California coalition kicks off resilience webinar series this week

Natural hazards don’t have to become natural disasters if you properly prepare. That’s called resilience. And it’s the focus of a free year-long webinar series that starts this week.

By Megan Sever, science writer and editor (@megansever4)

Citation: Sever, M., 2020, Resilience webinar series kicks off this week, Temblor,

As states start to shut down again due to rising COVID-19 cases, we worry what this means for the economy. Will businesses survive? Will people lose their jobs, or worse, their homes? The truth is, no one knows which businesses will survive and which won’t. No one knows who will lose their jobs or homes. But those businesses and people who prepare for whatever disaster might befall them are the ones with the best chance to survive. This is called building resilience. And whether the disaster is the pandemic or a natural hazard like an earthquake, wildfire or hurricane, building resilience allows businesses and individuals to be prepared and to recover more quickly.

Starting on Wednesday, Nov. 18, a coalition of California-based businesses and business organizations led by the U.S. Resiliency Council (USRC) and Optimum Seismic, a Southern California contractor, will offer a year-long webinar series. Registration and attendance are free.

The series, announced during the Great ShakeOut in October, is aimed at decisionmakers, says Evan Reis, executive director of USRC. That includes people in the “business, lending, insurance and policy sectors who will be making decisions about implementing investments in resilience,” he says.

Smaller businesses, plus nonprofits and community-based organizations, “all of whom are essential to any community and economic recovery after a major disaster … would likely benefit most from these seminars,” says Aaron Gross, chief resilience officer for the office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Gross is participating in the webinar. “I would also like to see these types of businesses that serve or exist in low-income/higher-vulnerability communities, as these communities always disproportionately suffer from whatever disaster comes along,” Gross says. “So keeping those small/medium businesses and community-based organizations functioning can minimize the cascading challenges that shocks present, like job loss, income loss, access to supplies/food, access to local services, etc.”

Anyone, anywhere is welcome to attend the webinar, Reis says. There will be a focus on earthquakes, Gross adds, but “many of the ideas, concepts, skills and plans to be discussed revolve around predisaster planning and ways to protect your employees, customers, business or property, both predisaster and postdisaster.” That includes concepts like how to communicate with customers and staff, insurance information and FEMA/recovery programs. No matter where you are, you’re likely to gain some tips to make yourself or your business more resilient. “We want to make the case that resilience is good stewardship, good governance and good business,” Reis says.

Natural hazards don’t have to become natural disasters. These natural events only become disasters where human beings and our infrastructure are involved — where lives are lost, buildings are damaged and the costs of dealing with and rebuilding after the hazard can skyrocket. Disasters after a natural hazard event can ripple through a community, with long-lasting, devastating effects on vulnerable buildings and communities. Buildings or infrastructure that collapse could take years or decades to rebuild. Jobs would be lost in those businesses that can’t rebuild. Homes not destroyed by the event might be lost to foreclosure or eviction if people can’t pay their mortgage or rent. In this way, natural hazards create cascading effects through communities.

But this scenario can be avoided, at least in part. These buildings and communities can be made more resilient prior to the hazard striking — this is creating resilience.

“The cycle of preparing for, responding to and recovering from natural disasters is ongoing,” Reis noted in a trailer for the webinar series. “Resilience is learning how to be better at each the next time disaster strikes.”

USRC and Optimum Seismic, plus coalition partners — the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles County Business Federation, the California Earthquake Authority and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation — have brought together natural hazard scientists, structural engineers, architects, insurance and real estate experts, policy experts and more for the 12-part series.

These experts will present the data that indicate why spending money to prepare for a hazard is well worth the cost in the long term.

Topics tend to focus on earthquakes, but within the series there will likely be episodes that highlight other natural hazards as well, Reis says. Each webinar will focus on a different topic of building resilience, from looking at building codes and sustainable resilient design, to incentivizing investment in resilience and the economic (and other) benefits of seismic retrofitting. The webinars also will discuss how to set public policy around resilience and will highlight successful implementation of resilient design and retrofit, Reis says. “The key objective of the series is to empower decisionmakers to make the business and economic case for resiliency.”

“The economic vitality of any city is reliant on the resilience of its business community,” Gross says. “The business community not only provides goods and services to the residents of that city, but provides jobs and wages for their employees to survive, provides daycare/afterschool/education so parents can go to work, [provides] tax revenue to the city for city services” and more, he says. And as we’ve seen with this pandemic, he adds, “as a social worker, I would argue that there is a mental, social (and political) advantage for a city if it is able to declare that it is ‘open for business’ after any major shock.”

The first webinar is Nov. 18 from 9:30-11am PT. The next ones are: Dec. 9 (11-12:30 PT); Jan. 21, 2021 (11-12:30 PT); and Feb. 17 (11-12:30 PT). Register here: Each webinar will end with a livestreamed Q&A. But if you can’t attend live, you can access the webinar afterward if you register.

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Although Optimum Seismic is a sponsor of Temblor, it has no influence over editorial decisions at Temblor Earthquake News.