What makes a city resilient?

16 Dec What makes a city resilient?



The city wants to feel itself invulnerable, fast, smart… The city calls itself “smart city” and thinks that can withstand any impact and keep on progressing towards an undefined future.

However, reality is very obstinate: city happens to be made up by people that are becoming more and more informed and to work using complex technical systems. But both people and complex systems do not always work as foreseen. And since nature and society are much more powerful than cities and cities are changing very fast, and present cities have a lot of weaknesses. If power supply fails, what happens to the other urban services?

As human bodies, cities are also complex systems that do not always work as foreseen and that have also their weaknesses. If we stumble on a rock and fall, we analyze why it has happened, we try learning from our fall and preventing falling again. In other words, we learn to be resilient. Cities do the same.

To make a city resilient we need to build up a network of urban services and infrastructures because, as in a human body, all functions are interconnected. This network must be both solid and flexible, able to withstand crises and to respond in order to protect citizens, their wellbeing, their lives and their assets. And, as resilient people, a resilient city will be able to recover its functioning fast and efficiently, and finally will learn from each crisis to face better the next one.

In our jargon, we say that to assess the city resilience, we have to know the interdependencies between different city services and infrastructures. To do so, people responsible for improving urban resilience will need to visualize and organize the relevant city data and extract valuable conclusions and to do so they need a community of stakeholders (city staff, service operators, private companies operating in the city, politicians) working together to identify the critical points of the system.

But if we have stumbled once, we can stumble again. That’s why the urban resilience responsible will keep on watching over the city to detect all possible impacts that may affect the city in order to be prepared for the new impact. From his/her resilience office, that in some cases will be connected to sensors or control rooms, the responsible will monitor all key processes, visualize the consequences, simulate impacts, and store and use the associated information.

In conclusion, to make a city resilient city stakeholders have to engage in a continuous process of improving resilience. This includes:

  • Planning events simulating and deciding accordingly,
  • Improving by correcting and projecting current strategies to ensure the continuity of the city in the event of an impact,
  • Preventing impacts by identifying potential risks, validating, relating and diagnosing hazards and vulnerabilities,
  • Operating the city to be able to withstanding in front of impacts, to respond in case of crisis and to recover functionalities after the impact.



Luis Fontanals, President of OptiCits

Ester Vendrell, COO at OptiCits



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