What Makes a City Resilient?

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Resiliency has been on our minds lately. COP21 was held last month in Paris, and while the broader goals were around international agreement on renewables and energy efficiency, there was still much to be said for how our energy infrastructure takes part in building resilient communities. After gaining some inspiration from a great piece by Corporate Knights, Jimmy shared his thoughts on resiliency (below):

Natural disasters, terrorism, crime, winter storms. These are but a few things that can disrupt the normal flow of life in a city. We expect that, no matter what the disaster, we would be able to recover and return to life as usual. The ability to recover from an unexpected change is the definition of resiliency. As much as a city’s social infrastructure – such as police, fire, hospitals, etc. – need to be resilient to disasters, so too the physical infrastructure of roads, electricity and telecommunications need consideration. A city can manage these attributes by creating emergency disaster response plans, building redundancy of electric power lines, and marking roads clearly in the case of evacuations.

A loss of energy in any disaster can severely disrupt many business practices. These concepts apply too for a business and for energy. A business can be resilient if it can recover from an unexpected event, be it a natural disaster, an equipment failure or the loss of institutional knowledge by someone leaving. There are several best practices that can help build in resiliency to an organization:

  • Collaboration across cross-disciplines – Individuals and departments know best what they need in order to function during a loss of energy. By bringing cross-disciplinary teams together, one can understand where needs overlap and how collaboration can improve response times. Convening teams of finance, operations, communications, facilities, sales and marketing can help create innovative solutions and ideas that can mitigate disruptions.
  • Remove or mitigate single points of failure – Identify equipment or processes that are critical to your business success and find ways to minimize their impact. Global companies build factories across a range of geographic, political and environmental spectrums in order to mitigate disruptions by any one area. Likewise, having grid and backup power can help mitigate disruptions.
  • Planning, preparation and long term thinking – Having a preparedness plan, response plan and a recovery plan will help keep the team knowing what they need to do to bring a company back to business as usual. Training and rehearsals don’t hurt either.
  • Best practices evaluation – Develop a set of best practices for your own business operations. Be outcome oriented.