Administrator Criswell: Urgent And Decisive Actions Needed To Safeguard Communities From Natural Disasters
A string of costly wildfires, floods, hurricanes, typhoons and earthquakes have compelled APEC member economies to heightened collective actions to respond to the increasingly complex disaster landscape and instill long-term climate resilience.
“The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than 70 percent of global disasters,” said Deanne Criswell, Chair of the 2023 APEC Senior Disaster Management Officials’ Forum, in her opening remarks in Seattle.
“In just the last few years catastrophic disasters from powerful typhoons, earthquakes and extreme wildfires to prolonged droughts and abrupt landslides have caused mounting economic losses and widespread shocks across our region with natural disaster-related costs losses resulting in an estimated US$100 billion annually,” added Administrator Criswell who is also the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator.
Administrator Criswell highlighted that the 21 APEC member economies are from both sides of the Pacific, account for almost 3 billion people and nearly 50 percent of global trade which means two things: frequent and severe disasters are impacting almost 40 percent of the global population and complex emergencies present a serious threat to the economic growth and sustainable development of Asia-Pacific.
“Amid this context, my message today is not one of despair rather I want to emphasize the significance of our work as crisis managers; to take urgent and decisive action and the importance of emergency preparedness and safeguarding every single community across Asia Pacific from natural disasters,” urged Administrator Criswell.
Addressing member economies at the meeting, FEMA Region 10 Regional Administrator Willie Nunn highlighted how in recent years the region, which includes the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, has experienced more floods, wildfires and extreme heat and that entire villages in Alaska have had to move as rising sea levels had engulfed their ancestral lands. He emphasized that no city, region nor corner of the world is immune to the disasters and that investing in climate resilience and disaster preparedness is as investment in our future.
During the forum’s roundtable, disaster management leaders shared how their economy’s management organizations are incorporating the principles of adaptability, flexibility and meaningful change to build strong and resilient communities, acknowledging that integrating communities into emergency decision-making process is a crucial element in ensuring equity and inclusion.
Disaster management leaders will engage with local communities in the state of Washington, including a visit to Mount Vernon where the city leveraged local, state and federal investment to build a flood wall that put an end to persistent flooding of the city’s downtown and which forms a part of a long-term plan to increase safety and revitalize local economy.
A visit to Starbucks Headquarters will demonstrate how this global corporation prepares its supply chain and operations for possible disasters, as well as showcase the model of public-private partnership to advance climate resilience.
Finally, officials will continue their stakeholder engagement with a visit to the Seattle Emergency Operations Center to see how local emergency management personnel are constantly adapting to prepare the city for a changing disaster landscape.
“We are facing one of humanity's greatest challenges adapting to a changing climate,” Administrator Criswell concluded. “Which is why today I want to be unequivocal about the task at hand; we must leverage our collective knowledge partnerships and experiences and devise innovative sustainable solutions to strengthen crisis management across APEC so that we can build disaster resilient equitable communities.”