ashland.news
February 22, 2024

Ashland-based institute launches disaster resilience project

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map shows Community Disaster Resilience Zones in light blue.
November 23, 2023

Led by Ashland Mayor Graham, Geos has started a pilot project in the Southeast

By Damian Mann for Ashland.news

A local company led by Ashland Mayor Tonya Graham has launched an effort to better prepare communities before disaster strikes.

Ashland-based Geos Institute announced that its Navigator Network has recently started a pilot project in 72 communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The basic idea is to arm communities in those states with the tools needed to navigate bureaucratic hurdles and be better prepared before they’re overwhelmed by wildfires, floods, hurricanes or other disasters.

Once set up, the Navigator Network trains members of local organizations to get the resources needed to help communities recover quicker.

Tonya Graham

“We are one of the first to list these systems,” said Graham, executive director of Geos. “Communities by and large don’t have the capacity to do it on their own. This could be the foundation for climate-ready America.”

The Navigator Network set up by Geos and its partners will serve the 72 communities that recently received Community Disaster Resilience Zones (CDRZ) designations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in those states.

Graham said Geos has already been in conversations that could lead to a similar Navigation Network in other states, including Oregon.

“The whole point is to transfer it throughout the country,” said Graham.

The Navigation Networks works hand-in-hand with FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program that supports states, local communities, tribes and territories in developing hazard mitigations.

Over the past decade, FEMA has responded to various disasters that have hit various regions differently.

Western states have been overwhelmed by wildfires, while the South has endured an onslaught of destructive hurricanes. Droughts and flooding have plagued many parts of the country.

“We have so many communities experiencing disasters than they experienced in the past,” Graham said.
FEMA is also providing money to help communities harden systems to better withstand a disaster.

In 2022, FEMA provided $699 million for flood control, $537 million for utility and infrastructure protection, $175 million for restoration work, $126 million for wildfire management and $79 million for emergency shelters.

In the four states where the pilot project has been started, Geos identifies a local organization in a particular community and then trains a team of individuals to become navigators.

Once trained, the navigators will develop their own resilience programs to better meet the needs of their communities.

Another topic in climate resilience is whether it makes sense to rebuild in areas that have endured repetitive losses as a result of disasters.

“There’s a lot of grappling with that,” Graham said.

The four states chosen for the demonstration project have endured some some of the worst natural hazards, including severe storms, flooding, extreme heat and drought.

The training Geos is offering is being supported by a Walmart Foundation grant.

Emily Powell, co-coordinator for the Florida Climate Institute, said the Geos project will help 32 U.S. Census tracts in her state that are threatened by climate threats such as sea-level rise, coastal flooding and extreme heat.

“This effort will provide critical support to communities who need help accessing resources for advancing resilience work,” Powell said.

Geos has many partners involved in shaping the Navigation Network, including Georgia Conservancy, the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resilience, the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities, The Florida Climate Institute, Project IN-CORE, Resilient Cities Catalyst and EcoAdapt.

“We look forward to serving all of Georgia’s communities that want to build climate resilience through the first Georgia Climate Innovation Center,” said Luben Raytchev, Community Design Lead at Georgia Conservancy

The Geos Institute has been a leader in supporting socially equitable and ecologically sound climate resilience across the U.S. since 2008.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com

Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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