Exploring the Theme: Building Resilient Smart Communities

June 6, 2018 Karen Stewart

How can Smart Communities achieve resilience so they are ready to deploy essential services in the wake of a disaster? Find out how ArcGIS Community Resilience Solution can help communities plan their critical infrastructure and ensure emergency preparedness at all times. 

Smart Communities is an overarching term that has come to mean a city that is environmentally and fiscally sustainable, safe, healthy, liveable, well-run and resilient. These ‘smart’ communities are productive, responsive to residents and able to handle economic and environmental challenges.

One of those challenges is being prepared for a disaster. We may take for granted the cleanliness of our water and the reliability of our telecommunication and transportation systems, but that can quickly change in the wake of a disaster. Essential services, which use the assets, facilities, technologies and networks essential for the health, safety and well-being of any society, are based on what is referred to as critical infrastructure (CI). Government organizations and first responders know well that resilience is at the centre of a community’s CI and their essential systems and services. 

In order to ensure that resilience, Emergency Management BC (EMBC) decided to develop a CI assessment tool to assist local authorities in examining their CI in the context of hazard scenarios. They wanted to build a tool that would present a full picture of all that is involved in keeping each local authority’s critical infrastructure ready to deploy services as they are needed, and to develop a heightened and ongoing awareness of the community’s resilience.

The first step was to map a community’s requirements during an emergency. EMBC and their partner organizations started by evaluating and understanding the landscape of their community. Although Excel-based tools like the one built by EMBC fare well in early stages, a holistic approach requires municipalities to integrate spatial location into their critical asset and risk assessment programs. This calls for technology with advanced analytical capabilities.

An authoritative picture of the various assets based on location, combined with the requirements demanded by emergency situations or hazard scenarios, reveals patterns and trends within the community. That analysis enables authorities to prioritize and target initiatives, and makes ‘next steps’ towards improving resilience within their regions and across boundaries much easier to formulate.

This analysis uses location as a lens for seeing the bigger picture. Creating a comprehensive resilience plan involves a variety of parameters which identify, evaluate and understand a database of critical and important dependencies within CI.  And of course, natural or man-made disasters profoundly affect the people who live through them, and the same analytical capabilities which help understand emergency services can also help municipalities understand and prepare to cope with the dynamic demographic makeup of their community. 

Progressive governments are using a platform such as ArcGIS to link data and expose advanced insights. They can model scenarios based on population density variations from weekdays versus weekends, and identify additional resources which may be needed to address cultural, linguistic or accessibility issues during an emergency situation. 

The ArcGIS Community Resilience Solution, a part of ArcGIS for Local Government, is designed to map and monitor the resilience of assets within local communities and across multiple jurisdictions. It supports community education and feedback and can be deployed quickly and easily across organizations to address the needs of stakeholders, which is perfect for integration with critical infrastructure and risk management programs.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of ArcNorth News.

About the Author

Karen Stewart

As the Municipal Solutions Industry Manager at Esri Canada, Karen has helped numerous municipalities across Canada review and improve their smart communities, open data, GIS, asset management and public works strategies. Along with a Bachelor of Technology degree in Geomatics Engineering, she’s a registered AScT in Geomatics through ASTTBC and a Certified GIS Professional (GISP) with nearly three decades of experience. In the community, Karen serves as the Secretary/Treasurer on the board of directors for the Public Works Association BC Chapter (PWABC). Communication and creative expression are important to Karen, and you’ll likely find her out in the serenity of nature sketching or painting in her spare time.

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