Urban resilience is a fashionable concept, especially during the Coronavirus crisis that we are experiencing. Preparing cities against critical and unforeseen situations is key to minimize the consequences. Terrassa is a leading city in urban resilience. Even though much work remains undone, the response during these months of crisis will complement the experience and will serve to be more prepared for unforeseen future events.
During the cycle of webinars carried out during the confinement of the Red Innpulso, Albert Marín, responsible for the Smart City project, made a brief presentation. He introduced a cross-sectional project between the municipal Technology and Civil Protection teams called "Terrassa, Prepared and Resilient". This project focuses on the preparation of the city for incidents and emergency situations.
The Coronavirus crisis is not the first major emergency that the city has experienced. The sadly famous floods of 1962 or the gale in 2014 are two clear precedents of situations that have forced the city to react.
There are dozens of examples: from the black plague that devastated Siena in the 14th century to more recent cases, such as the Blackout of the North Western United States and part of Canada in 2003, or the blackouts of Barcelona in the summer of 2007. All these have one thing in common: the administrations had implemented policies of urban resilience to be more preparation prior to those critical situations.
With all this said, the importance of being prepared to face crisis such as the one we are currently undergoing, in order to avoid greater impacts in the future, is clear. It is essential to both determine the tools and solutions that the citizenship may be able to use, up to possessing a municipal organization equipped to make the best decisions and develop proposals for improvement.
It is in this context that, in recent years, the “Terrassa, Prepared and Resilient” project has been boosted so that the networks of interconnected and interdependent services that make up the city are as least affected as possible.
As is evident, although the impact of the Coronavirus has caught everyone by surprise, the first structures and, above all, the commitment of the entire organization has allowed the municipal response to be a little more agile.
A project under construction
The first phases of the project have been the initial study, with workshops and a participatory process that has allowed a first analysis of 28 services’ current status and how they may be affected by different situations. This has allowed the identification of 47 improvement projects, of which some are already starting to be applied.
Another of the great actions taken has been a survey, with the participation of 439 citizens, which revealed that the majority of the population has heard of resilience but did not know how this concept was applied in cities.
The results of the survey, which can be consulted here consulted here, have also revealed that the risks that citizens fear the most are floods - like those of 1962 - followed by air pollution and forest fires, which have also affected Terrassa and it's surroundings. To get an idea of the exceptional nature of the current situation, only one person considered pandemics as a risk to consider.
On the other hand, the most potentially vulnerable sectors are considered the health, social, environmental and mobility sectors. While those considered best equipped to respond are, again, the health and emergency sectors. An answer that has also been demonstrated in this early 2020.
Additionally, some objectives are defined. However, one of the most important is that citizens need to understand how the administration works and be an active part of this urban resilience initiative.
Throughout this 2020, work will be done to elaborate and approve the Urban Resilience master plan and, from here, begin to boost the measures that are contemplated, together with the Smart Buildings Project, and integrating everything in the city's technological strategy.
The Coronavirus has brought a paradigm shift to the world that we did not expect. Terrassa has shown that it can be well-prepared, responding quickly in critical situations and the experience of these past few months will definitely add on to all the work done so far.
In conclusion, from this very hard and sad situation, there is one very positive outcome. It will allow us to improve our preparedness and, more so in this new scenario, where most likely, all councils and municipalities will play a fundamental roll in the decision making process, and in the proximity of the citizenship and all the other social actors.
One of the slides used during the webinar on "Urban resilience, key to the future of cities" on April 30th, 2020. For more information, see the page EVENTOS - Red Innpulso.