to reflect the changing nature of asset characterization, operational mission, and threat and risk environment. From initiation of the planning process, project teams often embrace the concept of "last building standing;" that is, the concept that a critical facility must be rigorously planned, designed and maintained to resist external and internal threats, survive with complete functionality, and remain fully operational. Chances of success are greatly enhanced with selection of a secure site based both on thoroughly developed operational and security criteria and on a location where the facility can survive threats and effectively fulfill its mission.