A new Oak Ridge National Laboratory initiative could help avert disasters in Tennessee, Mississippi and South Carolina and also lead to more information about climate change.
The new Community and Regional Resilience Initiative (CARRI) will be implemented in Gulfport, Miss., Memphis, and Charleston, S.C., to increase "resilience" - the ability to prepare for, respond to and quickly recover from natural and man-made disasters - of the three communities.
These "partner communities" will help develop and share essential knowledge, best practices, tools and techniques to strengthen a community's ability to withstand a major disaster event with minimal downtime to basic government and business services, said CARRI director Warren Edwards.
"We will be seeking insights from the experiences of the Gulfport, Memphis and Charleston communities to construct what we are calling our 'resiliency toolbox,' " Edwards said. "We hope to identify what the partner communities need to be truly resilient; use that information to assess vulnerabilities in other communities; and work with them to help them close the gaps.
"A resilient community is prepared to help prevent or minimize the loss or damage to life, property and the environment and more quickly return citizens to work, reopen businesses, and restore essential services needed for a full and swift economic recovery."
Edwards said the three cities were approached about becoming the first communities for the project because they are susceptible to both natural and man-made disasters.
"Memphis is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes because of its proximity to the New Madrid fault line," Edwards said. "And, of course, Gulfport is currently in the process of recovering from Hurricane Katrina with a strong commitment to becoming an even more resilient community in the event of future storms. Charleston has significant hurricane and earthquake threats. Having made great strides in resilience planning, the city has lessons to share."
CARRI also may provide clues to potential community response to climate change. Tom Wilbanks, ORNL Corporate Fellow and research director for CARRI, said global warming could potentially affect world weather and precipitation patterns. Government leaders are beginning to look at climate change as a national security issue and examining its impacts on ecosystems and economies.
"While the immediate purpose of the study is to examine communities' resilience to storms, this work has definite implications for climate change and will give us a better understanding of how cities will respond to the expected shifts in temperature, weather patterns and environmental conditions we expect as a result," Wilbanks said.
Edwards said CARRI could help communities move beyond their reliance on government and first responders and draw on business, education, and civic resources to prepare, plan and respond as efficiently and quickly as possible in the event of a disaster. CARRI will have access to national and international researchers and practitioners who can augment the findings from the community activities with the best information and practices available.
"All of our partner communities are already doing some great work, so we look forward to working closely with key leaders in those communities to learn from what they are doing well, to help them locate and address any gaps, and to then formalize and develop some new best practices that can be shared and used by other communities."
CARRI is part of the Southeast Region Research Initiative (SERRI). Funded by the Department of Homeland Security, SERRI seeks to provide common tools and methods of anticipating and deterring terrorist attacks and enhancing disaster response for the southeastern United States.
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