Resccue

This project has recived funding from European Comission by means of Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, under Grant Agreement no. 700174

Urban resilience

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WHAT IS URBAN RESILIENCE?
“RESILIENCE” IS A TRENDY WORD. THIS CONCEPT HAS ITS ORIGINS IN SCIENCES SUCH AS ECOLOGY, PSYCHOLOGY OR MATERIALS RESISTANCE, IS NOW BEING APPLIED TO ALMOST EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE INCLUDING THE PREDOMINANT HUMAN HABITAT: THE CITY. BUT WHAT IS RESILIENCE, AND HOW IS IT APPLIED TO THE URBAN WORLD?
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All human settlements sustain impacts every day. In the developed world, the commonplace ones may be minor interruptions to water supply or electricity, strikes that affect commerce and public transport, service interruptions or even maintenance work that inconvenience users. At other times, cities may experience a crisis or disasters such as floods or storms.

The repercussions of each crisis depend on the city’s preparedness to respond to specific predictable impacts, and the way citizens perceive and react to those impacts. These factors are extremely variable and depend on values as dissimilar as the smooth operation of the systems or the level of tolerance that each society demonstrates during these events.

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As such, cities are taking steps towards becoming more resilient and to protect their residents, their assets, and to remain functional during crises. Therefore, the first step follows the old psychological maxim: know thyself. The city needs a knowledge of its systems in order to prepare itself. When people have a medical issue, they see a doctor. It’s the same idea with cities; they need a diagnosis from which appropriate decisions are made in order to restore smooth operations as quickly as possible. Moreover, if this diagnosis were done in a cross-sectoral and coordinated manner, this would allow for resource optimization resulting in economic savings. From an economic standpoint, it is important to note that for each dollar invested in disaster preparedness, an estimated five to ten dollars in economic losses are saved .

Unfortunately, awareness is usually preceded by some crisis which has had a significant impact. When this happens, cities realize they are vulnerable and need to improve their capacity to act: preparing themselves, being proactive, determining how to deal with potential crises before they occur, evaluating various scenarios and failures, gathering all the relevant actors and coordinating them, including the civil society. But the process does not stop there: urban resilience is a dynamic process that requires constant revision and updating of the city’s status.

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In a globalized world, where all societies are finally aware of the planet’s limited resources, and suffer from consequences due to the lack of capacity to protect themselves against the disasters that threaten them, now is the time to take steps towards resilience by involving citizens and investing in education and training, so that our cities can be transformed into livable and safe places with the best quality of life, and, ultimately, more resilient.

 

Maíta Fernández- Armesto
Senior Coordinator of the Resilient Cities Programme, UN Habitat in Spain

Gemma Noguera
Editor and Publication Management Specialist of the Resilient Cities Programme, UN Habitat in Spain

WHAT MAKES A CITY RESILIENT?
THE CITY WANTS TO FEEL ITSELF INVULNERABLE, FAST, SMART... THE CITY CALLS ITSELF “SMART CITY” AND THINKS THAT CAN WITHSTAND ANY IMPACT AND KEEP ON PROGRESSING TOWARDS AN UNDEFINED FUTURE.
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However, reality is very obstinate: city happens to be made up by people that are becoming more and more informed and to work using complex technical systems. But both people and complex systems do not always work as foreseen. And since nature and society are much more powerful than cities and cities are changing very fast, and present cities have a lot of weaknesses. If power supply fails, what happens to the other urban services?

As human bodies, cities are also complex systems that do not always work as foreseen and that have also their weaknesses. If we stumble on a rock and fall, we analyze why it has happened, we try learning from our fall and preventing falling again. In other words, we learn to be resilient. Cities do the same.

To make a city resilient we need to build up a network of urban services and infrastructures because, as in a human body, all functions are interconnected. This network must be both solid and flexible, able to withstand crises and to respond in order to protect citizens, their wellbeing, their lives and their assets. And, as resilient people, a resilient city will be able to recover its functioning fast and efficiently, and finally will learn from each crisis to face better the next one.

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In our jargon, we say that to assess the city resilience, we have to know the interdependencies between different city services and infrastructures, To do so, people responsible for improving urban resilience will need to visualize and organize the relevant city data and extract valuable conclusions and to do so they need a community of stakeholders (city staff, service operators, private companies operating in the city, politicians) working together to identify the critical points of the system.

But if we have stumbled once, we can stumble again. That’s why the urban resilience responsible will keep on watching over the city to detect all possible impacts that may affect the city in order to be prepared for the new impact. From his/her resilience office, that in some cases will be connected to sensors or control rooms, the responsible will monitor all key processes, visualize the consequences, simulate impacts, and store and use the associated information.

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In conclusion, to make a city resilient city stakeholders have to engage in a continuous process of improving resilience. This includes:

Planning events simulating and deciding accordingly.

Improving by correcting and projecting current strategies to ensure the continuity of the city in the event of an impact

Preventing impacts by identifying potential risks, validatingrelating and diagnosing hazards and vulnerabilities

Operating the city to be able to withstanding in front of impacts, to respond in case of crisis and to recover functionalities after the impact.

 

Luis Fontanals
OptiCits Co-Founder

Ester Vendrell
COO at OptiCits