Military engineers address challenge of resilience

Posted in: Infrastructure, Military, Water


Tulsa Post of the SAME holds resilience workshop
Tulsa Post of the SAME holds resilience workshop

Preparing to be robust, reflective, inclusive, resourceful, integrated, redundant and flexible

Late in 2017, I participated in a Society of American Military Engineers Post-level workshop on resilience. The purpose of the workshop was to:

  1. Gain an understanding of resilience in various communities in Oklahoma.
  2. Meet and interact with key leaders responsible for resilience and readiness in the National Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City of Tulsa and Oklahoma State.
  3. Support SAME’s Strategic Plan Goal #4 on Resilience, which is to “…contribute to government and private sector collaboration to minimize impacts of and enhance effective response to natural or man-made threats.”
  4. Contribute to government and private sector collaboration to minimize impacts of and enhance effective response to natural or man-made threats.

The workshop included six presentations and a moderated panel discussion. To start it off, we conducted a short exercise to define what exactly we meant by resilience, which included:

  • “… an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” – Webster Dictionary
  • “Resilience is a design objective for buildings and infrastructure. It is the ability to absorb or avoid damage without suffering complete failure.” – Wikipedia
  • “Resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to, and recover rapidly from disruptions.” – Executive Order 13563
  • “The Army definition of resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.” – U.S. Army

The exercise highlighted how resilience affects almost every aspect of our lives.

100 Resilient CitiesFollowing this exercise, each of the five panel members discussed resilience as it applied to their organization. Especially thought-provoking was the City of Tulsa Chief Resilience Officer DeVon Douglas’s presentation on the 100 Resilient Cities Program and the requirements for these cities to be: robust, reflective, inclusive, resourceful, integrated, redundant and flexible. Other presentations included:

  • Major Phillip DeLong of the 138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard – Resilience in a military unit
  • Matt Rollins – Oklahoma State Hazard Mitigation Program
  • Yohannes Sugeng – Oklahoma State Dam Safety Program
  • David Williams – USACE Tulsa District’s efforts at real-time flood forecasting and floodplain management

Following these presentations, the panel addressed questions such as:

  • With global warming, the weather extremes are becoming more severe. Is your organization performing safety analysis for extreme events which exceed the standard required analysis?
  • The human resilience factor is also of concern. What types of planning are in place to help people with emotional and/or social resilience?
  • What measures can be taken or have been taken to inform and educate leaders, decision makers and other stakeholders on the need for resilient infrastructure?

Some of the conclusions reached were:

  • Resilience is a multifaceted concept. To be truly resilient, an organization must have programs and plans to ensure all members and elements can anticipate, prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand, respond to and recover rapidly from disruptions.
  • Building relationships between leaders ahead of manmade and natural events enhances resilience.
  • Regardless of the cause(s), climate change is a stressor for communities and infrastructure and will affect resilience.
  • Emergency management exercises enhance resilience.
  • Strong resilient individuals, families and communities are key to resilient cities; vulnerable communities require additional assistance to help make them resilient.
  • Public education and information campaigns help build resilience. Resilience is built at many levels starting at the individual and family, and moving up to the local city, state and federal level. The more people understand how this works and their responsibilities, the more resilient our citizens, communities, states and country will be.

Miro Kurka, PE, PMP

About the Author

Miro Kurka, PE, PMP, knows water is an incredible resource. “I like leading teams and managing water infrastructure projects that make our citizens safer, wealthier and happier.” A retired U.S. Army officer, he managed the Corps of Engineers’ program in Tulsa, Portland and Afghanistan for 30 years. He enjoys traveling and meeting people.

Read more posts by Miro Kurka, PE, PMP

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