Mapping data from Ordnance Survey is relied on across the country - from in car satellite navigation systems and mobile phone apps to planning applications and fraud analysis. However, one area which affects us all is how the emergency services and our energy and infrastructure providers rely on accurate geographic information (GI) to protect the country.
A new guide to improving the resilience of critical infrastructure and essential services, published by the Cabinet Office in October 2011, highlights the important role which accurate mapping data plays in improving the resilience of the UK’s critical infrastructure to disruption from natural hazards. The report follows the recent Cabinet Office consultation - Keeping the Country Running: Natural Hazards and Infrastructure.
The guide shares best practice and advice to enable and encourage infrastructure owners, regulators, emergency responders and government to work together to continuously improve the resilience of the UK. The guide encourages the ‘responder’ community to adopt the use of digital mapping and GIS mapping systems as an effective tool in contingency planning. For example, responders are being encouraged to map dependencies to enable more joined up planning and to improve the sharing of critical information. These dependencies include key buildings, water supplies and electricity and gas transmission networks.
Over the last 18 months Ordnance Survey has supported a number of civil contingency planning exercises showing how vital GI can be in emergency situations. These include Exercise Watermark, which was the largest ever flood defence exercise held in the UK. The contingency planning involved over 10 000 people, ten government departments as well as emergency services, utility companies and local authorities. It was led by the Environment Agency and Defra and occurred over four days in March 2011. The exercise tested a number of aspects of preparedness to respond to a severe flood and in particular looked at how emergency responders worked together across regional boundaries.
Ordnance Survey fully supported Defra, and other agencies involved in the exercise, looking at the use of GI as a common situational awareness platform. The following is an extract from a Defra report into the findings of Exercise Watermark.
Exercise Watermark - Final report (September 2011) page 20:
‘During Exercise Watermark, Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping and imagery services were demonstrated at COBR and a number of different GIS layers were displayed. Participants thought this was very helpful in understanding the impacts of the scenario and suggested that OS services would be useful for different types of incident planning and response.’
Marc Hobell, Head of Public Sector, Energy & Infrastructure, commented: ‘Geographic information can provide a common platform on which to make strategic decisions – from a regional or national level down to the impact on individual properties. It can feed into all stages of the process – prevention, protection, response and recovery, and can improve the quality and timeliness of decision-making, providing a single view of complex information, helping to reduce duplication and cut costs.
’It is pleasing that the recent Cabinet Office report recognises the important role that accurate GI can play in protecting people, the economy and infrastructure in the UK.
‘Building on the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) and the new pricing and licensing terms enabling data sharing between Public sector bodies and Infrastructure companies, the challenge now is for the responder community to act over time on the recommendations and work together using geographic information as a common platform.’.
View the final version of the ‘Guide to improving the resilience of critical infrastructure and essential services’.