As I sat on the boat on my way to work this week revelling in the fact that I was missing the carnage of the Tube Strike in London I started to think about the elements that make up the fabric of our day to day existence – the things that we can’t manage without.

I know this isn’t true the world over but most of us take it for granted that we have electricity, water and gas supplies available to us in our homes, schools, hospitals and place of work or recreation. We take these services for granted and don’t really imagine having to cope for long, if at all, without them. We classify these as utilities and as we know they used to be nationalised recognising the importance of maintaining and developing the services for the benefit of the population. Although no longer nationalised there is masses of legislation to protect the resilience of these services.

So what else do we consider to be part of the infrastructure of our lives?

Telephony? I can remember when I was growing up our next door neighbours calling round to use our phone because they didn’t have one installed in their house. Compare that to nowadays where pretty much everyone has a mobile phone or device on them from which they can call any other device wherever it happens to be in the world. We take it for granted that we can reach each other wherever and whenever we want to.

What about the internet? Can you survive without it? We expect to be online wherever we are with whatever device we are using and we expect the performance to be good too. I read an article recently about a guy who was fined £500 for ‘stealing’ internet access by using someone’s WiFi service via his laptop outside their house. The case dated back to just 2007 and again it illustrates by how much things have moved on – we expect free Wi Fi provision in stations, bars, shops, trains, cafes and so on plus access via mobile networks for all other situations. Not being able to get online is really frustrating so yes, it’s another piece of our infrastructure.

Now I don’t want to get political on this but let’s go back to the Tube. Is it infrastructure? Should we have a right to expect it to be available? Can we cope without it? On the evidence of the last few days we certainly struggle. The reason for this is it is a mass transit system and shifts literally millions of people around the city every day. When it’s not operating all those people have to find alternatives but of course – despite the best efforts of train, taxi and river services (thank you guys) there simply isn’t sufficient capacity available over the short term to cope so the inevitable carnage ensues. So I guess it is infrastructure.

In our organisations we examine, analyse and protect the critical infrastructure so that we can continue to operate when disruptions occur. It seems to me that alongside the basic utilities I started with at the top of the page there are other elements of our lives now that may need to be afforded the same degree of protection.

We survived the strike, and we will survive the one next week too.

Maybe in my next article I will explain how fog can really mess up your contingency plans……….

May 1, 2014 at 7:20 pm
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