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Communities share the road to resiliency

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Written by: Mital Hall

In the past year, each of 22 weather and climate disasters has inflicted more than $1 billion in damage. Thirteen severe storms, seven tropical cyclones, along with wildfire and drought events, devastated lives and properties.[1]

Still, climate change causes and impacts are often publicly disputed. Over the past 50 years, many warnings by politicians and scientists have been ignored.[2] Tragically, inaction has delayed any planning or investments which might have reduced suffering and damage.

Flooded city

Cities now confront further challenges with the COVID-19 crisis and political discord. Climate change has accelerated and amplified the pandemic. Even after many communities turned attention away from environmental concerns, greenhouse gases have continued to accumulate.

Faced with compounded challenges, leaders at all levels of government will benefit from greater resiliency: enhancing disaster preparation and bringing quicker recovery.[3]

In meeting a challenge, a first step can be the most important one. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a difficult step. A journey to resiliency can begin with benchmarking, using tools that already exist and are cost-effective. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled much of the necessary benchmarking data. From there, collaboration, engagement, and planning can leverage regional and community efforts.

Benchmarking

The EPA’s Cumulative Resilience Screening Index (CRSI) quantifies five domains of disaster resilience:

  • Risk
  • Governance
  • Built environment
  • Natural environment
  • Society

Detailed results are reported county-by-county, within 10 EPA districts. A recent 287-page update to the CSRI[4] identifies which of a county’s domains are least resilient to climate change. This can help a community prioritize needs and allocate resources.

Collaboration, engagement, and planning

Regional Resilience Collaboratives have formed nationwide, enabling communities to pool their planning knowledge and expertise and accelerate their progress toward resiliency. Within those collaborative groups, even smaller cities with limited budgets can address climate change impacts. All communities achieve further resiliency as best practices and policies are shared.[5]

The need for collaboration and the benefits of it vary with each region’s unique climate change concerns. In California, one focus has been to boost resiliency to wildfire emergencies. In Florida, planning councils have developed strategies for hurricane/flooding preparation and response. The planning by these collaboratives also address equity, emissions reduction, and more:

  • Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Collaborative[6]
  • East Central Florida Regional Resilience Collaborative[7]
  • Northeast Florida Regional Council[8]
  • Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact[9]
Regional Resilience
TOOLKIT IMPLEMENTATION: The starting point depends on community needs/progress.

The EPA has published a Regional Resilience Toolkit[10] for cities and counties nationwide. The 228-page toolkit documents how the effects of climate change can be anticipated and responded to regionally. Working together, government and civic groups can optimize their resilience, guided by core community values.

ecoPreserve is here to help RRCs and individual communities benchmark and strategically address disaster resilience.

[1] NOAA.gov
[2] ScienceMag.org
[3] YouMatter.world
[4] EPA.gov — CRSI
[5] CoastalBreezeNews.com
[6] TBRPC.org — Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Collaborative
[7] ECFRPC.org — East Central Florida Regional Planning Council/Resilience Collaborative
[8] NEFRPC.org — Northeast Florida Regional Council
[9] SoutheastFloridaClimateCompact.org
[10] EPA.gov — Regional Resilience Toolkit

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Mital Hall

Vice President

At ecoPreserve, Mital leads all sustainability projects and Smart Cities initiatives. Her skillset is the result of more than 15 years of sustainable development experience that includes work with universities, local/state/federal governments, and businesses.