Nov 01, 2013
THEME: Sustainability

The Calm Before the Storm

The following post is an abridgment of an article in the September 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager. To read the full article as published, including links to several resiliency-related resources, visit Today’s Facility Manager online.

Hurricane Sandy came ashore just over a year ago, causing billions of dollars in damage and exposing how vulnerable the northeast coastal metropolitan regions are to extreme weather events. Severe flooding and high winds had a particularly crippling impact, resulting in damage to over 35,000 buildings and in multi-day power outages and fuel shortages. Many critical facilities in the northeast region were severely impacted, with five of New York City’s acute care hospitals and one psychiatric hospital being forced to close.

Many professionals in the facilities planning, design, and construction industry have spent the last year identifying ways in which our facilities can become more resilient and recover more swiftly from extreme weather events of the future. The results of these efforts include a variety of studies undertaken by groups such as New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, the Urban Green Council, the American Institute of Architects, and the New York Building Congress. While each study offers its own unique insights and recommendations for increasing the resiliency of our buildings and communities, the following major findings recur throughout:

  • Strengthen the reliability of power, telecommunications, and critical building systems.
  • Harden buildings and infrastructure to reduce storm damage from high winds and flooding.
  • Increase redundancy and alternate systems in case of primary system failure.
  • Put in place better disaster preparedness planning (based on lessons learned) to increase the speed of response and recovery.
  • Invest in systematic assessments of existing facilities and their vulnerability to the effects of extreme climate events.
  • Adopt improved zoning, regulatory requirements, and building standards where necessary to aid and encourage resiliency and preparedness.

The ultimate goal of these recommendations and others is to maintain essential safety for occupants and other building users throughout the initial disaster and the following recovery period. Critical facilities of all kinds play a crucial role in the sustainability of communities, and deliberate risk management can ensure that these types of facilities continue to support the people that they serve, both during and immediately after extreme weather events.

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