Advancing Resilience Today, Anticipating Tomorrow: Reflections from the 12th Annual Building Resilience Conference
On July 26-27, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosted the 12th Annual Building Resilience Conference. The conference brought together prominent business leaders, government officials, and industry experts to share knowledge and best practices through action-oriented panels, fireside chats, and keynote speeches.
Building Resilience featured a diverse array of perspectives on the issues facing different sectors and how we can come together through business-led solutions to create stronger, more resilient communities locally and globally. Engaging sessions highlighted urgent and critical topics in resilience, including the importance of partnerships between government and companies of all sizes, the roles, and risks of emerging technology in resilience frameworks, and encouraging action through hands-on collaborative scenario-based exercises.
Strengthening Private-Public Partnerships to Increase Global Resilience
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell opened the conference as keynote speaker emphasizing the importance of public-private partnerships. Deanne Criswell’s remarks kicked off an invigorating start to the day by setting a unified tone amongst the audience around the evolving landscape for disaster response, including how the impacts of climate change will require working together across sectors to drive solutions.
“Our threat landscape continues to evolve. What we consider to be normal has changed. There is no longer for us a wildfire season or a tornado season.” Criswell remarked. “We are being asked to step up and lead in ways that we’ve never been asked to previously and we need you all to join us in this effort.”
Criswell’s keynote centered on the ability of private-public partnerships to withstand unpredictable yet inevitable scenarios to build long-term resilience in the U.S., learning from and building on lessons learned from transformative disasters like Hurricane Ian.
Private-public partnerships are instrumental in advancing resilience and yielding mutually beneficial outcomes, therefore helping navigate complexities ahead. Pepper Natonski, VP of Government Affairs at Duke Energy noted that bringing together a local and national scale of communities, governments, private sectors, and non-profits to create these public-private partnerships can result in a win-win scenario following a crisis.
“For us, resiliency also means things like workforce development with respect to human capital management. It means economic development. We partner with our communities to try to bring businesses to the areas we serve,” stated Natonski.
Fostering strong symbiotic long-term partnerships can also remove roadblocks to achieving all hazards resilience to complex and interconnected risks from cyber-attacks to natural disasters.
“The more that we can establish these relationships for benchmarking, for engagement, to consolidate and network our resources, the better we’re going to be equipped to respond to crises and really make sure our communities are set up for success,” said Heidi Jedlicka Halvarson, Senior Philanthropy Program Manager at Medtronic Foundation.
Leveraging Emerging Technologies and Data to Predict Disasters, Mitigate Risk and Bolster Response
As artificial intelligence (AI) further integrates into our daily lives, its role in disaster risk mitigation, prediction, and response unveils new avenues to solutions, harnessing the potential of emerging technologies and their applications.
Technological advancements can address critical challenges and vulnerabilities during and after disasters, as well as enhance predictions and strengthen response efforts. Panelists emphasized the intersection of technology and resilience and how emerging technologies can shape the future of disaster resilience. Application uses include predictive data analytics unveiling insights on power grids to economic empowerment of displaced communities and individuals through blockchain financial technologies utilizing decentralized rapid and transparent financial transactions amid crises.
Reflecting upon lessons learned from Hurricane Maria, CEO of Disaster Tech, Sean Griffin, noted a lack of prediction as a defining factor in the speed of response. “We can use AI to learn from the past but also using predictive data for the future over the horizon to make better investment decisions.”
The era of digital transformation has already improved response through machine learning models, driving streamlined decision-making processes, and leveraging these systems as knowledge databases for lessons learned in the future. As with most technology, the maximum efficacy of these technologies is dependent on human outcomes like digital literacy and must center on trust fostered through data privacy, transparency, and community engagement.
"The technology standing alone offers an incredible promise, but without a deep understanding of who creates it, of how it's deployed, how it impacts communities, and how it leads to meaningful transformations in our social experience, we've missed the point,” moderator Vilas Dhar, President of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation emphasized.
Taking Actionable Steps Towards Building a More Resilient Future
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Marc DeCourcey moderated a fireside chat on “Moving Towards the Need Fastest,” highlighting the power of building private-public cross sector partnerships to quickly respond in times of crisis.
Two leaders from the American Red Cross and The UPS Foundation share their lessons learned:
“Don’t put the relationship in a box. Think broader than what we do,” Trevor Riggen, President, Humanitarian Services at the American Red Cross noted. “Pick up that opportunity as much as you can. Think beyond whatever pillars you have in your giving strategy because more than likely given the way our world is operating. There is a clear intersection, and it focuses on the people who are vulnerable. It focuses on those frontline communities who are suffering. There is an intersection in our value set if we look for it.”Joe Ruiz, VP Social Impact at The UPS Foundation notes that the private sector has a plethora of skill sets or “superpowers” to offer the NGO community from logistics to telecommunications. “When you think about how to build resilience, or how to plug into the resilience of your community, use those superpowers. It’s not just about giving our money. Maybe it’s marketing or logistics expertise.” Through leveraging our superpowers, Ruiz says “we can help build the capacity so that we can do 10 times more support in a given year that we can now.”
Day two of Building Resilience continued the conversation with Dr. Mike Brennan, Director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, tuning in live from headquarters in Miami, FL. Dr. Brennan emphasized the importance of storm surges, rainfall, and wind risk assessment and the need for preparedness and post-storm safety. Over the last 10 years, fatality trends have found freshwater flooding from storms to have the largest impact on lives lost, yet equally, indirect fatalities due to post-storm effects like long-duration power outages and lack of access to resources are just as significant.
“There are multiple hazards associated with tropical storms and hurricanes. That's what makes them so dangerous as a weather phenomenon, but the biggest hazard is water.”
Dr. Brennan stressed that inclement weather is inevitable, sharing words of advice on preparedness: “You have to be prepared. You have to be ready for a storm to impact you every year because that chance is there.”
In addition to mainstage plenary sessions, the conference also offered a variety of breakout sessions and guided exercises, allowing conference participants to connect and collaborate with peers and experts. Sessions covered topics including small business resilience and expert-crafted exercises designed to help professionals both build new and improve existing resilience frameworks. For example, the Catastrophic Drought Scenario discussion was designed to enhance cross-sector coordination, explore climate-driven considerations, and identify socioeconomic and humanitarian impacts. The scenario moved participants through four interactive stages of a mock drought and walked through the implications the disaster would have on communities featuring different perspectives.
To view all mainstage sessions, visit our Youtube.
The 12th Annual Building Resilience Conference set the stage for learning, collaboration, and igniting new solutions and possibilities to strengthen communities in the U.S. and around the world. As we anticipate the complexity of tomorrow, the partnerships and connections made will push us forward as a global community to advancing resilience.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation leverages its global partner network—including businesses of all sizes, nonprofits, governments, and state and local chambers—to build stronger and more resilient communities.
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