SEPT 5 & 6 2024

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The Importance of Resilient Infrastructure in Disaster-Prone Areas: 10 Essential Principles

There are many disaster-prone areas across the world, including many cities in the U.S. like San Diego, California, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas. Thankfully, lots of the states and cities in the U.S. under threat of seismic activity and extreme weather events have fairly resilient infrastructure, meaning casualties and damage can minimized (to a degree). 

However, there are many areas of the world under consistent threat of disasters without the same levels of investment in infrastructure, meaning their everyday systems could be devastated in a matter of hours. We’ve put together this blog to elaborate on the importance of developing resilience in areas prone to hazards, along with describing ten principles for doing so effectively. 

Why Resilient Infrastructure is So Important

Building resilience within local and national infrastructure is vital for minimizing the impact of disasters, allowing for efficient recoveries, and supporting good developments into the future. It’s important to note that resilient infrastructure needs to address the time before, during, and after disasters.

Minimizing the Impact of Disasters

Disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and wildfires can be hugely destructive to property, human life, and essential services. With resilient infrastructure, death tolls can be reduced, such as in the albeit devastating 2011 Christchurch Earthquake, in which only 185 lives were lost, largely due to many buildings having strong, modern structures. 

Resilient infrastructure can also be vital for protecting investments and assets at both personal and government levels. This is important as in many cases, insurance will not cover disasters, listing them as “acts of god”. The protection of investments, assets, and human life is also an important step in maintaining community trust, which helps to keep things in order socially and societally in the aftermath of disasters. 

Efficient Recovery Capacities

Having a base of solid infrastructure is also important for facilitating efficient recoveries in the aftermath of disasters. Recovery processes tend to cost billions, with many requiring extensive international contributions and years of recovery time. With better infrastructure, communities can bounce back effectively across shorter periods. 

A major element of recovery involves the continuity of operations, with resilience being vital for allowing essential services – such as ambulances and fire services – to continue running throughout crises. In line with the protection of assets, infrastructure is essential for supporting businesses and the economy in general, allowing for a quicker return to normality. 

Looking to The Future

Building resilient infrastructure goes beyond the times before and during disasters – having a strong foundation in society is also an essential facet in ensuring security going forward. Strong infrastructure goes beyond buildings and emergency services – it also accounts for predictive techniques that will help defend future communities and generations. 

It’s also important to note the environmental aspect of resilient infrastructure. The link between climate change and disasters is becoming impossible to deny, so infrastructure needs to address things like rising sea levels, weather events, and general temperatures. Infrastructure should also be developed with the principles of sustainable development, with ecosystem health a vital element of a resilient area. 

Resilient infrastructure is an undeniable asset in disaster-prone areas, aiding communities before, during, and after crises strike. By establishing the proper systems and structures throughout an area, the loss of human life, financial stability, and general order can be minimized. 

10 Essential Principles of Resilient Infrastructure

Acknowledging the need for resilient infrastructure in the face of disasters is vital, but it doesn’t mean anything without understanding the principles that make strong systems. By gaining a collective awareness of resilience in infrastructure, the international community can better serve at-risk areas. 

Risk Assessment and Planning

At-risk communities need to conduct risk assessments based on the hazards in their area, whether in the form of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, or tsunamis. Risk assessment needs to partner with planning, with comprehensive disaster management plans that outline response strategies, evacuation routes, and emergency protocols.

Adaptive Design

Adaptive design is essential for creating resilient infrastructure – meaning that structures should be developed with risks and impacts in mind. Using flexible and adaptable construction techniques, such as modular building and using super-sturdy materials is a valuable practice, helping various buildings to better withstand hazards and changing conditions. 

Investment in Infrastructure

Sadly, this is not something all at-risk areas can afford to do, but sufficient investment of time, resources, and money is essential to construct and maintain resilient infrastructure. These investments must be focused on long-term solutions that will withstand the test of time, especially in a world with consistently evolving environments. 

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Incorporating Nature-Based Solutions

Nature-based solutions and defenses in disaster-prone areas are an effective, sustainable way to increase resilience. Things like planting fire-resistant trees, wetlands restoration, and urban greening are all effective solutions that can reduce wildfire damage, mitigate flooding, and combat the effects of earthquakes – and this just scratches the surface. 

Community Engagement and Education

Local communities must be engaged while planning and implementing infrastructure resilience programs – this will facilitate smoother movement when crises come to pass. This means providing educational programs and training programs for disaster preparedness – explaining early warning systems and evacuation routes to empower community response techniques. 

Building Codes and Standards

Governments must establish and enforce strict building codes and standards, incorporating resilience measures at every stage to guarantee structural safety, stability, and durability. This process is not a one-time thing either, with regular reviews and code updates that reflect technological advancements being a necessity for long-term security. 

Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration

Collaboration is the impetus of success in large-scale projects, so infrastructure should be established with the contributions of governments, private sector organizations, non-profit organizations, and local communities. This allows for the pooling of resources, expertise, and knowledge in developing solutions that prioritize the needs of every stakeholder. 

Investment in Early Warning Systems

Early warning systems, such as sensors, monitoring networks, and communication channels, can be used as preemptive alerts for at-risk communities. Disaster-prone areas should invest in technologies that improve the accuracy, reliability, and spread of early warning systems – this will allow for more proactive responses and evacuations. 

Resilience in Critical Infrastructure

Above all else, critical infrastructure needs to be developed with resilience. This means ensuring that hospitals, schools, power plants, transportation networks, and other essential services must be designed with redundancy, backup systems, and alternative power sources. Protecting these systems will minimize disruptions in recovery programs.

Continued Monitoring and Evaluation

As is the case with any ongoing project, the process of strengthening infrastructure and community resilience requires continuous monitoring, evaluation, and improvement. By looking at past failures and successes, future planning can be enhanced, with decision-making processes streamlined. Third-party review can be especially useful in these cases. 

With these principles in place, the importance of building resilient infrastructure can be treated with the respect it deserves, resulting in communities that can better withstand disasters and enjoy long-term, sustainable prosperity.

FEMA’s BRIC Program

FEMA is fighting to strengthen communities with its Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. This program is designed to support communities at state, local, and tribal levels with infrastructure for hazard mitigation. The project’s principles include enhancing capacities, encouraging innovation, promoting partnerships, maintaining flexibility, and offering consistency within the framework of enabling infrastructure projects. 

The provision of support from the BRIC includes financial funding and Direct Technical Assistance (DTA), with the latter including services like climate risk assessments, community engagement, partnership building, and mitigation planning. DTA is available to communities and nations through an application process. 

Engage with An International Community for Disaster Management

If you’re interested in engaging with a global gathering for disaster management professionals, including a specific focus on resilience building, why not register to visit Disasters Expo USA. The California edition of this event will be taking place on September 5th and 6th at the Los Angeles Convention Center, featuring hundreds of exhibiting businesses, thousands of participating attendees, and an impressive lineup of speakers including a representative from FEMA’s BRIC.

Register for your tickets now to take part in one of the world’s leading convergences of emergency response professionals.