From severe droughts to hurricanes and flooding, disasters appear more frequently and with a greater intensity than in the past. IEC Standards provide the tools to enable countries to recover from disasters.
Recognizing the human and economic toll of these disasters caused by climate change, the United Nations has included climate action as one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Specifically, the UN calls for strengthening the resilience of infrastructure in the face of disasters. This is an area where the IEC already makes a significant contribution.
The IEC takes a multi-pronged approach to climate action and how countries can recover following a disaster. It calls for the appropriate measures to be put in place that can increase infrastructure resilience against disasters, but also the tools for planning and recovery should a disaster strike. This is made possible by adopting IEC Standards and undertaking testing and certification.
Ready, set, resilience
Resiliency refers to the characteristics of an electrical system to recover its operations. It is the ability to avoid or minimize disruptions to the grid after an incident including a disaster situation.
IEC work helps strengthen disaster resilience of infrastructure through built-in safety mechanisms, processes and minimum requirements. IEC Standards include external environmental conditions in their design requirements. For example, the IEC 61400 series of standards developed by IEC TC 88, addresses external conditions for offshore wind turbine designs which include the ability to withstand 70 m/s (155 mph, nearly 250 km/h) winds (IEC Class I), which is greater than most hurricanes.
The IEC ensures safety is an integral aspect of devices and systems, thereby protecting people, critical infrastructure, economies and the environment. These standards can address aspects of safety that apply horizontally to many products or specifically address the needs of a single product type or industry. The IEC 61508 series of standards ensures functional safety throughout the life cycle of electrical and electronic systems and devices.
Planning for disruption
Continuity planning for potential disasters can help mitigate the adverse effects of disasters.
IEC TC 56 prepares standards in the area of dependability, a technical discipline that address the risk assessment and management of services and systems throughout their life cycle, including cyber security threats. It has developed standards that include dependability assessment and technical risk assessment.
Early warning systems can be put in place to provide authorities with the time necessary to evacuate vulnerable areas before a disaster strikes. For example, warnings of an impending earthquake can be discerned with laser beams that detect tectonic plate movements or seismometers that can identify and measure the earth’s vibrations. Imminent volcanic eruptions can be predicted using seismometers, gas detectors or infrared thermography cameras. All of these technologies rely on IEC Standards developed by IEC TC 76 (laser equipment), IEC TC 47 (semiconductor devices and sensors) and IEC TC 31 (equipment for explosive environments).
After the disaster…recovery
Once a disaster strikes, the recovery process begins.
As a first step, drones can be sent into areas deemed too dangerous for humans in order to guide rescuers, gather data and deliver supplies. Drones were used by the California Air National Guard in August 2018 to track the spread of the wildfires in the northern part of the state.
Robots have since been used to survey damage after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan in 2011 as well as the earthquakes in Haiti (2010) and Nepal (2015). These robots and drones rely on standards developed by IEC TC 47 and its subcommittee SC 47F (micro electromechanical systems), IEC TC 2 (motors) and SC 21A (secondary cells and batteries).
No country in the world is immune from disasters and the dramatic effects of climate change. While collective action may be necessary to limit the rise in global temperature, each country must adopt disaster mitigation measures, such as infrastructure resilience and continuity planning, to ensure maximum preparation for when a disaster strikes.
For more information, please read the article in e-tech.