Last month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on federal-private efforts to coordinate preparation and response to a potential influenza pandemic. The report evaluated challenges in five areas of critical infrastructure: energy, food, communications, transportation and water. Private sector involvement is important because over 85 percent of America’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by the private sector.
The report identifies several challenges. We found a few particularly interesting that one of these was lack of clarity on the role of state governments. It seems likely that local and state health departments will be deeply involved in identifying and responding to influenza outbreaks just as they are to other outbreaks. In some industries, like water, a private utility’s primary contacts with the government may be state and local agencies.
Another area we took notice of was the need to invest in infrastructure and training. An influenza pandemic differs from many other emergencies in that it will not damage infrastructure. The challenge is operating the infrastructure for a period of weeks with potentially a 40 percent reduction in staff due to the outbreak.
The report has a very good index listing other of previous, related GAO reports. If you are seeking a more in-depth knowledge of critical infrastructure protection and pandemic influenza response, this is a good place to start.