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Modern societies are widely considered to harbour an increased propensity for breakdowns of their critical infrastructure (CI) systems. While such breakdowns have proven rather rare, Hurricane Katrina has demonstrated the catastrophic consequences of such breakdowns. This article explores how public authorities can effectively prepare to cope with these rare events. Drawing from the literature on crisis and disaster management, we examine the strengths and weaknesses of traditional approaches to crisis preparation and crisis response. We argue that the established ways of organising for critical decision-making will not suffice in the case of a catastrophic breakdown. In the immediate aftermath of such a breakdown, an effective response will depend on the adaptive behaviour of citizens, front-line workers and middle managers. In this article, we formulate a set of strategies that enhance societal resilience and identify the strong barriers to their implementation.