Planning for resilience, i.e. the ability to adapt to changing conditions and withstand/recover quickly from disruption

must, by its nature, encompass a wide array of issues (economic vitality, water resources, housing stock, transportation facilities, natural resources, land use patterns, etc.). Given the geography of Florida, a key focus for planners in this state is incorporating the goal of resilience into challenges that are presented by natural hazards (Hurricanes, Floods, Tornadoes, etc.) and the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise. This goes much deeper than hazard mitigation, which is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters. Rather than preparing for a specific disaster or event, a resilient community is one that can face an array of unpredictable challenges and disturbances with minimal long-term impacts. In addition, certain communities, especially in coastal areas, must be prepared for a future condition that may not allow the same development intensity, location, type or access. Through the use of innovative tools and strategies offered to planners, we can transition our communities, economies, and the built environment into being resilient to these adverse impacts. We will also need to consider the impacts and revisions to growth patterns and public facility needs for adjoining jurisdictions and areas of the state to absorb what can be long-term “guests” or permanent population relocation.

To foster this transition to resilience, planners must aim to create communities which have:

  • Infrastructure that can withstand natural hazards
  • Development patterns occurring away from high hazard areas
  • Threatened or vulnerable facilities relocated to safer areas
  • Protected environmental systems that assist in hazard mitigation
  • Streamlined Economic Recovery Programs
  • Regional plans for recovery and redevelopment

Other responses that assist in building resilience within communities include outreach and education of citizens and business owners within the community. This education commonly occurs through collaborative initiatives with community leaders and stakeholders. Topics covered usually address risk reduction, preparedness, as well as other topics under the scope of resilience. Education and outreach are vital because disaster preparedness and knowledge on potential vulnerabilities of housing, business, etc. often occur through word of mouth and through community involvement. By educating citizens you are empowering a community to carry on resilient practices, as well as educate others.

Among strategies that are used to implement this vision of resilience are adaptation planning and post-disaster redevelopment planning. Adaptation planning involves responding and adapting to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise to become more resilient over a period of time. Because of the comprehensive nature of adaptation planning, by assessing and planning in response to long-term vulnerabilities, adaptation assists in raising a community or regions level of resilience for the future. Section 163.3177(6)(g)(10) of the Florida Statutes now gives communities the option to develop adaptation action areas within low lying zones in order to improve resilience to coastal flooding and related impacts of sea-level rise. The purpose of such a designation is to prioritize funding for infrastructure projects related to adaptation planning.

The post-disaster redevelopment process helps communities plan for the long-term disaster recovery period giving local governments the ability to rebuild in a more resilient manner. Through Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, as well as the Division of Emergency Management, a Statewide Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan Planning Initiative was created to assist in guiding the creation of these plans. To date there are 13 cities and counties that have taken advantage of this guidance, creating plans of their own.

Through the research and leadership provided by multiple agencies, organizations, cities and counties, planners are provided with a set of tools that will enable the planning of more resilient communities. Within this site are national studies and guidebooks created by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, NOAA, the American Planning Association, as well as other groups, which provide guidance on how to incorporate resiliency and adaptation into community and comprehensive planning, as well as plan for post-disaster redevelopment.

Also on the site is a toolkit, which features examples of Florida communities, such as Broward County, Punta Gorda, and Lee County that have taken the initiative to create strategies to adapt, plan, and cultivate more resilient communities. The Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan assesses potential vulnerabilities and relates them to issues ranging from water supply to major employers within the area. These vulnerabilities are prioritized and adaptations for the City are suggested. One of the most influential examples within the toolkit comes from Broward County’s Comprehensive Plan, which now has a Climate Change Element. Within the Climate Change Element objectives and policies can be found which relate to adaptation of transportation systems, the built environment, natural systems, water resources and services, and emergency preparedness and disaster management. Finally, Lee County has a resiliency strategy that identifies specific strategies in various sectors, ranging from infrastructure, coastal economies, and water, to green and renewable energy options.

All systems should strive to be resilient. As planners this is our goal for the communities in which we work and for the rural and natural lands that still exist in the state.