Tuesday, February 20, 2018

University of New Orleans Collaborates on Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning

banner image

The University of New Orleans Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology (UNO-CHART) is part of team that was awarded nearly $300,000 for a project aimed at helping Louisiana’s coastal communities develop resiliency plans before disaster strikes. Establishing a redevelopment plan before there is a need to recover enables communities to understand the opportunities and trade-offs presented by possible future risk scenarios and make collective, informed decisions about where currently at-risk assets should be located in the future.

The effort is federally funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Baton Rouge-based Center for Planning Excellence, a non-profit organization that coordinates urban, rural and regional planning efforts throughout Louisiana. In addition to UNO-CHART, the Louisiana Sea Grant program office at LSU rounds out the team carrying out the work. The NOAA grant funds the team’s activities through August 2019.

“We are very excited about the potential for this project to support communities in coastal Louisiana that have limited resources for pre-disaster planning,” said Monica Farris, director of UNO-CHART. “Resident input and participation are essential to develop a recovery plan that reflects a community’s values and long-term priorities.”

While the project focuses on the Town of Jean Lafitte and lower Jefferson Parish, it has a broader goal of establishing processes and guidelines that can be replicated across coastal areas where capacity and resources are limited for this type of advanced community-based resiliency planning. In each community, the planning process will be driven by two main goals: developing models of possible future environmental risk—including the potential effects of climate change—and conducting a vulnerability assessment that considers the social and economic impacts associated with those risks. Developing such a plan is intended to better position local governments to compete for recovery money and help ensure wise stewardship of recovery investments.

A pre-disaster redevelopment plan collaboration of this kind—involving a non-profit, universities and local communities—is the first of its kind for the region. The project will build upon existing state- and parish-level coastal initiatives and hazard mitigation plans as well as the work of Louisiana's Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE), another federally-funded project aimed at engaging citizens in community planning efforts. In the Jean Lafitte area, efforts will be further informed by leadership from a local steering committee as well as focus groups and interviews with area residents. The integration of community members throughout the process will ensure the plan has local support and is viable after a disaster. The approach is designed to create a replicable process using publicly available data so that other municipalities and parishes, which often have limited capacity or resources for such an effort, can develop pre-disaster redevelopment plans of their own.

The Center for Hazards Assessment, Response and Technology at the University of New Orleans supports applied research focusing on sustainability and resilience efforts and strategies in light of natural, technological and environmental risks. Its mission is to assist residents, communities and policy makers in understanding and reducing hazard risk. In addition to its research endeavors, UNO-CHART conducts community outreach initiatives in risk literacy, disaster resilience and floodplain management.