The present generation and the ones that follow will remember 2020 as the year where we all learned what Resilience means to our societies. Professionals from all disciplines and fields are now trying to contribute to our local and global resilience by sharing knowledge, tools and technologies or simply exercising solidarity. Leadership during this crisis is being learned and practiced by governments and companies contributing to a more resilient world.
During these past few years, a global community of professionals had already started working with cities and companies to stress the importance of creating a healthy governance to deal with strategies and measures or use new technologies to improve the resilience of our territories and organizations. They have been putting a lot of effort in creating and disseminating solutions to be prepared to cope with, recover, and learn when an emergency, a crisis, an impact, a shock, a stress or a disruption occurs. Their professional background comes from multiple areas – emergency and disaster risk management, health safety and security, business continuity, urban innovation, climate change, hydrology, engineering, geography, sociology…. Often, they were working with cities or organizations which had started thinking about resilience (going beyond what was legally compulsory) as a reaction to a serious local crisis or as the result of obtaining public or para-public funding as either innovators or pioneers in this field. Some companies, anticipating disruptions and their economic impact, have also been working to be prepared. I am sure that those who had the chance to work in these areas of resilience will all agree that some aspects of resilience thinking now have a renewed interest with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among these renewed discussions concerning concepts pertaining to resilience, I think that looking at cascading effects and the interdependencies between systems is essential to help in managing the actual and future situations relating to resilience and continuity planning, as well as improving collaboration among the different stakeholders during an emergency. The cascading effect refers to a disruption that propagates in a domino effect because the affected system (a service, an infrastructure, a process, a sector, etc.) is interdependent with another system. This effect can propagate and collapse a larger system, such as that of a city or a critical industrial site. Different situations can arise depending on the scenario faced – a lack of a critical component for a new product after a fire just before Christmas time; a lack of municipal organic waste collection due to a strike during a heatwave; a water supply shortage because a gas explosion during a drought; the collapse of a health service during a flooding due to climate change, combined with a telecom blackout because of a mass connection by citizens that are in lockdown during a pandemic…
Therefore, in a context where the new normal will be re-invented, some ideas, technologies or innovations will be accelerated and others will just be stopped, resilience can be one of these buzz words that suddenly becomes dramatically real and tangible
Therefore, in a context where the new normal will be re-invented, some ideas, technologies or innovations will be accelerated and others will just be stopped, resilience can be one of these buzz words that suddenly becomes dramatically real and tangible. In this context, innovators who are used to dealing with impacts, hazard, risks, interdependencies and cascading effects, and who worked in updating emergency plans that were obsolete by adding new decision-making tools, are now all advanced local learners of this global situation.
Thus, since everyone will have experienced a global shock, resilience can now be the new normal. And, as every country is mobilizing available health professionals to fight this pandemic, resilience practitioners and innovators, together with other professionals, will also be called upon to assist central governments, small and large cities or all types of companies in order to create a new operative resilience-based movement to truly apply all the lessons learned.
Ignasi Fontanals, Directeur Europe REZILIO
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*Some resources to know more about cascading effects and resilience:
Below are some resources to start working with a perspective of resiliency in relation to interdependencies and cascading effects. There are many others.
- C40 & AXA, Understanding infrastructure interdependencies in cities, https://www.c40cities.org/researches/understanding-infrastructure-interdependencies-in-cities
- Cepril, Le territoire et ses réseaux techniques face au risque d’inondation, https://www.cepri.net/tl_files/Guides%20CEPRI/Guide%20reseau.pdf
- Resilience First, Guide to resilience planning for business communities, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01676285/document
- Resilience Shift, Resilience tools: Bringing users and developers together to improve practice, https://www.resilienceshift.org/publication/resilience-tools/
- SYSTRA, 3rd European Conference on Flood Risk Management, Analysis of disruptions cascade effect within and between urban sociotechnical systems in a context of risks, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01676285/document