The unexpected always happens, but it pays to be ready when it does.
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and this number keeps increasing. Due to the large population concentrations, cities are much more vulnerable to natural disasters and hazards. As these events increase, there is a dire need to ensure that our cities are inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
According to the United States National Centers for Environmental Information 2021 Data, between 1980-2021, there were 323 weather and climate disasters in the U.S where damages reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these events exceeds $2.195 trillion. 20 of these events occurred in 2021 alone. These included 1 drought, 2 floods, 11 severe storms, 4 tropical cyclones, 1 wildfire, and 1 winter storm.
The 2021 weather and climate events caused 724 deaths and significant economic damages. The 1980–2021 average is 7.7 events per year, compare with an average of 17.8 events per year for the most recent 5 years (2017–2021). It is clear that planning and mitigation of natural disasters are critical to safety.
A key factor in ensuring success is our ability to identify natural disaster risks and vulnerabilities of our cities in advance and create mitigation plans. This is the first step toward adjusting our perception, preparedness, response, and recovery from natural disasters to match the threats we face today.
Where should cities look for vulnerabilities?
Cities and municipalities operate distinct complex systems and departments, so there is no one size fits all solution to the current and future challenges. Effective solutions will depend on the city’s cultures, demographics, geographies, economies, hazards, natural disasters, and challenges. Fortunately, there are many cities that share these characteristics that form specific categories. For example, coastal and island cities share beach erosion and rising sea level risks. Cities in the same category can share ideas on how to identify and mitigate risks to their communities, greatly accelerating the process of identifying risks and creating mitigation plans.
Collect data, analyze, report, and share it with stakeholders
Data helps you develop accurate theories, formulate strategies, back up your arguments, and empower you to make the right decisions. More importantly, it is the basis for funding that will enable your operations. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data are arguably the most important when it comes to the identification of risks for cities.
Monitor vulnerability of systems
Constantly prepare, publish, communicate and update vulnerabilities and risks, and their potential impacts on the population.
Create collaborative vulnerability mitigation plans
Engage city departments, suppliers, contractors, non-governmental organizations, and the general public in the decision-making and development of the hazard mitigation plan.
Focus on vulnerabilities and risk reduction.
Recent and imminent events should be a guide to where your focus is needed most. Data for such events should always be kept current. Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms can assist in creating probability data and loss estimation models to stay ahead of threats.
Minimize supply chain interruption and plan business continuity
Evaluate your supply chain, embrace diversification to mitigate risk, use technology to gain visibility, and think of alternative shipping and warehousing.
Creating resilient cities not only creates new opportunities and opens jobs, but a recent report from The National Institute of Building Sciences showed that for every dollar invested in pre-disaster mitigation there is a $4-13 savings to society.
There are many software companies helping with ESG data, identification of risks, and the creation of mitigation plans, but it is time-consuming to find the right one for you. I recently reviewed a list of solutions that are geared toward cities and municipalities, you can check it out here.