Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

Summit on Resilience II: The Next Storm

Dyson College of Arts and Sciences - Year in Review 2011-2012

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In his keynote, Stéphane Hallegatte, a World Bank senior economist whose specialty is the interface of policy, finance and risk, emphasized the importance of the human factor amid all the concrete, asphalt, silicon and steel. It's fine to talk about creating incentives to encourage the private sector to improve the durability of the electrical grid or critical assets like hospitals, Hallegatte said. But decisions that can make or break progress are shaped by awareness of the benefits of acting and risks of inaction. Too often that information is missing. "Only one third of Americans living in a floodplain know they are living in a floodplain," he said. "The information might exist on a nice website with nice maps and so on, but most people don't even know the information is available. There is a big step between knowing something and making the right decision." He said inertia is a factor, as well, citing how we tend to nod when offered advice on losing weight to cut disease risks, but then avoid doing the harder work of dieting. A simple phrase summed his prime point: "We need to spend less time thinking about disaster and much more time thinking about why people are taking risks, and how we can get people the same benefits without the risk." The following panel, led by Rose Shyman Littlejohn, managing director for corporate security at PricewaterhouseCoopers, focused on the role of insurance and proactive investments in emergency-response preparedness. The panel offered a range of vantage points—from wrenching memories of Sandy provided by Mayor Vincent Barrella of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.—population 4,642—to a discussion of lower Manhattan's strong and weak spots by Gary Lawrence, vice president and chief sustainability officer for AECOM, an international design firm with 85,000 employees. Jerome Hatfield, regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, described how that agency is working with various stakeholders to ensure that limited resources are put to best use. Jill Dalton, a managing director at AON Risk Solutions, stressed the need to prepare not just for the immediate aftermath of a shock, but also the long path to recovery and regrowth. Given the profound impact of a loss of electricity, which was perhaps the most glaring failure during Hurricane Sandy as much of lower Manhattan went dark in an instant, a panel of experts explored new approaches to keeping the lights on. Community capacity only goes so far. Without energy, social vulnerability after a catastrophe is greatly compounded. 9

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