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How To Create and Implement a Citywide Resiliency Committee To Protect and Save Money for Your Jurisdiction

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Romeo B. Lavarias
October 22, 2022

Since 2020, the nation has experienced disasters on a scale never experienced before. According to the National Preparedness Report, December 2021, prepared by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the first ever nationwide emergency declaration under the Stafford Act and resulted in being the first incident that resulted in major disaster declarations for all 50 states, four Tribes, five territories and the District of Columbia.” In addition, the past two years have resulted in the costliest and most devastating natural disasters experienced in the nation. Finally, the proliferation of shootings and domestic terrorism has warranted all levels of government to prepare for these types of attacks in their emergency plans. 

The experiences have exposed the fact that governments can no longer manage multiple disasters simultaneously, nor through the different emergency management phases of preparedness, prevention, response, recovery and mitigation. What governments need now is to take a holistic view of their respective communities and work towards making them resilient. While resiliency has lately been tied to the social fabric of a community in the face of socioeconomic inequities, the author proposes to simplify resiliency efforts by discussing initial implementation from an emergency management perspective. So, while many cities have undertaken efforts of resiliency through the lens of sustainability, the author recommends the creation of a “Resiliency Committee” to address the physical needs of a city’s jurisdiction where early success may be realized, and then eventually lead to greater resiliency efforts towards residents of lower socioeconomic status.

The Resilience Committee should be made up of representatives from emergency management, public works, utilities, finance, urban planning, information technology and public information. These representatives will be addressing the physical efforts of resiliency required from the city’s jurisdiction that will lead to cost savings. The efforts will be in the form of:

1) Creating a Strategic Resiliency Plan that incorporates mitigation, resiliency and sustainability on a city jurisdiction wide level. This type of plan may come in the form of a Floodplain Management Plan, a Vulnerability Assessment Report, a Mitigation Plan, etc. Regardless of the title, the plan will identify and examine the current state of the city’s jurisdiction and identify gaps. Once the gaps are identified, they will be prioritized to provide a tactical approach so that existing resources can be utilized. For those gaps that are beyond the resource capability at that time, a list may be created to secure at a future date.

2) Hardening key infrastructure so that they will be able to withstand the impact of disasters. This may be in the form of stronger bay doors for the fire stations, elevating generators to keep them from being flooded, protecting the Internet cable system, putting in storm windows to critical buildings, etc. Ensuring that critical infrastructure does not go down during a disaster, will allow jurisdiction to get back to normal faster. The financing of these efforts can be sought through FEMA Mitigation Grant funding, State Mitigation Grant funding, through a city’s Capital Improvement Plan, etc.

3) Improve the Community Rating System (CRS) score to qualify for reduced flood insurance premium rates for homeowners. The CRS is based on a point system from 1-10 where a score of 1 is the best. By seeking to improve the CRS rating, a jurisdiction will secure lower flood insurance rates (up to a 45 percent discount) for their homeowners which will lead to greater acceptance of resiliency strategies later down the road. This effort alone is quite substantial and will take much effort on the jurisdiction’s part to earn the necessary points.

All jurisdictions where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age are, and will in years to come, be impacted by disasters. These disasters are no longer limited to certain times of the year nor specific locations. In fact, jurisdictions not suffering from a disaster may feel the impact of a disaster in another part of the country when supply chains become interrupted by that disaster area, or resources are diverted to that disaster area. It will be incumbent upon public administrators to be able to handle a variety of disasters at different phases of the emergency management process. Through the efforts of a Resiliency Committee, a jurisdiction can embrace the fact that disasters are the new norm, and that implementing efforts to become more resilient will yield better outcomes for their respective population.

Author: Romeo is the Emergency Manager for the City of Miramar, FL and is an Adjunct Professor for Barry University’s Public Administration Program where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. He is a Certified Emergency Manager through the International Association of Emergency Managers. His research interests include emergency management, homeland security, ethics, and performance measurement. 

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