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MEOPAR Researchers Launch New Tool to Help BC Communities Improve Resilience to Coastal Hazards

On August 10, MEOPAR researcher Dr. Stephanie Chang (University of British Columbia) and her team launched Resilient-C, an online platform designed to connect communities facing similar coastal hazards – such as flooding, tsunamis and oil spills – so they can share knowledge and best practices, and improve coastal resilience.

The online tool (see image, at right) serves 50 British Columbian communities, all situated along the coast of the Salish Sea. Chang, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning, and her team developed Resilient-C over the last two years in consultation with these communities.

The highlight of last Wednesday’s launch was a webinar lead by three of Chang’s graduate students to demonstrate applications of Resilient-C. Participants included municipal planners, emergency management professionals, consultants, and representatives from first nations groups, non-profit think tanks and academia. Chang’s students presented step-by-step examples of how the map-based and visual tool can help users find solutions to their problems.

A key insight for this work was the concept of identifying similar communities. Chang explains that many resources exist in the area of disaster risk management, but most focus on large communities with high levels of funding and infrastructure. One goal was to help smaller communities to address their coastal hazards. “There’s a need to look at the problem from the community’s perspective,” says Chang. Resilient-C is different because it allows communities to connect with others in a similar situation, and also to see what strategies those communities have implemented.

To identify similar communities, the team developed the Hazard Vulnerability Similarity Index (HVSI), which specifies how closely related two communities are in terms of a set of 25 vulnerability indicators. The indicators characterize the communities in five key aspects: economic, social, built environment, natural environment and institutional. Chang explains that to develop the HVSI, “we looked at how other fields measure similarity. We ended up going with an approach that is used in ecology a lot, where ecologists look at how similar are two ecosystems using a quantified approach.” The HVSI gives an overall similarity score, which can then be narrowed down by a user focused on a specific problem.

In the next several months the team will further refine Resilient-C. They will take into account feedback they receive as users work with the tool, and answers to a survey conducted during the webinar. Their goal is to make the tool as practical as possible for the communities it serves.

Chang’s vision for the future is to expand the tool’s range of communities. She wants to include communities on the east coast of Canada, and she already has a student working to add Salish Sea communities from Washington State.

Dr. Chang is the Principle Investigator for MEOPAR’s Socio-Economic Indicators project. Find out more about the project here. Read more about the platform at the Resilient-C website and watch a video about the platform here.  Connect with the Resilient-C team here.