A recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns that some parts of the U.S. could see up to 8-foot sea level increases by the year 2100. New York City in particular is at serious risk because it is low-lying. This is why, ever since Superstorm Sandy, city officials have been developing some unique steps to try and mitigate this risk.
Potential NYC hardening tactics include building a chain of artificial islands, building a giant flood wall, reconfiguring building structures (for example, building new homes on raised platforms, placing emergency generators in penthouses to prevent them from getting flooded at ground level, or creating drainage systems that move water away from foundations), and even raising roads and sidewalks.
Why Sea Level Increases Must be Planed for
No matter what the tactic, it is critical for NYC to address the impending increase in sea level. Property values are through the roof, and NYC is a hub of commercial activity, so a massive flood in the region would have a serious negative economic impact. But aside from NYC, this prediction is important when it comes to emergency preparedness in general. Flood scenarios must be addressed in emergency plans and protocols, and incorporated into drills and exercises, because this is a unique situation from a restoration standpoint.
It is really difficult to execute a restoration when the service territory is under water! Contingencies must be developed for getting employees from point A to point B when roads are flooded, and flooded areas present special risks related to downed wires. I can’t say what these contingencies might encompass because they will be different for every utility, but they can run the gamut from providing hip waders as part of the PPE, to securing boats to transport crews. The bottom line is that impending sea level increases is something we all know is coming, so now is the time to think about how this influences the emergency planning process.