Resilience Across the Country

All across the country, municipalities and cities are realizing the importance of resilience planning.

As we discussed in our first resilience blog, resilience doesn’t just mean preparing for climate change. It means having systems in place to be able to deal with the unexpected. From heatwaves to economic crises, resilience means having the ability not just to bounce back from a disaster, but to bounce forward. There is no template to follow. Each situation, each community, each region is impacted differently by different things, and will react in its own way. The examples from the cities outlined below exemplify the wide range of topics that resilience covers. Cities have identified strategies as varied as increasing energy efficiency, engaging communities in disaster preparedness preparations, vowing to improve access to safe and affordable public housing, and improving infrastructure to prevent future natural disaster damage. All of these are strategies to increase resilience.

Even the White House is helping cities build resilience. It was recently announced this summer that a new Resilience AmeriCorps program will bring additional support through AmeriCorps VISTAs to build civic engagement and increase community resilience in 10 communities across the country. Pittsburgh is one of those cities! Each of the 10 cities identified has its own set of priorities outlined as a way to increase resilience.

Here are snapshots of what a handful of cities across the country are doing to increase their resiliency and prepare for the unexpected.

New Orleans, LA

Like Pittsburgh, New Orleans is one of the 100 Resilient Cities, and will be one of the first round cities for Resilience AmeriCorps. They also made a super cute video about what resilience means to them.

One of the initiatives in NOLA’s Resilience Plan is to expand access to safe and affordable housing. They list a variety of strategies to achieve this goal – including HousingNOLA, which is a 10 year, community based plan to meet the housing needs of all residents, using private-public and nonprofit partnerships throughout the city. Another strategy includes launching an integrated housing policy – with the goal of expanding access to a range of affordable, safe, and good quality housing options and neighborhood amenities that serve residents and their families.

Baltimore, MD

Baltimore has made resilience a priority in its recent planning efforts. It has a Climate and Resilience Planner on staff in the Office of Sustainability, and a variety of programs in place to increase the resilience of the city.

One of Baltimore’s success stories has been the Make a Plan. Build a Kit. Help Each Other campaign. With an emphasis on face-to-face interaction and community engagement, staff from the office of sustainability meets with communities both to identify community assets and vulnerabilities, as well as to develop emergency plans with residents. They also go over how to build emergency kits, and the items that are frequently included. In the first year of the program, Baltimore staff created 1,250 emergency plans and emergency kits in neighborhoods.

Read their most recent Sustainability Report for details and information on Make a Plan. Build a Kit. Help Each Other, and much more!

New York City, NY

New York City has 520 miles of coastline. One of the 100 Resilient Cities, NYC has focused a lot of its resilience strategies on coastal protections. The city prefaced the strategy with an analysis of coastal vulnerabilities, and an entire section of its resilience strategy is dedicated to coastal protection. This includes strategies such as protect against storm surge, improve coastal design and governance, and increase coastal edge elevations.

Grand Rapids, MI

While not one of the Rockefeller cities, Grand Rapids has still invested heavily in resilience planning. Similar to other cities highlighted here, Grand Rapids created a Community Resiliency Plan as part of its overarching Sustainability Plan.

A big piece of resilience planning comes down to energy. As Grand Rapids feels increasingly stressed by changing weather patterns – extreme storms and more intense winters and summers – so does its energy system. To increase resilience and mitigate any potential impending strains on energy infrastructure, Grand Rapids has taken a range of steps toward increasing its resiliency. For example, it has focused on energy efficiency strategies – leading to a 10% reduction in energy use since 2006. In one case, Grand Rapids worked to align its zoning ordinances with LEED-Neighborhood Development principles, making it easier for developers to achieve the LEED-ND standard, simply by following the zoning ordinances. As a result,

“Grand Rapids has more buildings with LEED certification per capita than any mid-size U.S. city, and is fifth among all U.S. cities.”

– Grand Rapids Climate Resiliency Report

You can find more information about Grand Rapids and its resilience strategies by reading its Climate Resiliency Report.


Stay tuned for our next blog, highlighting local resilience planning efforts.

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