CIrcle – Critical Infrastructures: Relations and Consequences for Life and Environment

Who would believe that the failure of a single high-voltage transformer could lead to power outage affecting more than 1 million households, national and international trains as well as an international airport? (1) Or that a flood could damage a railway bridge, so that both national and international high-speed trains are affected for almost 6 month? (2) Or that a storm causes failure of the power network, which then causes a failure of the Internet communication, in turn leading to further electricity outages in a whole country? (3)

Over the past decades, the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events have impacted the society in unimaginable ways. Particularly the interruptions of critical infrastructures such as electricity, communication, drinking water or transport systems lead to enormous, often long-lasting societal impacts including fatalities and economic losses.

At Deltares we work with governmental and non-governmental agencies, infrastructure operators, and other stakeholders across the globe. Each of them faces the challenge of protecting critical infrastructures from natural disasters, and each with a unique wealth of knowledge and experience.

But often, individual organizations are unable to solve these challenges on their own, related to the fact that they are part of a complex network of networks. Which begs the question, ‘What if we could bring all stakeholders together and help them learn from their shared knowledge and experiences? And let them together develop strategies to make critical infrastructure more resilient?’

The CIrcle concept aims to answer this challenge. The touch table application (CIrcle tool) forms the centerpiece of Deltares’s collaborative modeling and workshop concept. A CIrcle workshop helps stakeholders to understand the complex and interdependent relations between critical infrastructure systems. These relations, or causal links, can be investigated and visualized even within the context of a relatively data poor environment.

Workshop participant: “It was inspiring to meet the different stakeholders, and to learn about the dependencies between critical infrastructures”


To supplement possible gaps in input data, CIrcle uses open data and Deltares’s own models in combination with the valuable information provided by the workshop participants to analyze and visualize the impact of cascading effects on critical infrastructures. The knowledge and experiences that have been collected with the CIrcle tool are stored in the CIrcle knowledge database. This knowledge helps us to understand differences between case studies where CIrcle methodology has been employed both objectively, namely physical impacts and possible cascading effects, and also subjectively, in pertaining to differences in resilience and risk perception between differing settings.

The results are presented to participants in an interactive game engine model. Together with Deltares experts, whose objective is to inform and to facilitate, participants are encouraged to examine different adaptation strategies in order to increase resilience to climactic events in light of the information provided by the CIrcle tool.

The rapid visualization which the CIrcle tool provides contributes valuable insights and helps workshop participants to understand the complexity of cascading effects. Moreover, the collaborative nature of the CIrcle workshop encourages further synergy between workshop participants as they move together towards a future made more resilient by their newfound understanding of the interconnectedness of their infrastructure in the context of the human system.


In some instances, CIrcle workshops are also organized on locations where the use of digital tools is difficult. For these reasons we have developed a non-digital version of CIrcle, CIrcle-Bao. This version was first developed for a project in Tanzania and is inspired by the famous Eastern African game ‘Bao’. Tailor made to suit the capacity and conditions of CI networks in developing countries, the analogue incarnation of the CIrcle tool allows a normally capital and knowledge analysis to be carried out with nothing more than a playing board and local understanding of critical infrastructure.

To date, CIrcle-Bao has been successfully employed in workshops in Dar es Salaam’s Manzese ward to train Red Cross volunteers in the use of the tool, who then went on to organise the workshop for the local CI representatives throughout the 70,000 person district. In this form, the CIrcle tool finds an additional level of applicability by informing concerned citizens of the repercussions of disruption or failure of the critical infrastructure which forms the foundations of their built environment.

A workshop guideline for conducting these workshops is available from the links on the left.

CIrcle Online Tool

More information

If you are interested in using CIrcle for your project or if you want to learn more about the possibilities of CIrcle, please get in touch with our Critical Infrastructures experts.



(1) Blackout in Amsterdam, 27 March 2015
(2) Elbe River floods, June 2013
(3) Blackout in Italy, 2003