As cities and counties respond to a changing climate, they’re facing unprecedented challenges that strain resources and drive innovation. A survey conducted by American City & County provides insight into the ways administrators are prioritizing local needs, and the greatest climate-relate threats American communities are facing.
Of more than 100 administrator respondents, 71 percent cited flooding as a major threat to their community, followed by extreme heat (52 percent), tornadoes (49 percent), wildfires (38 percent), extreme cold (37 percent), hurricanes (34 percent), and earthquakes (23 percent). Other natural disasters mentioned by administrators included ice storms, sinkholes, microbursts, straight line winds and snowstorms. In the face of these realities, 54 percent said they feel their communities are somewhat prepared, and 34 percent reported being well prepared.
That flooding was ranked as the leading concern isn’t a surprise, given recent scientific research and real-world incidents. This year’s report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for example, projects an increase in flooding events, such as the floods that devastated communities in Kentucky and West Virginia this year.
Ahead of floods and other natural disasters, administrators across the country are preparing their communities in a number of different ways, with nearly 75 percent of respondents having assigned an emergency preparedness point person (usually in the fire department) to assist in that effort. To get the word out to community members, 47 percent have created a dedicated informational webpage, 41 percent said they publish annual preparedness guides and 34 percent host educational and training programs. The vast majority of communities require their first responders to go through disaster training and hold regular scenario-based exercises. And when a disaster is imminent, 75 percent of local government respondents said they rely on local media organizations to alert residents about the danger, and 69 percent use text alert warnings and/or social media respectively.
To get ahead of future adaptations, 81 percent of communities represented in the survey have prioritized emergency planning within their organizations, while 66 percent have completed some sort of climate-related infrastructure project to mitigate the impact and 64 percent have upgraded their telecommunication systems.
In this, while communication technology has advanced over the last few decades, 67 percent continue to rely on land mobile radio (LMR) systems. A little less than half additionally or exclusively use prioritized cellular broadband like FirstNet or Verizon Frontline; and 39 percent use consumer cellular broadband.
The survey also highlights the way local governments are building resiliency into their everyday operations. In their procurement practices, 23 percent of respondents said they prioritize and write in resiliency requirements in every infrastructure project; a quarter do so for large projects only, and 27 percent write in such requirements only when it’s economically feasible; 22 percent reported it’s not a priority at all.
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