The devastating impacts of natural disasters, from floods, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires are increasingly testing the resolve of governments worldwide to generate solutions that protect our way of life and safe lives. Recent disruptions to power grids, transportation, water and sewage systems, and supply chains, including food and medicine, are calling on governmental researchers to invest in new ideas and approaches to drive-down risks and enhance resilience capacity. At the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), we understand each community is affected and equipped differently to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, adding new demands for solutions that can adapt to changing conditions and transfer across diverse regions and localities.
The sense of urgency to safeguard our economy, public health, and security, while also addressing underlying stressors (which disproportionately impact the most vulnerable), is a top challenge of our lifetime. To enhance community resilience and prepare for what comes next, S&T is taking a whole-of-government and multi-hazard approach to investments in research, development, and innovation (RD&I).
Our partnerships with the National Science Foundation and Department of Energy to co-host the CIVIC Innovation Challenge (CIVIC), enable S&T to localize RD&I investments and focus on the under-resourced communities that natural disasters often impact the most. In the first stage of CIVIC, community leaders refined projects that better prepare communities and make them more resilient in response to floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other events. We are now pleased to announce Stage 2 of CIVIC, which includes 11 S&T teams of civic partners, business groups, research centers, and NGO’s, coming together to develop ready-to-implement pilot projects in a 12-month time frame. Across multiple fronts, CIVIC represents a new research model for defining community-based problems, addressing neighborhood scale, applying best practices, and building social capital to close gaps in resilience equity.
Advances in technology and innovation provide governments with more capabilities to address competing threats and help the public make better decisions, understand risk, and act—from investing in flood mitigation solutions to ordering evacuations on time. CIVIC empowers governments at the federal, state, local, tribal and territorial levels to go one step further and leverage advances in data analysis and artificial intelligence to enhance prediction, preparedness, and communications efforts. Through on-the-ground coordination, CIVIC enables S&T to mobilize science and engineering expertise to find community-based solutions and make them sustainable, scalable and replicable to other communities across the U.S.
Unfortunately, many communities were not built for the increased frequency and duration of the extreme storms we face today. This conversation really hits home when you realize that no jurisdiction is immune to the threats of natural disasters and the climate crisis. The uptick of natural disasters is changing the way we think about securing the homeland and protecting the well-being and stability of our country. By focusing on novel research approaches and impacts, CIVIC demonstrates how research dollars are working for you and providing communities nationwide the tools they need to prepare for “what if” scenarios and make societal impacts that reduce disparities and enhance disaster resilience equity.
Updating the playbook for this new generation of events requires trusted relationships with policymakers, the business community, and the public. At both the community and national level, our mission, and that of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a whole, is to ensure the country is prepared for and can adapt to what comes next. Faced with compounding pressures, we know many of you are looking for new ideas and tangible solutions. I encourage you to connect with S&T to learn more about our CIVIC investments and related DHS climate resilience prize competitions to protect workers and communities from extreme heat.
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