4 Steps to Ensure Port Resiliency After a Critical Incident

Across the nation, seaports support more than 30 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $5 trillion. In my home state of Florida, our ports support nearly one million jobs and have an annual impact of more than $117 billion.

We must protect the enormous economic impact of the ports system in Florida and across the country. In Florida, we recently studied resiliency from critical incidents, including threats such as sea level rise, immediate impacts from hurricanes and other natural disasters, and even cyberattacks and security threats. This helps us understand the steps we have to take to protect our ports and the businesses located there, along with the supply chain.

Florida established innovative practices that increase resiliency:

  • Our ports have entered into a memorandum of understanding to assist other impacted ports after a disaster. This could include personnel, equipment, and other resources necessary to recover quickly.
  • Our 15 seaports have also invested in a single information reporting platform, known as CommandBridge, to connect and share real-time information with other ports and key state and federal agencies during and after a critical incident.

But we can do more to continue to protect our ports—the property, the businesses, and the employees—from potential threats. These actions include:

1. Collaborate with local communities. Florida ports have worked with state and local governments and utility providers to harden electrical infrastructure, build power redundancy, and receive priority power restoration.

Additionally, our ports have provided support after large disasters, including Hurricane Michael in 2018, when Port Panama City donated acres of land for first responders to help the community’s recovery process begin.

2. Get prepared for any disaster. Conducting regular simulations or scenarios of critical incidents provides a best practice in increasing resiliency and response to natural disasters or other events. Although natural disasters happen more frequently in some coastal areas, preparing for unusual events is also critical to a faster recovery. This includes ensuring that satellite phones or two-way radios are available, and that individuals are trained in how to properly use them.

3. Update procedures. Many organizations have not updated their emergency plans for years. Sea level rise, storm surge, and flood zones require updated plans to ensure fuel and generators are stored above water levels in a natural disaster such as a hurricane. Also, move truck, rail, and cargo to safe locations and above flood-prone areas.

4. Go high tech. Technology provides support to all systems across seaports. Being able to access this technology will be critical to opening port operations and local businesses as soon as possible.

Backing up all technology and communications systems in the cloud and off-site will allow access to critical documentation, from employee contact information to security measures and logistical strategies.

Seaports are a critical hub of employment, logistics, transportation and business. Ports across the country must be prepared to provide resiliency support to tenants and other partners to coordinate response and long-term recovery of the port and the local economy.

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