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When Abnormal Is the New Normal

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Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
3/6/2013 5:48:17 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Resilience is one key part
Simon, I think there's a lot of truth to that. You should check out Andrew's most recent piece about evacuations during emergencies. Sounds like we could learn a lot from your aunt's survival skills today.

Simon Hersom
Simon Hersom  
3/6/2013 5:24:35 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Resilience is one key part
My great-aunt Ada who died in the 1970s at the grand age of 91 had lived in a different era.  When newly married she lived in the high moors and talked of being cut-off from the nearest town for a month during bad winters.  But she planned for this, kept a pig and every scrap was used for something.  Catch anybody tolerating that now.

People were more resilient then because they had to be.  Perhaps we're just too reliant on things working all the time but over which we can have no control.

 

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
2/26/2013 1:34:50 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Resilience is one key part
Andrew, thanks for the reply, and for sparking this discussion.

Re your point here: "this may simply consist of walking away, such as in the bushfire example I mentioned in my blog."

That might seem so obvious, but a major problem we faced in NYC and beyond was that people ignored the warnings and the insistence from the mayor's office to leave their homes if they were in certain zones. As a result, people needed to be rescued, or were trapped for days and weeks. Inevitably, this put rescue workers in danger and stalled the recovery process.

So step one, it seems, is for people to take these threats seriously, and be willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the city's resilience.

DistilledWisdom
DistilledWisdom  
2/26/2013 5:37:29 AM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Resilience is one key part
Hi everyone, great feedback - thanks!

Clearly top-down efforts to future-proof our cities are critical, but these efforts inevitably consist of catch-up, as our institutions respond to the effects of whatever is the latest challenge. So, New York is currently developing a plan to respond to the challenges it can see, but we just know we can't prepare for all eventualities.

So, the need for indivudual action complements rather than replaces top down efforts. In the most extreme cases, this may simply consist of walking away, such as in the bushfire example I mentioned in my blog. The critical thing here is access to information so that people can understand the threat and make informed decisions.

This is about attitude and engagement. Key issues for us as citizens.

PeterJ
PeterJ  
2/25/2013 11:08:45 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Survival in tough times
I also think long-term planning has failed miserably after ample warnings in the past. This was also highlighted by Sandy, when previous preparedness recommendations went unheaded. Readiness varied greatly, based on capacity and resources. After Sandy,numerous reports of tenants in highrises, without power or communications, were shared with the media. The responders were family members, not emergency personnel. Will "lessons learned" make their way to real action this time?

tame
tame  
2/25/2013 5:08:51 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: Survival in tough times
Sounds like a plan, Nicole.  (Pun intended)

p.s. If not inconvenient, can you check your spam.  I fear that a few emails that I have forwarded to you under tame.nanoworld@gmail.com may be residing there.  Thanks.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
2/25/2013 4:55:18 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Survival in tough times
@tame, very well said. The takeaway here is don't sit back and do nothing, but also don't let technology put you at complete ease. We need plans to strengthen our infrastructure, as well as plans to survive when the worst does happen -- and not rely on the false assumption that stronger infrastructure and modern technology alone.

Have a plan, and then have a back-up plan. We'll probably need both.

tame
tame  
2/25/2013 3:11:33 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: Survival in tough times
The "other efforts" that you mention may likely fall under the main category of preparedness, Nicole.  Obviously, mankind has never been in better position to prepare itself, in the short run, against devastating acts of nature.

When the Galveston hurricane destroyed that city and took 8,000+ lives, the federal, state and local governments had no idea that the storm was even on a path for the U.S.  The only report of the potential for the storm was a brief report to the National Weather Bureau that there was a tropical storm in the vicinity of Cuba but the report could not even say where the storm (hurricane) was centered let alone where it was heading.  The poor citizens of Galveston were overwhelmed with no idea of the ferocity of what had barrelled their way.

Modern technology can and does provide for advance warning of impending danger for instances of such as a deadly storm.  Satellites, storm chasing airflights, and computer simulations provide a constant stream of data and info that warn governments and citizens of what is out there and what is coming. These advance warnings, days if not weeks ahead of time, allow for all who may be in harm's way to prepare themselves.  It now depends on the individual to take all appropriate measures to protect themselves, their family, their friends and their property; even if that protection ultimately involves evacuation.

This type of preparedness works extremely well in the case of floods, hurricanes, extreme tidal activities and blizzards.  To a lesser extent, the technology allows for quick action in the event of a thunderstorm with tornadic activity.  At this point, good luck to all in the event of an earthquake.

Unlike the victims of the Galveston hurricane, the tragic victims of Katrina new it was coming.  The decisions that they made or the difficult situations that they found themselve in with no recourse for action that precluded their evacuation, resulted in their demise.  Sad and horrible in scope.

I agree with Mr. Wisdom that no matter how much you try to improve the infrastructer to cope with these extreme events, they are still likely to fail as something always goes wrong.  (New Orleans/Katrina/dikes)  This doesn't mean that you don't try to improve the infrastructure (oyster beds, seawalls etc.) it just means that you should not bet your life on the improvements or the government's ability to save you.  Prepare yourself as individual citizens for the worst.

 

 

Venks
Venks  
2/25/2013 11:52:36 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Survival in tough times
Very well said Mr. Andrew. I particularly liked when you said, 'It is about abandoning the silly assumption that things will be fine and then being surprised when they are not'. Guess, a lot of thinking must have gone thru when you jotted it down. It is all what a responsible citizen of this WORLD must think of every sec.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
2/25/2013 11:10:42 AM
User Rank Staff
Resilience is one key part
Andrew, what a great first blog post for Future Cities. Thank you, and welcome to the community!

I definitely agree that resilience is key at a time when storms are unpredictable and the climate is changing faster than we can begin to repair it. At the same time, do you think that we need both resilience as well as other efforts, such as the ones cited in the piece in The New Yorker, to prevent disasters from happening?

I'd love to hear your take on oyster beds, sea walls, and other ideas for infrastructure projects.

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