Quote By: Abena Ojetayo, Chief Resilience Officer, Tallahassee, Florida
Abena Ojetayo is the first Chief Resilience Officer for Tallahassee, where she partners across city government and with external stakeholders to build the community’s capacity to adapt and thrive in the face of acute shocks and chronic stresses. She develops a cohesive sustainability and resilience strategy and oversees the integration of effective high-priority policies, programs, and initiatives. Abena has worked in various countries, including as an energy and infrastructure planner for a historic town in Greece devastated by an earthquake; managing an urban design team for a flood prone city in Nigeria, and helping to redesign a future-proof NYC campus in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Cities will continue to experience unprecedented shocks and stresses to their systems, services, and way of life. Many of these events will feel unpredictable (like the scene of an active shooter), and at times, unavoidable (like being in the path of a hurricane). When disaster strikes, no uplifting hashtag can overshadow real and intentional planning. Federal emergency response aid will continue to decrease and be delayed as disasters become costlier and more frequent. That means cities must prepare to save themselves in the event of a disaster and rely on their own financial reserves to do so. This is the new normal.
From their ever-changing demographics to the exchanges beyond political boundaries, cities today continue to be places of great innovation and also great challenges. For cities that keep their heads in the sand, the impacts of these shocks and stresses will ripple throughout the entire community in profound ways. For those that plan ahead and invest upstream, their efforts will be greeted with enthusiastic new partners from unlikely sectors and innovative financial resources.
As cities grapple with their increasingly complex systems and a changing climate fraught with risk, the seduction of globalization can tempt communities to take an approach from one corner of the world and apply it wholesale to their locality. But disasters are local, so too resilience must be hyper-local. Building resilience will take planning, mitigation, and adaptation from the global level down to the neighborhood and household levels within an appropriate cultural and historical context. Local government is where the rubber meets the road.
The built environment hardly exists in a void, and social cohesion is essential to community resilience. Here, too, local governments can help bring people together, create distributed yet integrated systems, and model civility. Against the backdrop of sensational 24-hour news, it will feel like the world is ending tomorrow. Strong communities support each other on “blue-sky” days, and on “gray sky days’” they remind each other that the sun will rise again and that together they can build a better future.
Download Leading Edge Research: Disaster Recovery Essentials, a tool for preparing your community to face the unexpected.