Shared Responsibility

The primary responsibility for providing critical infrastructure services resides with infrastructure owners and operators. Critical infrastructure providers are responsible for the security of their assets and the safety of their staff and are best placed to effectively manage risks to their infrastructure.
“Critical infrastructure assets can be owned by local, state or federal government (e.g. roads, dams, buildings, etc.), privately owned (e.g. airports), community owned (e.g. irrigation systems) or involve public-private partnerships (e.g. electricity distribution, communications, etc.)”. There is no single agency or entity that can do it alone and so the responsibility for the resilience of critical infrastructure must be shared between multiple stakeholders.  Resilience outcomes are best achieved when critical infrastructure providers partner with all levels of government and the community (refer Figure 2).

Figure 2: Partnerships for Building Critical Infrastructure Resilience 

Internal Partnerships – Critical Infrastructure Champions

There are many different professionals within Local Government that have an interest in resilient infrastructure.  Collaboration across departments within Council is critical to the successful implementation of the NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy (e.g. asset management, planning, emergency management etc.).  

Each organisation with a responsibility for critical infrastructure resilience should nominate at least one Critical Infrastructure Resilience Champion.   For Local Government this might be the Mayor or another elected Councillor, General Manager or a Senior Council Officer. The role of the champion is to ensure everyone involved in implementing critical infrastructure resilience is on board, to bring multiple stakeholders together to achieve the strategic objectives and elevate the whole organisation’s understanding of critical infrastructure resilience to a new level.  The Joint Organisation of NSW Council’s Network can be leveraged to facilitate mutual assistance e.g. sharing of knowledge, ideas and information across Council boundaries within each region.

External Partnerships – Sector and Cross Sector Collaboration

The NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy identifies a need for cross-sectoral collaboration to be facilitated geographically at the state, regional and local level using existing emergency management coordination meetings to engage critical infrastructure providers (refer Figure 3).

Figure 3: Sectoral and Cross Sectoral Groups

In accordance with s.28 of the State Emergency and Rescue Act 1989 , a General Manager of the Council is to be the Chairperson for the Local Emergency Management Committee (LEMC). It is recommended that critical infrastructure providers are invited and encouraged to attend these multi-agency meetings to proactively address issues relevant to critical infrastructure resilience at the local level.

This could either be completed as part of the meeting business or a separate Sub Group established under the LEMC structure. A similar structure should be implemented at Regional Emergency Management Committees (REMC).
Strong leadership will be required by the Chairpersons to ensure that infrastructure resilience outcomes are achieved. The involvement of critical infrastructure providers at the LEMC and REMC level is expected to improve hazard identification and risk assessment, assist with prioritising and funding mitigation and risk reduction works, improve joint preparedness and planning efforts, increase resources and understanding of strengths and limitations, and enhance the capability of local emergency management agencies to respond to and recover quickly from local emergencies.

The Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) for Critical Infrastructure Resilience, established by the Australian Government in 2003, is Australia's primary national engagement mechanism for business-government information sharing and resilience building initiatives on critical infrastructure. “The TISN provides a secure environment for critical infrastructure owners and operators across eight sector groups to regularly share information and cooperate within and across sectors to address security and business continuity challenges”. Where appropriate, NSW infrastructure providers are encouraged to join the TISN. Where this is not feasible, smaller state-based groups administered by NSW state government departments may be set up to assist with sector collaboration. Please contact the NSW Office of Emergency Management for advice.

Community Partnerships

One of the key outcomes of the NSW Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy is to improve community resilience to infrastructure service disruptions.  Local Government has a key role to play in this space.  Building critical infrastructure resilience requires an integrated, collaborative and supportive partnership approach with all elements of the community.  The Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy identifies the following roles for NSW Communities:

  • Individuals and communities sharing responsibility to prevent, prepare for, respond and recover from emergencies
  • Have an awareness of the threats and hazards that affect their locality 
  • Be involved in emergency management arrangements, perhaps by volunteering 
  • Build community support networks ahead of emergencies
  • Individual resilience – prepare for prolonged outages without external assistance or essential services
  • Respond to government advice on the use of CI 
  • (e.g. demand reduction in times of stress to electrical networks)
  • Help CI providers by reporting damage to CI
  • Report suspicious behaviour around infrastructure
  • Use CI (e.g. transport) responsibly

Table 2: Roles identified for NSW Communities in the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy
The community is often unaware of the complexities associated with critical infrastructure and take for granted that it is secure and reliable. However, they are acutely aware of the reduction in amenity that service outages cause. Local Government can provide a conduit of information to the community about how to respond when critical infrastructure fails and undertake initiatives during the prevention and preparation phases that seek to develop and enhance community resilience and reduce the impact during the response and recovery phases. See case study.

Resilience is a shared responsibility for individuals, households, businesses and communities, as well as for critical infrastructure providers and governments. Rather than just focusing on the number of customers affected, critical infrastructure providers and local governments are encouraged to view the community as active partners and a valuable resource in enhancing critical infrastructure resilience before, during, and after a disruption or emergency.  Resilient individuals and communities are dynamic and can mitigate against, and bounce back after disruptive events. They understand their local demographic and can prepare for anticipated hazards and threats. Resilient communities can continue to operate under stress, adapt to adverse or changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.  In a large scale emergency, critical infrastructure providers and government are unlikely to be able to provide an effective response without a bottom-up approach that seeks community input and assistance which will be critical to minimising the consequences of the impact and reducing the recovery effort e.g. during heatwaves when the electricity network is near capacity, community load reduction can assist the electricity network to continue to function. For further information, refer to the partnering case studies.

Critical infrastructure providers and Local Governments may legitimately utilise a variety of methods and tools to engage with the community depending on the goals, time frames, resources and levels of concern. The IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation (e.g. inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower)  is designed to assist with the selection of the level of participation that defines the public's role in any community engagement program, and is particularly useful for new infrastructure projects and significant upgrades.

Table 3 below is adapted from the strategy to provide further clarity to local governments on how they could work with critical infrastructure providers to improve community resilience.

How Improved Community Resilience Can be Achieved

Community information and warnings – CIR is enhanced when critical infrastructure providers and government prepare and support communities with clear, consistent and reliable information before, during and after service outages and emergencies that enables individuals and communities to take appropriate action in a timely manner.  

Provide media campaigns to provide key safety messages to individuals and the communities on critical infrastructure issues e.g. TV or radio campaign to prepare residents for storms affecting the electricity network, etc. (Refer to Disaster Hub case study at Appendix B).

​Infrastructure and resilience investment should be based on community needs. This requires critical infrastructure providers to provide an evidence base by actively consulting with and involving individuals and communities in decision making processes. This can be achieved via a variety of means including surveys, meetings, educational presentations, forums, pop-up information stalls and other methods to obtain feedback. 

Critical infrastructure providers and local governments need to work with communities to increase preparedness for loss of service.  As an example, existing programs such as Get Ready NSW focus on being prepared in order to save lives and include: know your risk; plan now for what you will do; get your home ready; be aware; and look out for each other. A key strategy is the promotion of the need to have access to an emergency kit with a supply of bottled water, torch and battery powered radio to mitigate water and power infrastructure failure or service interruption. Training and exercises involving community members as active partners in the response and recovery phase are also recommended. The Get Ready NSW resource provides information relevant for Individuals, Councils, Community Service Organisations and Business.

Critical infrastructure providers and local governments also need to work closely to support vulnerable customers and communities. This may involve advice to vulnerable customers, pre-planning for vulnerable client lists (e.g. list of home dialysis patients), prioritised service restoration and prioritised allocation of emergency resources to vulnerable customers where available.

It is essential to effectively engage with the community to build networks and partnerships to address CIR. An increased focus on messaging by emergency services and CI providers that promotes partnerships with the community would assist this. It is widely acknowledged that the community plays an important role in capturing and sharing information before, during and after an emergency.

The need for community members to report suspicious behaviour and asset maintenance issues around CI is generally well understood and should be actively encouraged. Continued and enhanced messaging in these areas will assist CIR. (Refer to partnering case study at Appendix B)

It is vital for critical infrastructure providers to obtain community input into emergency risk planning and management. This requires ongoing collaboration.

Crowdsourcing geo-tagged emergency Information and Intelligence from technology such as smart phones can assist with rapid damage assessment and enhance community input into critical infrastructure resilience (Refer to partnering case study at Appendix B). Social media can also become a two-way communication channel for already-engaged persons on safety information.
Table 3: Ways to Improve Community Resilience

Community engagement activities can take many forms and strategies will need to be selected based on their appropriateness in terms of the overall aim and scope of the engagement needed to generate community interest and ideas Refer to the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation14

Community engagement works best where it occurs early and is considered as an ongoing cumulative process enabling, relationships and trust to build and strengthen over time.  Programs such as Get Ready NSW provide ongoing opportunities to develop community partnerships and tools to promote community resilience activities.

Further information will be available in a separate user resource on Community Resilience.

Sources of Funding 

Funding Program


​OEM Exercise Program

​The NSW State Emergency Management Committee, via the Office of Emergency Management, has funding available to Local Governments for the planning, delivery and evaluation of exercises. Varying amounts of funding can be obtained for local, regional and state level exercises. Funding eligibility criteria and an application process applies

Recommended Further Reading