Skip to content

The Resilience Cycle & Critical Infrastructure

Resilience has been a hot topic as of late. It is a widely used term that is less clearly defined, meaning different things to different people. But most definitions of resilience, as it applies to infrastructure and communities, share several common elements: plan, resist, recover, and adapt.

Paul Tschirky, PhD, P.Eng, BC.CE, leads APTIM’s resilience practice, bringing full-service resilient solutions to clients and communities across the U.S. and helping them adapt to environmental and climate-driven risks. Paul has recently been appointed to Vice Chair for Community and Regional Resilience as part of the Society of American Military Engineers Resilience Community of Interest.THIS WEEK’S CONTRIBUTOR:
Paul Tschirky, PhD, P.Eng, BC.CE | Senior Director of Resilience
APTIM | Resilient Solutions

Paul Tschirky, PhD, P.Eng, BC.CE leads APTIM’s resilience practice, bringing full-service resilient solutions to clients and communities across the U.S. and helping them adapt to environmental and climate-driven risks. This blog is part of Paul’s series honoring the one-year anniversary of the Atlas of Disaster. Check out the first blog of the series here.


The Resilience Cycle & Critical Infrastructure

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a good definition of resilience “as a project’s ability to anticipate, prepare for, or adapt to conditions or withstand, respond to, or recover rapidly from disruptions, including the ability … to resist hazards or withstand impacts from weather events and natural disasters; or to reduce the magnitude or duration of impacts of a disruptive weather event or natural disaster on a project; and to have the absorptive capacity, adaptive capacity, and recoverability to decrease project vulnerability to weather events or other natural disasters.”

In short, true resilience is a cycle where the amount of loss and recovery times are reduced for each subsequent event based on knowledge gained from prior events.

Hazards, Risk, and Resilience

Understanding risk and identifying resilient solutions requires knowing the hazards, the probability of experiencing the hazards, the vulnerability to those hazards, and the consequence. Key climate-driven hazards include tropical and extratropical storms, extreme precipitation, flooding, storm surge, sea level rise, and wildfires. These can be acute or chronic, such as the catoptric impact of a major hurricane or the creeping of rising seas.

Other factors can play a role, such as the growing populations in hazard-prone coastal areas, equity, and environmental justice. According to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, the cost of weather and climate-related disasters is growing with over 370 disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (CPI adjusted to present) in the U.S. since 1980. The total cost of these events exceeded $2.6 trillion. So far this year, there have been 23 billion-dollar weather and climate disaster—a new record.

In the past, funding for disasters was largely in response to the disaster. Recently, there has been a much-needed shift toward a portion of the funding being used for more proactive measures. Advanced mitigation can yield considerable savings. The National Institute of Building Sciences estimated that every $1 spent in Federal Mitigation Grants saves $6 in future disaster losses.

Infrastructure and Communities at Risk: Connected Systems

Resilience for infrastructure and communities is not only a project scale consideration but a regional one. The interconnected nature of various systems that impact a community play an important role in achieving resilience. Resilience considerations span the lifecycle of a facility or community. Past experiences have taught us that small changes can have large resiliency impacts and that the overall performance and recovery of a facility or community may be dependent on the weakest link.

Understanding the connectivity of systems is a key part of resilience and the avoidance of cascading problems. For example, raising of key systems to higher floors in a building can have significant impacts on the damage and speed of recovery after a flood. Hardening an industrial facility so that it is highly resistant to storms will not result in a resilient solution if connections to utilities and transportation are damaged or the community in which the workers live is destroyed.

Resilient Solutions

Aging infrastructure and the need for climate adaptation put resilience concerns at the forefront of infrastructure projects. Understanding current hazards and potential future changes, which elements are at the most vulnerable and which are critical, and looking beyond at connected systems will help make sound planning, design, and investment decisions.

APTIM is an award-winning, nationally recognized leader in disaster recovery, coastal engineering, grants management, flood mitigation, and program management. We take a holistic approach to resilience, understanding that multiple systems impact the success or failure of a community. With thousands of employees in strategic locations nationwide, we provide the resources you need for the preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation from all hazards. Learn more here.

APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.

Connect with APTIM

Learn more about our capabilities in climate and urban resilience planning, emergency management, and assisting clients with federal funding.

    Subscribe to the APTIM Xchange Newsletter

    APTIM's newsletter, The APTIM Xchange, provides industry news flashes, regulatory updates, service spotlights, and topical columns from our subject matter experts.