Five Steps To Evaluating Sites For Critical Facilities

By Timothy W. Lisle  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Detailed Site Analysis Can Help Select Disaster-Resilient Location For Critical FacilitiesPt. 2: Critical Facilities Sites Must Meet Minimum Criteria For Disaster Resilience Pt. 3: Government Standards Can Help Set Criteria For Critical Facilities Site LocationPt. 4: This PagePt. 5: Hurricane Sandy Showed Importance Of Critical Facilities Site Selection

First steps in critical facility planning must include careful site evaluation. Thorough — yet common sense — tests address basic criteria for site security and survival integrity during emergency events when normal support systems fail. Issues to be addressed include:

1. Impacts of significant natural events: The site should lie outside defined 100-year (and possibly 500-year) flood plains; not be subject to storm surges or localized flooding and water intrusion; and not be located in an area subject to catastrophic events such as earthquakes, tornadoes, coastal high winds, or excessive lightning strikes.

2. Site context and security measures: Sufficient land area should be available so that security zoning, stand-off measures, facility hardening, and other mitigation measures can be implemented to resist exposures from off-site hazards.

3. Site access security: Multiple points of site road access provide redundancy during emergency events. Considerations for maintaining operations include roadway traffic levels, adequate road width, vehicular capacity, weight-bearing capacity, and on-site maneuverability for large-scale equipment.

4. Lifeline infrastructure: An analysis of the robustness of utility infrastructure serving the critical facility site should address such issues as hardened service feeds, diversity of utility connections available from local service provider grids, or on-site supplemental resources.

5. Integration with other critical assets: Most important, the relationship of a particular site should be assessed in relation to other regional critical resources to address whether a back-up facility can be activated in the event the primary site is compromised. It is also important to evaluate whether geographic diversity exists between primary and secondary facilities.

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.

Timothy W. Lisle, AIA, is a partner with Jacobs Wyper Architects and serves as the public safety design lead at the firm. He can be reached at

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  posted on 5/17/2013   Article Use Policy

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