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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reflecting on Sandy


One prominent feature of the summer here in the U.S. has been the attempts by multiple public institutions to reflect upon the disaster which was Hurricane Sandy and extract lessons to guide future policy and development. In June, the New York Building Congress Task Force on New York City Storm Preparedness release the report Risk & Resiliency After SandyThat report identified a number of mechanisms for reducing the city's vulnerability to extreme weather events including hardening utility grids, emergency planning and response, making buildings more resilient, and making infrastructure more redundant.

Yesterday, the Hurricane Sandy Task Force commission by the Obama Administration released its report, Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy. That report focuses on criteria for the investment of federal funds in rebuilding efforts and emphasizes the following points: 
  • Promoting resilient building, based on current and future risks
  • Ensuring a regionally coordinated, resilient approach to infrastructure investment
  • Providing families safe, affordable housing options and protecting homeowners
  • Supporting small businesses and revitalizing local economies
  • Addressing insurance challenges, understanding, and accessibility
  • Building local government's capacity to plan for long-term rebuilding and prepare for future disasters
While the report describes these as "innovative strategies", these all appear to be fairly standard mechanisms for disaster risk reduction that one could argue should have been embedded in public policy and local planning long ago. 

Finally, the U.S. Department of Energy also released a report this month focused on the importance of increasing the resilience of the electricity grid. Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages notes that between 2003 and 2012, weather-related grid outages "are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion." Hence, increased investment in grid resilience is an important component of U.S. disaster mitigation efforts. 


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