Power supply is the backbone of our modern economy. Nearly every aspect of life depends on electrically-operated devices. When the flow of power stops, it is not just the lights that go out. In the supermarket, the automatic teller machines and cash registers stop working. Even telephones, radios and televisions become paralyzed. If the shortage lasts a long time the supply of hot water, gas and fuel and the functioning of respirators at intensive care units in nursing homes or at private homes is at risk.
The causes of this dreadful scenario can range from natural disasters to terrorist attacks or just technical problems. A few recent examples demonstrate how real the risk is in Germany where the last major event occurred in Hannover in 2011. The 650,000 people there went without power for up to 90 minutes after a blockage in a coal-fired power plant, and the power main connection at a transformer station failed. Even more far-reaching consequences were seen from the biggest power outage in post-war history, when extreme snowfalls in the Mnsterland region in 2005 knocked out a series of high-voltage pylons. Some 250,000 people went without power, in some cases for up to five days. The financial damages exceeded 100 million euros.
Firefighters as process managers
In emergency cases, the utility companies, public officials and emergency services realize that they must contend with a variety of tasks: Who are the most seriously affected? Where is greatest need for action? How long will emergency power supply last? Who travels where, and how long will the fuel last? Theseare just a fraction of the issues that require rapid response. "To minimize the duration of the crash, the officers-in-charge at the fire, police and emergency services departments have to act like process managers," explains Dr. Thomas Rose, head of the Risk Management and Decision Support research department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Te
|Contact: Prof. Dr. Thomas Rose |