Important Issues in Selecting Critical Facilities Sites

  July 9, 2015

In selecting a new site for critical facilities — which include data centers, network operations centers, communications centers, command and control centers, emergency response sites, and public safety and law enforcement facilities — those locations not meeting minimum criteria thresholds for disaster resilience in critical facilities 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.

Here are some important site selection issues that should be addressed for critical facilities.

Asset Characterization. The role and relative value of the proposed facility within overall operations — corporate, governmental, or utility — defines the asset profile and need for measures that increase operational resiliency.

The relationship of a proposed site to other sites in the organization providing similar critical functions is important in reviewing system redundancy. If the site is to be used as a stand-alone facility, the consequences of infrastructure loss and downtime heighten the imperative for operational resiliency. If the new facility is to be incorporated within a broader network of critical facility resources, the level of facility robustness should be assessed in concert with the full array of system resources devoted to maintaining critical operations. Where possible, multiple sites should be considered when locating a critical facility.

Infrastructure Considerations. Key to selection of a suitable site is the availability, diversity, resiliency, and redundancy of supporting infrastructure. Some items to be investigated include: availability of electric power feeds from two independent power blocks; redundant radio, telecommunications, and data services; on-site emergency power generation (preferably driven from dual fuel sources); sanitary sewerage service independent of local pumping stations or backed up with reliable emergency power; and, multiple road access points to the site.

Risk Assessment Factors. Natural events, weather phenomena, and man-made security threats strongly influence site selection and design criteria, and — individually or in combination — are unique to each site. Weather data and available records of weather events and natural disasters can provide useful information for identifying potential related hazards and localized site vulnerabilities. Overhead electric transmission lines, telephone or data communications utilities, underground gas transmission pipelines, railway lines, or highways, to name a few, may impose certain threat profiles due to their proximity to the critical facility.

Hazardous production facilities and other similar point sources in close proximity to a potential site should be identified as to nature of operation and volume of production. While the magnitude of the threat must be assessed, such industrial sites are not automatically rejected but may be addressed through detailed planning and systems mitigations to safeguard operations if such sites otherwise meet selection criteria. A minimum of 2,000 feet stand-off distance from such hazards is a standard recommendation.

Local and regional planning and zoning documents may identify patterns of growth that indicate both future neighbors and potential uses that could pose hazards as well as expected growth within the general area. Similarly, by contacting regional utility services with regard to planned upgrades to infrastructure, the planning team can obtain greater detail regarding both the level of service to a particular site as well as potential threats or hazards resulting from such upgrades.

Today's tip comes from Timothy W. Lisle.

Read More


Read next on FacilitiesNet