Land Use Planning for Community Resilience
Author: Cassie Oswood, Outreach and Communication Coordinator
Dr. Phil Berke, the director of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, delivered a PrepTalk explaining the importance of planning for resilience within local communities. PrepTalks are a speaker series hosted by FEMA that are given by subject-matter experts and thought leaders to spread new ideas, spark conversation, and promote innovative leadership for the issues confronting emergency managers now and over the next 20 years. These talks are meant to provide guidance and discussion amongst emergency managers, academics, and those who work in the field of hazards.
Amongst the strategies that communities use to plan for disaster mitigation, land use is the least used but has the highest benefit:cost ratio. Dr. Berke defines land use as where the population wants to build the homes they live in, the shopping centers, schools, highways, and grocery stores, etc… It is the way that communities are planned out. In his PrepTalk, Dr. Berke also discusses the implications of a 3-phase policy that focuses on land use to research and then put into place more collaborative and effective mitigation strategies.
Dr. Berke explains that planning for resilience starts by researching lessons learned in a community from past disasters and then turning that research into action. The plans of action that are created from the research need to be rooted in the local community. The residents within the community should be involved in the planning process as they know the area and have important insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the community. Dr. Berke explains that the weaknesses in most resilience plans result from a lack of funding and fragmented responsibilities between plans that increase vulnerability. Many plans support disadvantaged populations living in hazardous areas where the community is forced further into poverty after natural disasters occur. Dr. Berke’s response to these faults in planning is a policy that focuses on strengthening coordination in planning at all levels of government, stronger incentives for better and more integrated local planning and policies, and engaging the public, especially marginalized groups.
Planning for resilience is important because it is hard to cope with disasters unless a community is prepared and looking ahead. Land use having the highest benefit:cost ratio makes it a key factor in building more prepared and resilient communities. By planning for resilience, cities can better prepare themselves to absorb environmental impacts, recover, and then build back better and more resilient.