Infrastructure resilience for high-impact low-chance risks

David Blockley*, Jitendra Agarwal, Patrick Godfrey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Infrastructure resilience is the ability of an infrastructure system to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions, which in turn requires a detailed understanding of vulnerability and risk. But while designing for foreseeable risks is a challenge, accounting for risks that are difficult or even impossible to foresee - such as those arising from complex interdependent processes - poses a far greater challenge. This paper argues that civil engineers need a way of addressing such low-chance but potentially high-impact risks if they are to deliver truly resilient infrastructure systems. They need to cultivate a wisdom to admit what they genuinely do not know, and to develop processes to manage emerging unforeseeable consequences. A generalised vulnerability theory that can be applied to any infrastructure system is described, together with an example of how it can be applied to an urban transport network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the ICE - Civil Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • failures
  • infrastructure planning
  • risk & probability analysis


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