What does the next unpredicted catastrophic event hold for your business?

This is the first of a series of posts about designing for resiliency.

Actually, “unpredicted” is a misnomer. Lots of work is being done globally on modelling climate and predicting weather events. Note that climate and weather are not interchangeable. Changing overall patterns is the climate changing. With changing climate, weather events can be predicted statistically but not in real-time.

I’m going to speak about a catastrophic weather event for a moment from a personal perspective. I grew up in a town in southwestern Ontario. It was hot still and tense mid-summer day. Ironically, my best friend and I were over at her house, baking peanut butter cookies. The cookies were in the oven. The house was baking hot. The oven was making it worse. The tension mounted as we waited apprehensively for the timer to go off on the oven. We could hardly wait until the cookies were done! But, the timer didn’t go… the phone rang.

It was my parents calling me to have me come home. I was passed the phone, the cord barely reaching to where I was standing, peering into the oven. “There’s been a bit of disaster over on the other side of town, and we thought… we thought that we should all go over there and what we can do to help out.”. I was speechless. My father’s word just hung in the air. “Disaster”?

I don’t even think that I was old enough to watch the evening news yet. I don’t remember ever having seen any disaster on television. We’d just gotten our first colour television a few years ago. Everything just seemed too real when you watched shows on that. My parents made me watch those nature shows that showed “the natural cycle of life”—which is just a fancy way of saying predators catching their prey and eating them. Beyond my brother feed live frogs to snakes, it was the goriest thing I had every seen and it was broadcasted straight into our rec room. I hadn’t seen any disaster either on television or in real life.

I noticed all the trees that had fallen at first. There were hundreds of giant willows that had fallen all around our beautiful pond at Southside Park. Then I noticed the damage to buildings. I had once thought of buildings as the safe refuge to stay in when magnificent thunder storms came through and the lightning lit up the sky. They were torn apart.

Shredded. Splintered. Fragmented. Bent. Broken. Twisted. Punctured. Ripped apart. Smashed.

Normal everyday items had been turned into missiles by the tornado. Families seeking shelter had slammed their windows shut and created negative pressures so great that all of the windows had imploded. An above-ground swimming pools full of water were lifted over and around to the other side of farm house. A cast iron bathtub had been wrapped around a telephone pole.

In the midst of the chaos we had jumped out of the car to help. The most poignant memory I have of the whole day was of a couple walking down the sidewalk, holding hands, crying, distraught, gripping tightly to a huge frozen turkey that they had managed to salvage from their freezer.

Climate change increases the frequency of catastrophic weather events. I have a passion for this work because I cannot bear to see humanity suffer.

In my next post I’ll explore what the future holds for my city, Toronto, and why other cities aren’t going to be as lucky.

We’ll be doing a webinar on this topic soon! Sign up now before it sells out…