University of Virginia
In this paper, we conduct a systematic study of human-initiated cascading failures in three critical inter-dependent societal infrastructures due to behavioral adaptations in response to a crisis. We focus on three closely coupled socio-technical networks here: (i) cellular and mesh networks, (ii) transportation networks and (iii) mobile call networks. In crises, changes in individual behaviors lead to altered travel, activity and calling patterns, which influence the transport network and the loads on wireless networks. The interaction between these systems and their co-evolution poses significant technical challenges for representing and reasoning about these systems. In contrast to system dynamics models for studying these interacting infrastructures, we develop interaction-based models in which individuals and infrastructure elements are represented in detail and are placed in a common geographic coordinate system. Using the detailed representation, we study the impact of a chemical plume that has been released in a densely populated urban region. Authorities order evacuation of the affected area, and this leads to individual behavioral adaptation wherein individuals drop their scheduled activities and drive to home or pre-specified evacuation shelters as appropriate. They also revise their calling behavior to communicate and coordinate among family members. These two behavioral adaptations cause flash-congestion in the urban transport network and the wireless network. The problem is exacerbated with a few, already occurring, road closures. We analyze how extended periods of unanticipated road congestion can result in failure of infrastructures, starting with the servicing base stations in the congested area. A sensitivity analysis on the compliance rate of evacuees shows non-intuitive effect on the spatial distribution of people and on the loading of the base stations. For example, an evacuation compliance rate of 70% results in higher number of overloaded base stations than the evacuation compliance rate of 90%.