Workshop on Disaster Management and Post-Disaster Recovery

El Urban Community and Health Equity Lab de la Universidad de Columbia, liderado por Malo Hutson, organizó este excelente seminario en Santiago, donde tuve la oportunidad de discutir sobre el rol de la ciencia y el conocimiento en la reducción de riesgo de desastres.

Reprinted from Columbia Global Centers

In mid-November, Malo Hutson and the Urban Community and Health Equity Lab at Columbia´s  Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) organized a workshop called “Disaster Management and Post-Disaster Recovery: Lessons and Challenges for a Resilient Chile”. This event is part of a larger academic research project sponsored by the Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund, with additional support by the Lab’s partners, Columbia Global Center Santiago, Centro de Estudios Urbano Territoriales (CEUT), Universidad Católica del Maule, and Universidad de Chiles’ Instituto de la Vivienda (INVI). This initiative explores the Chilean experience responding to disasters and recovery to learn about applicable strategies and lessons to inform other countries and regions worldwide. 

The workshop began with introductory remarks by Hutson and a keynote presentation entitled “Predictors of Disaster Recovery and Building Child-focused Community Resilience” by Jonathan Sury from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia’s Earth Institute.

There was a first panel that focused on the role of groundbreaking new technologies in disaster preparedness, resilience, response, and relief efforts. The audience heard from Lautaro Ojeda of Universidad de Valparaíso as he presented some of their work with the UrbanizARQ “Architecture Games” framework, in which participants utilized live-feed drone imagery in real-time to determine the best site suitability for rebuilding structures in the aftermath of disasters. Enrique Aliste,researcher and geographer from Universidad de Chile, highlighted the risk factors associated with Chile’s dominant monocultural approach to private forestry, which recent wildfires have made devastatingly apparent. Barbarita Lara, IT Engineer from Universidad Federico Santa Maria, walked attendees through her award-winning Sistema de Información de Emergencias(SiE) smartphone platform, which allows users to receive messages from authorities through encrypted high-frequency audio. Smartphones are transformed into radio signal receptors by taking advantage of “old-school” analog radio technology, eliminating reliance on electrical power grids which may fail during disaster. Finally, Jaime Alvarez representing Consejo Nacional de Innovación y Desarrollo (CNID)  drew the spotlight on the pivotal role academia plays in resiliency planning by serving as an incubator for innovative ideas for both the public and private sectors.

A second panel examined the effects that disasters have on the social cohesion of communities, and reflected on the trauma experienced by survivors of disaster. Luis Campos, a research academic INVI spoke specifically about the trauma of disaster and relocation of communities and shared a powerful clip of an upcoming film, “Houses Away from the Neighborhood – Stories of Relocation”, highlighting the perspectives of women displaced by the fires that afflicted Valparaíso. This form of research illustrates and personalizes the processes reported in the news to encourage policymakers and planners to action and dialogue for joint collaborations. Subsequently, Rodrigo Figueroa, researcher for Centro de Investigación para la Gestión Integrada del Riesgo de Desastres (CIGIDEN), focused on systematic reconstruction post-fires and the need for a paradigm shift; where rather than focusing on disaster as exclusively natural in nature, the discussion centers on social disaster created a fuller perspective on factors contributing to the full extents of disaster. Finally, Victor Orellana, Director of Fundación Alto Rio shared the importance of national cohesion in predicting reactions and responses to disaster. By discussing the notion of memorializing tragedy as a way to unify a community in the wake of disaster and move forward together.

The third panel honed in on coordination efforts and financing frameworks for relief efforts in the aftermaths of disasters. Columbia alumna Magdalena Gil, also a Sociologist at the  Universidad Católica, shared with the audience her multi-disciplinary approach to risk assessment and post-disaster management focusing on the importance of identifying key decision-makers in the wake of disasters.  Ximena Arizaga, researcher of the Planes y Proyectos Universidad Católica (PPUC) addressed the question, “How can we re-envision disaster response into an opportunity to reactivate a territory and realize its untapped potential in reconstruction efforts?” Using the 2015 and 2017 floods in Chilean Northern Cities, specifically Chañaral and Diego de Almagro, as case studies of an opportunity for recovery and local development where both had enormous potential for photovoltaic energy production, and sustainable tourism. Nicolás Birrel, Executive Director of Desafío Levantemos Chile explained financing strategies that were successfully implemented in the town of Santa Olga, Talca Province, which was devastated by wildfires in early 2017. Finally, Pablo Alvarez, manager of the Cámara Chilena de la Construcción(CChC) delved deeper into the role the private sector played in Santa Olga’s recovery highlighting the logistical and financial flexibility the private sector enjoyed in the reconstruction effort over a government-only relief strategy.

The final panel explored methods of reconstruction from a resiliency perspective considering processes to improve infrastructure, incorporate climate adaptation and sustainable development. Bernardita Paul, National Reconstruction representative for the Chilean Government, spoke about the massive scale of reconstruction – and proudly announced that for the first time in history, there is a presidential program to reduce the risk of disasters, reflecting on the importance and prioritization of engaging the public in dialogue and community participation. Cristobal Mena, National Subdirector of ONEMI, relayed a powerful message focusing on sustainability and development rather than solely of disasters, stressing the urgency of addressing inter-agency and inter-disciplinary work. Renato D’Alencon’s presented his work focusing on reclaiming Heritage as an alternative to the standard reconstruction story. By rescuing materials from disaster zones and reusing them in reconstructing communities he presented projects done in Chile and Haiti supported by the Technische Universtät Berlin as successful experiences in engaging communities in reconstruction. Jordan Harris, Nacional Director of Adapt-Chile presented their work on integrating climate change across all levels of decision making, and at all levels of government. He explained the need to increase local resilience and support local municipalities. Finally, Claudio Tapia represented  Municipalidad de Providencia and their innovations around strategic planning for water management, energy and climate promoting responsible use and emphasizing planning for sustainability.