By Haris Alibašić, Office of Energy and Sustainability, Director, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Community-wide resiliency preparedness takes into consideration emergency preparedness, energy planning, health, and safety issues. Weather patterns are no longer predicated upon existing patterns, and the impact on regions, cities, and especially urban areas will be significant. There have been more frequent and severe heat waves, excessive rain events and flooding, and changes in temperature and precipitation pattern impending social systems, ecosystems, and the economy. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that “at least three major climate trends are relevant to the energy sector: Increasing air and water temperatures; Decreasing water availability in some regions and seasons; Increasing intensity and frequency of storm events, flooding, and sea level rise.” (p. i). Climate change presents a whole new set of challenges when it comes to emergency planning and preparedness for municipalities.
Taking into consideration those critical elements, emergency plans incorporate the latest science to better understand impacts from such changes, and develop various alternatives. A group of national organizations including ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, US Green Building Council (USGBC), and National League of Cities formed the Resilient Communities for America. The group recognized that “local governments are on the front lines of these challenges and must respond.”
Tying its sustainability plan directly to emergency planning, the City is able to respond to heat wave events, more hazardous rain events, and to have a better control of the events arising from extreme weather. The City of Grand Rapids has implemented these climate mitigation and adaptation strategies:
Another step will be building the regional resiliency plan. Recently, the West Michigan Community Sustainability Partnership (CSP), a diverse network of organizations embracing sustainability held its summit, which focused on areas for regional collaboration of sustainability and regional resiliency planning. Moving resiliency planning to a regional level brings the whole new phase of outcome-driven sustainability planning and incorporates best practices. By using a dynamic approach to resiliency planning, cities continually adapt to changing economic, environmental, and social conditions as a result of new realities. Sustainable organizations and communities need to constantly build upon existing plans, layering and preparing to adapt and mitigate new occurrences.
For more information about the City of Grand Rapids’ sustainability efforts, please visit www.sustainablegr.org.
Haris Alibašić directs the City of Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability and teaches graduate courses in public administration and sustainability at Grand Valley State University. Mr. Alibašić is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University, with a research focus on sustainability, energy and public policy, and is a recipient of the Commitment to Social Change doctoral scholarship.