Posted at 5:19 PM
When disaster strikes, communities often suffer devastating losses of people and property. Recovering from a flood, hurricane, industrial accident or any other extreme event, can take months to years and cost billions of dollars.
Local and regional catastrophes also impose a tremendous national toll. Since 2002, the U.S. has endured seven of the 10 most costly disasters in its history, with Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy at the top of the list.
Over the last four years, the nation experienced 42 extreme weather events that caused at least $1 billion in damage, costing a total of about $227 billion and killing 1,286 people. In all, there were 334 major disaster declarations in the United States between 2010 and 2014. According to a recent estimate, federal government spending for disaster relief averages almost $400 per U.S. household annually.
But these tremendous losses are not inevitable. There is much we can do to make our communities more resilient, that is, better able to adapt to changing climate conditions, withstand hazards and recover efficiently in their aftermath.
Today, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued its first cut of a planning guide to help U.S. communities to not only “weather the storm” but also to bounce back quickly and efficiently after a hazard passes.
Issued as a draft for public comment, NIST’s Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems is a tool to help urban and rural communities plan and act to keep natural and human-caused hazards from wreaking local disaster.
The objective is to translate the important goal of resilience into practice.
A component of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the planning guide takes a proactive approach. It leads communities through a step-by-step process that helps them make informed long-term decisions about priorities, costs and ways to better manage disaster risks.
Planning for resilience centers on the social functions that sustain a community, such as healthcare, public safety, education, business and employment. It also focuses on the role that the built environment—buildings and infrastructure—play in supporting these functions.
To build resilient communities, we need to understand how buildings and infrastructure systems are dependent on one another. So, resilience measures to minimize flood damage to a building, for example, not only protect the structure from being inundated but also aim to maintain power and water service so that it can continue to operate.
An effective community resilience strategy ensures that buildings and infrastructure—power, water, transportation, water, and wastewater systems—will perform at levels needed to initiate and sustain recovery efforts.
Every community is different in terms of geography, the make-up of its population, the age of its infrastructure, the potential hazards it must plan for, its financial resources and much more. The planning guide is a customizable tool that each community can use to craft a resilience strategy aligned with its unique combination of characteristics, circumstances and priorities.
Preparing for a disaster takes community-wide input, and I’m pleased to report that NIST’s draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems is the product of a truly collaborative effort. We convened four regional meetings to gather stakeholder input. NIST also engaged nine outside experts in disciplines ranging from buildings to public utilities and from earthquake engineering to sociology to assist in drafting the guide.
Over the 60-day comment period that begins today, I encourage you to review the draft planning guide and let us know your thoughts. The resilience community is extremely diverse. This planning guide should be a resource for every stakeholder segment—from local governments to businesses and utilities to community organizations, including those representing populations whose voices might be lost in these kinds of discussions.
We need to hear from you because you can make a difference. Together we can reduce risks and losses from natural and other hazards. Together we can help ensure that when the next disaster strikes, our communities are better prepared and can bounce back faster.
You can downloaded the draft at http://nist.gov/el/building_materials/resilience/guide.cfm