August 31, 2017

How Should Lawyers Contribute to Community Resilience?

The American Bar Association (ABA) is assuming a leadership role in the area of community resilience and disaster mitigation and response through the efforts of its standing and special committees, sections, and the ABA’s leadership. The ABA House of Delegates has unanimously passed Resolution 108 urging lawyers and law firms to advocate and actively participate in community resilience initiatives. See https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/images/disaster/Resolution%20108%20FINAL.pdf. The Resolution also urges federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to adopt standards, guidance, best practices, programs, and regulatory systems to make communities more resilient to loss and damage from foreseeable hazards. These efforts should recognize property rights, encourage affordable risk mitigation, protect the interests of taxpayers, and protect the environment.

Worldwide disasters such as cyber-attack, wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, floods, and pestilence continue to increase. Coupled with increased attention to climate variability, resilience, and sustainability, they present the legal community a unique challenge and opportunity to take action to raise awareness about preventing disasters.

The Resolution calls on lawyers to create greater awareness of community resilience initiatives and to engage members of the legal profession as civic leaders, key stakeholders, and representatives of the community’s social and economic institutions. A robust community resilience program is one that represents the interests of the entire community and has the ongoing collaboration of civic leaders, key public and private sector stakeholders, and community members. Successful community-based resilience is best achieved when programs are stimulated by leaders from local government in the form of local codes, statutes, and community plans and collaboration, and coordination with other entities, plus measures to promote inclusion and stakeholder investment.

A better understanding of disasters and resilience is much needed, and better consideration of threats and mitigation more often should drive decision making. The ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness promoted the Resolution and seeks commitments from state, local, and specialty bars and from other professional associations for the comprehensive planning necessary to achieve resilient localities.

The nation can do better to prepare for and recover from disruptive events. Better land use planning, design, construction, and local standards will all play a large part in the community resilience program. All involved can change the way we develop and redevelop property to lessen the human suffering, despoliation, and wasted resources resulting from the disregard of foreseeable natural events. Again, using the legal expertise of their members, the ABA seeks collaboration with professional associations, industry, and community associations with interests in the built environment and infrastructure systems, and business continuity programs to implement Resolution 108 on community resilience initiatives.