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Dr. Peter Williams, CTO Big Green Innovations

Dr. Peter Williams, CTO Big Green Innovations, IBM

By Dr. Peter Williams

Everyday, each of us is reminded that fire, flood, earthquakes and other hazards make all of us here on planet earth vulnerable. No city or region is completely immune. Disasters happen. They often erupt suddenly with little or no warning.

One city, Coimbatore, India is leading the way in learning to prepare and respond in the face of natural hazard. Coimbatore is a thriving industrial hub with a population of more than 1.5 million people located in Southern India. In a moderate to high seismic zone, Coimbatore is focused on improving energy and power resiliency, better water quality management and improved ecology. Gold Coast,

Coimbatore is piloting the use of a United Nation scorecard, designed by IBM and experts from the engineering firm, AECOM. The scorecard helps put numerical values on various areas of resilience, making it easy for cities to see where they are unprepared and how they are making progress over time. It’s designed to help cities share a common language about planning for disasters. And it lays out achievements in planning and preparation across many areas of urban management.

Resilience is vital because urban disasters are going to affect growing numbers of people. For example, the majority of the world’s population now lives in cities and urbanization is accelerating. Globalization means that disasters’ effects are widespread due to shared supply chains and the danger of epidemics. And unsustainable land use and business practices may make the city even more vulnerable to disasters.

Developing resilience is hard, and it can be costly. For a mayor, it’s a lot more fun to dedicate a new hospital than it is to spend money to reinforce an existing clinic so it can survive an earthquake. But cities need to appoint emergency planners and use the UN guidelines to get ready for whatever may come.

They need to assess their land use and building codes. They need to identify the crucial infrastructure that keeps the city functioning. They need to catalog how likely each piece is to survive a disaster – and what they will do without it. They need to prepare their disaster response.  And they need to plan for standing their economies up again as they recover from a disaster.

Planning for the unexpected is key for any SmarterCity.

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