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Publication date: 14 September 2015

Rodolfo Jr. Espada, Armando Apan and Kevin McDougall

The purpose of this paper is to present a novel approach that examines the vulnerability and interdependency of critical infrastructures using the network theory in…



The purpose of this paper is to present a novel approach that examines the vulnerability and interdependency of critical infrastructures using the network theory in geographic information system (GIS) setting in combination with literature and government reports. Specifically, the objectives of this study were to generate the network models of critical infrastructure systems (CISs), particularly electricity, roads and sewerage networks; to characterize the CISs’ interdependencies; and to outline the climate adaptation (CA) and flood mitigation measures of CIS.


An integrated approach was undertaken in assessing the vulnerability and interdependency of critical infrastructures. A single system model and system-of-systems model were operationalized to examine the vulnerability and interdependency of the identified critical infrastructures in GIS environment. Existing CA and flood mitigation measures from government reports were integrated in the above-mentioned findings to better understand and gain focus in the implementation of natural disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies, particularly during the 2010/2011 floods in Queensland, Australia.


Using the results from the above-mentioned approach, the spatially explicit framework was developed with four key operational dimensions: conceiving the climate risk environment; understanding the critical infrastructures’ common cause and cascade failures; modeling individual infrastructure system and system-of-systems level within GIS setting; and integrating the above-mentioned results with the government reports to increase CA and resilience measures of flood-affected critical infrastructures.

Research limitations/implications

While natural DRR measures include preparation, response and recovery, this study focused on flood mitigation. Temporal analysis and application to other natural disasters were also not considered in the analysis.

Practical implications

By providing this information, government-owned corporations, CISs managers and other concerned stakeholders will allow to identify infrastructure assets that are highly critical, identify vulnerable infrastructures within areas of very high flood risk, examine the interdependency of critical infrastructures and the effects of cascaded failures, identify ways of reducing flood risk and extreme climate events and prioritize DRR measures and CA strategies.


The individualist or “pigeon-hole” approach has been the common method of analyzing infrastructures’ exposure to flood hazards and tends to separately examine the risk for different types of infrastructure (e.g. electricity, water, sewerage, roads and rails and stormwater). This study introduced an integrated approach of analyzing infrastructure risk to damage and cascade failure due to flooding. Aside from introducing the integrated approach, this study operationalized GIS-based vulnerability assessment and interdependency of critical infrastructures which had been unsubstantially considered in the past analytical frameworks. The authors considered this study of high significance, considering that floodplain planning schemes often lack the consideration of critical infrastructure interdependency.


International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, vol. 6 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1759-5908


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