A new standard to help mitigate the effects of a disaster

No city can operate without electricity. In homes, electricity is used to power lights, refrigerators, washing machines and water pumps. It is used for trams, signalling systems, medical equipment in hospitals and electronic payments in stores and banks. Broadcasting, Internet and phone services depend upon electricity. It is the backbone operating much of a modern city.

But disruptions to the supply of electricity can occur. Hurricanes, earthquakes, severe droughts, and flooding are some of the natural catastrophes that are appearing more frequently and with greater intensity. These events can have a devastating impact on cities and the services provided to its residents.

Continuity planning is a key factor to minimize cost and damage should critical infrastructure become inoperable. It ensures that potential disasters have been considered and local plans developed for the restoration of services. Because no city service can operate without electricity, getting the electricity supply to function again is the most urgent and important task following a disaster.

The IEC has recently published IEC 63152 to serve as a best practice tool for city planners. Given the increased frequency of natural disasters and the destruction they cause, this standard proposes guidelines to sustain a variety of city services following a disruption. It provides the basic concepts of how multiple city services can cooperate to maintain the supply of electricity.

To learn more about this new standard, e-tech spoke with Tatsuya Shimoji who serves as the Project Leader for the IEC SyC Smart city project team on city service continuity.

Why the need for this standard?

Cities are facing various threats. For example, Japan has experienced such natural disasters as the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 which caused a tsunami and a nuclear accident. More recently, blackouts have occurred due to the Hokkaido earthquake in 2018 and a typhoon in 2019. These kinds of disasters can happen in any region of the world.

In addition, not only natural disasters cause blackouts. They can also be caused by non-natural disasters such as cyber attacks and terrorist attacks, etc. COVID-19 itself may not have caused a blackout, but it demonstrated our reliance on electricity for survival.

As a result, we need to ask ourselves: if such a big disaster happens, how can we, as a city, survive? This is the concept that we are trying to address.

How do you define the concept of city service continuity?

With this standard, we want to provide documented procedures to guide organizations and ensure the continuity of electricity supply to maintain city services. IEC 63152 is based on the idea of business continuity plan which is already defined in ISO 22301.

In order to secure services in a city at a minimum level during grid power loss due to a disaster, each organization which provides services should establish a business continuity plan to secure its electricity supplies appropriately.

In addition, plans for interactions between organizations should be prepared to support the continuity of services according to the requirements of each city. City administrators as well as residents should be able to obtain information about the availability of services, allowing them to make decisions and to take appropriate actions. This is the concept of city service continuity (CSC).

In order to realize this concept, each organization needs to develop an electricity continuity plan (ECP) focusing on electricity supply in its business continuity plan, while installing an electricity continuity system (ECS) for implementing its electricity continuity plan.

Why is planning and preparation important?

Disaster prevention is important. But, unfortunately, we cannot foresee when and where such a disaster will happen, nor can we completely escape the effects and damages caused by a disaster in reality.

So, planning and preparation become very important tools to minimize the damage and keep city services available as much as is possible or to allow for the recovery of services as quickly as possible.

What is the relevance of this standard today?

Cities face many kinds of potential threats which affect the continuity of city services. There exists, therefore, a great need to establish safe and secure societies in which negative impacts on city services are minimized and city services are continuously available to citizens during an emergency. There is no doubt that in modern cities electricity plays a critical role in maintaining city services.

While ISO 22301 defines the requirements for business continuity management systems, it does not provide great detail how to continue providing electricity. I believe that ECP and ECS will be more important when stakeholders create and implement their business continuity plan. IEC 63152 helps them achieve this aim.

Why is it important to take a systems approach?

When considering city service continuity, there are many different types of services and users, and they vary between regions. In order to understand and identify social needs, market analysis or use case analysis are very important. A reference architecture model is also very important to ensure that solutions are universal and applicable. A systems approach can help capture this information.

In case of IEC 63152, we referenced the IEC Whitepaper on Microgrids for disaster preparedness and recovery for market analysis and the IEC SEG 1 Final Report for reference models. Both were useful to accelerate the standardization of IEC 63152.

Are any other standards regarding service continuity planned?

Currently, as a next action item, SyC Smart cities has launched a proposed work item (PWI) with the aim of developing a guideline document for IEC 63152 to provide more practical details. It is now about to move from the preliminary stage to the proposal stage.