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Towards disaster-resilient cities: an approach for setting priorities in infrastructure mitigation efforts

Abstract

Making cities more disaster resilient is an important goal for civil society. We develop and apply a method to elicit ranked preferences to set priorities among alternatives for a small set of selected contexts for improving regional infrastructure resilience. Our approach is based on preference judgments from representatives of infrastructure systems and civil society, in which we characterize the key steps in framing how to select, characterize, and evaluate alternatives in a given decision context. We then provide an approach to ranking alternatives for a given potential infrastructure failure interaction risk, relying on an expert panel approach. We discuss the evaluation of this approach by the participants and views of its advantages and disadvantages. We also offer some caveats and suggestions for future applications. Key findings include understanding of what is needed to set responsible priorities for regional infrastructure resilience, and the specific findings, for the region of interest, include priorities for enhancing fuel supply, water supply, and road mobility.

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Notes

  1. See resiliencealliance.org for many papers and perspectives on resilience, although that site is largely concerned with resilience in linked human/environmental systems. Holling (1996) discusses the relationships between ecological and engineering concepts of resilience. McDaniels et al. (2006) discuss ways of enhancing resilience within specific infrastructure facilities. Recently, authors have linked resilience planning and risk analysis (Park et al. 2013; Linkov et al. 2014) and developed various means of practical measurement of resilience (Linkov et al. 2013).

  2. Note that we use the term mitigation to refer to ex ante efforts to lessen the likelihood and consequences of disasters, in keeping with the disaster management literature.

  3. Some of these research programs can be viewed at www.resilientus.org, www.itrc.org.uk, or www.rusi.org/ukresilience/, among others.

  4. Other challenging tasks include (1) obtaining funding for long-term risk reduction, which competes with near-term operating and service priorities, and (2) implementation in upgrading or siting new facilities. We do not address these topics here.

  5. We thank an anonymous referee for raising these points.

  6. See Chang et al. (2014) for the earthquake scenario, interview materials and associated map in Appendix A.

  7. Ideally, priorities should also be drawn from the perspectives of civil society, including those who may be affected by IFIs in disasters. This is another context calling for innovative multiagency and multistakeholder governance, which we do not pursue here. To some extent, the interests of affected parties are reflected in the judgments of the participants who were planners or emergency managers for the region, as discussed subsequently.

  8. Specifically, the kinds of mitigation measure discussed in subsequent sections should be relevant and beneficial in a wide array of extreme events. As observed in McDaniels et al. (2007), the kinds of actions one can take to improve resilience in systems are limited to specific kinds of alternatives, over a wide range of extreme events.

  9. As suggested by an anonymous reviewer, future work should also consider that there are other resilience strategies beyond hardening and redundancy, which could include resistance (directing the threat away from areas where it will cause disruption to critical function such as a firewall around a critical asset) and cushionability (the capacity to support graceful degradation of non-essential function during periods of stress).

  10. These include: what is the specific decision being addressed? What are the relevant objectives for this decision? How is performance of the alternatives to be measured? What are creative, new alternatives? What are their consequences in terms of the selected objectives and measures? What are the uncertainties? What are linked decisions? What is preferred? Hammond et al. (1999) discuss how to frame and address these questions in informative, analytic ways.

  11. ftp://ftpsry.env.gov.bc.ca/pub/outgoing/fpp/consequence_of_loss_rating_documents/FPPworkbook080704.pdf.

  12. JELC was the Joint Emergency Liaison Committee (JELC), a partnership between local governments in the Lower Mainland and the Province of British Columbia. Using a cooperative model, it focused on cross-jurisdictional emergency planning and preparedness through establishment of task focused on working groups (Metro Vancouver 2009) (http://www.metrovancouver.org/PLANNING/EMERGENCY/Pages/default.aspx).

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Acknowledgments

We deeply thank the interview and workshop participants for their time and participation in this study. Research assistants Andrea Procyk and Courtney Beaubien also contributed to this project. This research was supported by Infrastructure Canada through the Knowledge, Outreach, and Awareness Program, and the National Science Foundation under grant number CMS-0332002. The efforts of Tim McDaniels in preparing the paper were supported by the Climate and Energy Decision-Making Center (CEDM) located in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation (SES-0949710) and Carnegie Mellon University. The CEDM in turn supports researchers in the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia.

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Correspondence to Timothy L. McDaniels.

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McDaniels, T.L., Chang, S.E., Hawkins, D. et al. Towards disaster-resilient cities: an approach for setting priorities in infrastructure mitigation efforts. Environ Syst Decis 35, 252–263 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-015-9544-7

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Keywords

  • Infrastructure systems
  • Resilience
  • Infrastructure failure interdependencies
  • Mitigation priority setting
  • Risk ranking
  • Expert elicitation
  • Preference ranking