Do we need a Resilience Czar?

Recent article by Homeland Security Newswire weighs pros and cons of stronger national leadership for resilience. See Sandy shows need for more effective preparedness, resiliency standards. Some excerpts follow:

The rebuilding efforts following the devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy have triggered a discussion over preparedness and resiliency in America’s commercial and residential buildings.Some experts callfor a presidential appointment of a building resilience “’czar”’ with authority to coordinate and seek synergies between public and private sector initiatives.

The rebuilding efforts following the devastation wreaked by Superstorm Sandy have triggered a discussion over preparedness and resiliency in America’s commercial and residential buildings. Communities in areas affected by Sandy have been developing ways better to withstand the next hurricane. Communities, each with its own set of standards for building resiliency, are reaching out to state and federal agencies for information, funding, and insight. DHS offers details on building-vulnerability assessment tools. FEMA offers details on federal resilient-building initiatives. Disastersafety.org and postsandyinitiative.org offers plenty of advice from insurers and architects for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Engineering News-Record reports that while there are several outlets to turn to for information on building sustainability and resiliency, progress on building resiliency and federal coordination on the topic have been minimal. “The U. S. has been somewhat paralyzed in the development of an effective building-resiliency response by the extreme politicizing of the topic of climate change,” says Ben Sandzer-Bell, chief resilience officer for Climate Adaptation Solutions. “The level of political toxicity prevents effective engagement by a large segment of the American body politic, industry, academia, NGOs and media.”

Sandzer-Bell’s solution is for a presidential appointment of a building resilience “czar” with authority to coordinate and seek synergies between public and private sector initiatives.

Robert Wible, a building regulatory reform consultant, agrees. “We cannot afford to keep reinventing wheels, spending precious public- and private-sector funds and staff time on duplicative and, at times, conflicting actions,” Wible told ENR. “We need someone and someplace to connect the dots.”

Currently, there is no central body to facilitate discussions and set a unified mission between private and public sector initiatives on building resiliency. Not everyone supports the idea of a presidential appointee to supervise or take the role of a resiliency czar. “I am not in favor of making large government even larger,” says Dennis Wessel, senior vice president at Karpinski Engineering and an ASHRAE director.

3 thoughts on “Do we need a Resilience Czar?

  1. To echo both thoughts…FLASH – non-govt – more effective at getting info on safe buildings than almost anyone…Corps of Engineers has as a part of its mission to develop information on strengthening infrastructure. Those in favor seem to be using “motivated reasoning” – an end run to advance some other agenda.

  2. Why should this be a federal role at all? IMHO the only way to enhance resilience is to start at the local level and build up. Federal involvement may be appropriate for a catastrophic event – just to referee between the States as they compete for resources – but even that is questionable if the States communicate with each other and coordinate their programs.

  3. Seems like rather than creating a new czar, with all the included personnel to support them, we should better use the folks we have. Every FEMA Regional office has a Federal Preparedness Coordinator, and it looks to me like the author is calling for better preparedness coordination…Resilience, as the buzzword of the month, isn’t currently in their mandate, but it wouldn’t take much to add it. And given that some FPCs are also the Division Directors over non-disaster grant programs for the Regions it makes an even better fit.

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