4 reasons cities need to be more resilient (and 4 ways tech can help)

Thu, 2018-12-20 12:41 -- Kevin Ebi

How prepared is your city for a natural disaster? Disasters are taking increasingly large tolls on communities — and it’s the cities that are often relied on for first response.

The Smart Cities Council, in partnership with the Consumer Technology Association, has produced a new paper, Resilient Cities Plug In to Technology for Response and Recovery, which explores reasons cities need to act now and areas where technology is already helping. We share a few highlights below.

Embracing smart cities approaches can help you not only recover quicker after a disaster, but also protect your community in the first place. If you would like help accelerating your initiatives, I encourage you to apply for our 2019 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge. Applications are open now and all qualified applicants receive a free year of access to the Smart Cities Project Activator, an online resource that helps you strengthen your vision, build consensus and ready your projects for financing. Apply before the January 18 deadline. — Kevin Ebi

Why cities need to act now

1. Natural disasters are growing more expensive. Sixteen catastrophic events in the U.S. in 2017 did more than $300 billion in total damage — a new record.

2. Disasters are impacting greater numbers of people. In 2017, more than 25 million Americans had been touched by unprecedented disasters — that’s nearly 8 percent of the population.

3. Cities have increasingly more people to protect. About 1.4 million people are moving from rural areas into cities each week. Cities need smart approaches to help with their increasing responsibilities.

4. Cities are on the front lines. Cities are the first responders and are often in the best position to launch efforts to meet the needs of their local community.

How technology can help

Despite the growing frequency and toll of the disasters, there are areas where technology is helping cities to become more resilient and better serve their communities.

1. Data sharing is helping to coordinate response. Medical facilities can be quickly overwhelmed by a widespread disaster. The Real-Time Activity Status in Columbus, Ohio, connects area hospitals with ambulance dispatchers so patients can be directed to the facility that’s best able to help them at any given moment.

2. Data modeling allows for smarter planning. Smart planning before a disaster can help speed recovery or even prevent damage in the first place. One example: Miami’s Sea Level Rise pilot program combines 3D modeling with GIS and sensors to provide better information about vulnerable areas and generate more timely alerts.

3. Drones are giving responders more information. The bird’s-eye view provided by aerial drones help emergency planners survey difficult-to-reach areas quickly. They played a key role in the response at the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii this year when the conditions were too dangerous for manned flights.

4. New technology can serve vulnerable populations. Technology, such as autonomous vehicles, may one day help streamline evacuations before hurricanes or other severe weather — especially helping people like the elderly who can’t drive. The U.S. Department of Transportation is studying the idea.