All across the United States, cities are experiencing a wide range of extreme weather. So, it's no surprise that New York City and the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the middle of launching a $20 billion effort to prepare for the adverse effects of climate change, which includes the creation of a new natural disaster readiness plan. Emergency Management Magazine reported that the new plan makes up more than 250 recommendations to improve the city's ability to prepare and handle another storm like Hurricane Sandy, which caused $19 billion in damages.
"Hurricane Sandy made it all too clear that, no matter how far we've come, we still face real, immediate threats," Bloomberg said in a speech, according to the news source. "These concrete recommendations for how to confront the risks we face will build a stronger, more resilient New York. This plan is incredibly ambitious, and much of the work will extend far beyond the next 200 days, but we refused to pass the responsibility for creating a plan onto the next administration. This is urgent work, and it must begin now."
The rising costs of natural disasters
Natural disasters are expected to increase in frequency in New York City according to some scientists, due to faster rising seas, hotter summers and more heavy rains, reported the news source. Many point to the already rising number of costly natural disasters for evidence of this phenomena.
According to the National Climatic Data Center, which is a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 11 weather and climate related disaster events in 2012 – each with losses exceeding $1 billion in damages. This made 2012 the second costliest year since 1980, with more than $110 billion in damages throughout the year.
What the new New York City natural disaster readiness plan will include
As a result of the increasing regularity of natural disaster predictions, the city has created a new readiness plan. Some of the updates include:
- A 15-to-20 foot levee to protect Staten Island.
- Adaptable flood walls covering lower Manhattan.
- A storm surge barrier at Newtown Creek.
- $1.2 billion in funding and building owners to renovate their properties for extreme weather events. This may include upgrading building foundations and reinforcing exterior walls.
- Improved telecommunications performance during emergencies through various methods.
- Setting new standards for power restoration.
- Developing resiliency requirements.
- Partnering with utility companies to improve storm-proofing efforts for equipment.
These readiness changes are also being made in conjunction with sustainability measurements that are intended to help reduce the impact of the city on the environment. According to Emergency Management Magazine, experts and city officials believe that by reducing the carbon footprint of the metro, it will be better able to reduce the severity or number of natural disasters.
"We've come a long way… Our air is healthier, our waterways are cleaner and we're building a sustainable future for our city," Bloomberg said, according to the news source. "We've made great progress… but Hurricane Sandy was a devastating reminder that the threats associated with climate change are all too real, and we must continue to reduce the city's contribution to the problem, while also taking steps to protect our communities and the infrastructure on which they rely."
The importance of measuring readiness
By creating a succinct plan that has complete step-by-step procedures for dealing with natural disasters, city officials, public safety workers and New Yorkers will better know what is expected during times of crisis like a storm of Hurricane Sandy's size. But a plan is only the first step.
Readiness, is a function of 5 key elements: Planning, organizing, equipping, training and exercising emergency response procedures. Consistent tracking of these elements is crucial to achieving the city's readiness goals. Having accurate data about response capabilities readily available during a natural disaster allows crisis managers immediate access to exactly what tasks responders are able perform safely based on their experience and training, which is especially helpful during multidisciplinary and multi-jurisdictional response. Measuring and improving 5 readiness elements can significantly increase both the speed and quality of the response. New York City has made an important step in the right direction to safeguard the safety of its citizens and infrastructure.
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