A good chunk of Texas is experiencing an extreme infrastructure failure this week. Electricity, natural gas, and water have all failed across a large section of the state. Given we’ve known for some time that infrastructure across the nation is reaching critical points of failure, care should be taken to not trade one problem for an even bigger problem. This is especially true when relocating.
For example, companies that plan to leave California for Texas because of fires and rolling blackouts, have now found themselves in a potentially worse situation. Geographies often offer tax incentives, favorable utility costs, and other benefits for companies that choose to move to their state. Still, if the infrastructure fails, you can be in a world of hurt. For instance, even hospitals with backup power are having issues in Texas because many of those generators are natural gas-fired and natural gas is out.
With the impact of climate change increasing, doing an infrastructure audit of where you are and where you plan to move may be critical to your planning. This should include ensuring that backup water is available and there is access to generators that can better control the fuel source.
U.S. Infrastructure is in Bad Shape
Both California and Texas’s problems showcase a lack of investment in infrastructure. For California this has resulted in rolling blackouts — a consequence of electrical infrastructure failures that have also caused some of the state’s devastating fires.
By most measures, Texas’s grid problems keep energy prices artificially low even on their renewable energy wind farms. However, they failed to plan for the kind of broad temperature fluctuations that climate change is causing.
U.S. infrastructure maintenance has been underfunded for decades, resulting in failures across the nation. The pandemic has set back even these underfunded programs, leaving much of the nation one weather event away from a disaster. Texas may be getting hit now mainly because their lack of funding is particularly egregious. Still, they are far from alone. Given this outage, many companies will likely consider relocating, but they, too, may find they are jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
An Infrastructure Audit
It is excellent that states want to provide steep incentives to get businesses to relocate there. However, those incentives do little good if you can’t get power, gas, or water. And, states that underfund infrastructure are also likely underfunded waste management, transportation, services (police, fire, and EMTs), exacerbating any significant outage.
With another storm coming and an inability to check on homes that now have no water, power, gas, or phone service, the death toll in Texas is likely to rise. In addition to the cold, Texas faces more road accidents, incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning, and a potential spike in crime as people become more desperate.
This event suggests firms need to investigate the infrastructure of their relocation state in comparison to their current location. Not only will such an audit showcase areas where you’ll need to provide redundancy and protection for your company’s site, but it showcases what you need to do to keep your employees safe.
You should also consider getting an application like Blackberry’s AtHoc, which provides real-time information on employees as long as the telephone networks remain up. Employees in distress can be guided to shelters and services that keep them and their families safe during a catastrophic outage.
You should also consider company locations where the infrastructure is in good shape regardless of incentives. If you are shut down those incentives don’t help much.
Also read: How to Create an Incident Response Plan
Cover All of Your Bases
We will see infrastructure failures at an increasing rate until fixing that infrastructure becomes a priority. In the meantime, firms need to do infrastructure audits and use them as a basis to update their disaster preparedness plans both for the company site and its employees. With so many people working remotely, those plans should include employee tracking and security tools to ensure that your firm can continue operating and better protect your local and remote employees.
In short, what we see happening in Texas could happen anywhere and, if you have a plan to deal with it, your company’s odds of surviving that event improve significantly. If you wait until a collapse you may not have a job, a company, or your life when the event is over.
With climate change, extreme weather events are happening at an increasing cadence. While you can blame cities and states for not being prepared, if you don’t have a plan in place as well, the blame is likely to also end up on your desk.
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