Pace University’s “Summit on Resilience II: The Next Storm” Looks at Disaster Preparedness for Sandy-Like Weather and Other Crises

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Port Authority Executive Director Patrick J. Foye Opens Panel Discussion of Experts on Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy and How Public-Private Partnerships Can Enhance Response to Natural Disasters

Rose Littlejohn moderates a panel at Pace University's Resilience Summit

Look at what you are doing, how much energy your home is using and how much your home places demands on the grid and how you can change that.

Corporate and foundation leaders joined representatives from federal, state and local governments today for the second “Summit on Resilience: The Next Storm.” The conference was held at and sponsored by Pace University.

The event provided a forum for discussion on lessons from Superstorm Sandy and strengthening urban resilience through public-private partnerships at every scale – from local power grids to a global network of forward-looking cities. There were about 120 attendees.

Introductory remarks were given by Stéphane Hallegatte, senior economist in the Climate Change Group at the World Bank, followed by Pace President Stephen J. Friedman interviewing Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Hallegatte spoke of ways to cut losses after a disaster by investing in resilient systems before calamity strikes, but also noted the hurdles to making this happen given the human bias against near-term costs and tendency to discount long-term risks.

A panel discussion followed on physical restoration, general insurance claims for loss of records, interruption of business and what worked well during Superstorm Sandy. The panel was moderated by Pace alumna Rose Littlejohn, managing director of Business Services and LETS at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Panelists included Jerome Hatfield, regional administration of Region II of FEMA; Vincent Barrella, mayor of Point Pleasant, New Jersey; Jill Dalton, managing director of Global Risk Consulting and Property Claims Preparation, Advocacy and Valuation at AON Risk Solutions; and Gary Lawrence, vice president of the Chief Sustainability Office at AECOM.

The final panel was on ways to advance policies that can distribute power generation around a grid, limiting the threat of abrupt blackouts like the one that struck lower Manhattan as Sandy’s surge came ashore. That discussion was moderated by Andrew Revkin, senior fellow for Environmental Understanding at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies.

During Revkin’s panel, Chris Levendos, vice president of National Operations for Verizon, spoke of the multiple benefits that come with investment in more durable infrastructure. “More modern equipment is more efficient to use. The cost-benefit is positive from my point of view,” said Levendos.

Ozgem Ornektekin, deputy commissioner for Energy Management in the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services, described how the city was using a blend of new combined heat and power facilities, solar panel installations and a sustained push to boost energy efficiency to limit disruptions in the future.

Troy De Vries, chief engineer for distribution engineering at Consolidated Edison, spoke about Con Ed's use of breakaway connectors on overhead power lines that allow quick power restoration after wires are taken down by a falling tree or pole. Con Edison has 1000 units currently in trial, he said.

The consensus of the panel was that a conventional power grid will always be necessary, but adding distributed power, boosting energy efficiency and creating resilient distribution systems can greatly increase reliability. It was also agreed that there is a need to continue to invest in and improve infrastructure.

Ms. Ornektekin from the mayor’s office said that individuals can replicate some of these steps in their homes: “Look at what you are doing, how much energy your home is using and how much your home places demands on the grid and how you can change that.”

Michael Berkowitz, president of the 100 Resilient Cities project of the Rockefeller Foundation, is working to create a framework for urban resilience. He said the need is great because cities are more and more vulnerable, and predicts that three out of every four people will be living in cities by the year 2050. His group has found that resilient systems and policies have qualities that enable them to withstand shocks and stresses and then recover more quickly. One of those qualities is that of a cohesive and engaged community in which people readily help one another. New York is among the first 32 cities to participate in the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge.

During closing remarks, Joseph Ryan, director of Pace’s homeland security program and an organizer of the summit, stressed the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to moving forward with plans for resilience of municipalities. People who specialize in the sciences and social sciences must come together to move the conversation forward and be a part of developing addressable action steps.

The event was held at Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts in lower Manhattan. Participants were tweeting with the hashtag #PaceUResilience.

Available at the summit was a white paper with a list of addressable steps that can build urban resilience through better cooperation and communication between businesses, government and the public leading to improved structures and policies as well as standard processes and procedures for experts and officials in the wake of disasters. The paper is available on the website of the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at http://www.pace.edu/dyson.

The summit was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and sponsored by Verizon, PWC and the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce with additional support provided by American Express. The next Resilience summit at Pace is planned for two years from now.

About Pace University: Since 1906, Pace University has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Lubin School of Business, Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, College of Health Professions, School of Education, School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. http://www.pace.edu

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Cara Cea
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