The legacy infrastructure in the United States is aging — and not gracefully — as it’s being placed under greater stress by users trying to extract more from systems such as water, transportation and power grid networks. At the same time, the nation’s infrastructure faces greater hazards – both manmade and naturally occurring.

Critical Infrastructures Resilience Book CoverWith leaders poised nationally to make a major investment in critical infrastructure, now is the key time to build back better and stronger than what was inherited from the work of prior generations.

Dr. Stephen E. Flynn, one of the world’s leading experts on infrastructure resilience and supply chain security, has co-authored a textbook offering comprehensive and practical guidelines to developing and deploying these resilient upgrades.

The text, “Critical Infrastructures Resilience: Policy and Engineering Principles” by Global Resilience Institute (GRI) Director Dr. Flynn, Northeastern University (NU) Sustainability & Data Sciences Laboratory Director Dr. Auroop Ganguly and NU PhD student Udit Bhatia, will be available on March 6, 2018. It examines infrastructures including buildings and bridges, dams, levees, and sea walls, as well as power plants and chemical factories, besides lifeline networks such as multimodal transportation, power grids, communication, and water or wastewater.

“It’s key that engineers be armed with an understanding of public policy along with the technical knowledge of assessing risk and designing resilience into structures and systems,” Dr. Flynn explains. “Public policy students who are interested in ensuring that our communities can better withstand and adapt to a growing range of hazards also need a firm technical grounding in critical infrastructure. For example, current building codes and regulations can interfere with the adoption of new engineering practices. Accordingly, new policies at the local, regional, national and international levels will be key to advancing critical infrastructure resilience. What’s unique about the text is that it came out of a course that the authors co-taught to both public policy students and engineering students. Our goal has been to equip our students with a working understanding of what are in practice two deeply integrated worlds that academia too often has approached in isolation of each other.”

It was this experience of teaching the course to undergraduate and graduate students which suggested that such a book was sorely needed and did not yet exist, Dr. Ganguly notes. 

“Engineers in general have tended to use predictive insights on hazards as forcing on their systems of interest, without attempting to delve deeper into the change drivers,” says Dr. Ganguly. “Earth and atmospheric science disciplines ranging from meteorology, hydrology, seismology, geology and climate have traditionally dealt with hazards, which in turn relate to the bases for engineering design, retrofitting, operations, and maintenance. Physical scientists and engineers have often been guilty of ignoring the human factor, whether as policy makers or stakeholders, or as the providers and consumers of essential services. However, societal priorities such as critical infrastructures resilience — arguably one of the fastest growing areas of engineering — needs to break all such barriers and merge the disciplines, even if in the process a few ivory towers have to be smashed. Whether we are interested in cascading failures across critical infrastructure ‘system of systems’ such as communications-power-transport-water networks, or in climate change impacts on critical infrastructures design and operations, or in bringing to bear the power of Artificial Intelligence including machine learning to inform emergency response, we have to break disciplinary barriers.”

The textbook breaks through these barriers and approaches the challenges posed by globalization, climate change, and growing urbanization through an interdisciplinary perspective, proposing clear solutions that are scientifically credible, data driven, supportive of social and policy imperatives and sound in engineering principles.

In a review of the work, Georgia Institute of Technology Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Rafael L. Bras writes, “Harvey, Irma, Maria – common names for uncommon natural disasters that highlighted how brittle our cities and their infrastructure are. This book guides students and practitioners through the methodologies that can be used to quantify the risk natural and man-made events present to our infrastructure. Those learners will be better prepared to design more resilient cities and communities capable of withstanding increasingly common extreme events.”

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About the authors

Stephen E. Flynn is Professor of Political Science and Founding Director of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University. Dr Flynn served as President of the Center for National Policy and as senior fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is one of the world’s leading experts on critical infrastructure and supply chain security and resilience. He is a member of the Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Council.

Auroop Ratan Ganguly is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Sustainability and Data Sciences Laboratory at Northeastern University. He has nearly 20 years’ total work experience spanning the R&D organizations of Oracle Corporation and a best-of-breed company acquired by Oracle, as a senior scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and within academia in multiple roles. His current research is at the intersection weather or climate extremes and water, infrastructural resilience and homeland security, as well as machine learning, statistics, and nonlinear dynamics. He has led or co-led projects worth about $19 million funded by NSF, NASA, DHS, DOE, DOD, and other agencies.

Udit Bhatia is a PhD student in Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University. His research interests include infrastructure resilience, ecosystem recovery, climate, and hydrology. Previously, he served as Assistant Design Engineer (Structures) in MECON Ltd. (Government of India Enterprise). He was the founder of a successful engineering startup, the educational wing of which developed learning modules delivered to students through remote technologies and face-to-face interactions.