Cascading Failure in Critical Infrastructure: An Actor-Network Analysis of the 1998 Ice Storm in Ottawa

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Simone, Ryan




A 1998 ice storm initiated a cascading failure across several of Ottawa’s critical infrastructure systems, leaving +50,000 people without electricity for prolonged periods as emergency managers failed to grasp the extent of the disaster and initiate a successful coordinated response. Actor-Network Theory (ANT) along with risk and vulnerability principles is used to unpack the complexities contributing to this disaster and explore how Ontario’s 2008 Provincial Emergency Response Plan (PERP) might have altered outcomes. ANT revealed electrical and transportation failures were initially
isolated but days three through five in the Storm were characterized by failures transcending the resilience of several infrastructure systems as well as emergency programs, resulting in system-wide, cascading severe disruptions and failures to all infrastructure systems other than sanitation and water. This thesis concludes conditions conducive to a cascading failure persist and that PERP (2008) inadequately prevents the reoccurrence of cascading infrastructure failure during a prolonged ice storm.


Urban and Regional Planning




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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