ResilientALX is the Beginning

Patience is a virtue. But good things are worth the wait.

After first proposing to the Citizen Corps Council the vision for the ResilientALX Charter nearly a year and a half ago to address the vulnerabilities in our City, it makes me very proud to see how it has grown into a Charter that would be adopted by Alexandria City Council and embraced by our City Staff.

My vision, spawned from an increasing understanding of our community vulnerabilities and from the model laid by the Eco-City Charter of 2008, could never have become a reality without the contributions of each member of the Citizen Corps Council. But in particular worth praise are Marjorie Windelberg, CERT Coordinator, and Taryn Wilkinson, Vice-Chair of CCC, both of whom stepped up to be co-chairs of the ResilientALX Subcommittee. After many meetings and working sessions in which the three of us flushed out a strategy, the Charter came together to be what I knew it could be. Throughout that process, we were supported by Alexandria’s Office of Emergency Management, in particular Fire Chief Corey Smedley, Emergency Manager Ray Whatley, and Emergency Services Coordinator Brent Ruggles. Each individual brought with them invaluable perspective and insights that would help ensure we presented a document to Council that could be most effective in yielding tangible results. What started as a call for what the CCC could do to tangibly help our city, turned into a shared vision. It wasn’t just my project, it was ours. As Councilwoman Amy Jackson said stated during the January 26th Council Meeting, it was a labor of love. Love for our City.

Now that the charter has been adopted, the first step of implementation will be a comprehensive review of the city’s preparedness by working with all Alexandria City Departments, including Alexandria City Public Schools, the Alexandria Health Department, and the City’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (TE&S). In partnership with Alexandria-based Universities, in particular Virginia Tech, we will work with selected- graduate students to establish metrics, review the data from current information sources and new community surveys. As the circle of engagement expands to include our business community, non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations, we will gain a better understanding of their respective plans, sharing best practices and guidance along the way. This process will be iterative, but an action plan to address vulnerabilities will emerge.

Once that action plan is complete, It will be a long process of hardening our institutions against any type of threat, natural or otherwise, that we may face. I can only anticipate that this will require a coordinated effort to invest in the right planning, the right resources, the right infrastructure, and the right relationships.

We are on our way. The leadership and investment that our Office of Emergency Management has made with the Emergency Operations Center is a critical step. But Lord knows, for many reasons, we are susceptible to many, many, many constantly changing vulnerabilities that extend into nearly every facet of our lives: food security, clean water, shelter, power, transportation, communication, access to medical care, healthy environment, and public safety to name a few. Affect one, and the rest are impacted, as are we. That impact has very real consequences which can be the difference between life and death as this Coronavirus Pandemic has shown us.

Yet this is all on the macro-level. Meanwhile, preparedness on a personal level is too often neglected, deferred, or even disregarded. It’s the classic dilemma of urgent versus important actions. Urgent always seems to get done first, while the non-urgent, important items go to the end of the action list.

But no more, we must prioritize it for ourselves, our families, our homes, our communities, our workplaces, our government, our lifeline institutions. Just as we count on public safety and emergency personnel to respond quickly when we call. We must expect the same preventative actions for ourselves and our neighbors. After all, the first 72 hours after a disaster is on each of us independently. The system isn’t resourced to work any other way. We must as individuals be responsible to look after our households, our families, our friends. That web, albeit an interconnected one, yields the ultimate strength and resilient community.

As these values are adopted, I expect Resiliency will be more akin to a lens to look through in which we will evaluate and understand the strength and effectiveness of the systems that we interact with. It will be something that we hold each public service entity, utility, health and medical provider, and supply chain to account. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As we grapple with today’s crises, we mustn’t be content in only the cure or response to today’s and yesterday’s challenges. We must also make the investments of time and money to ensure that any scenario that could similarly impact our lives, is so too addressed. We must guard against tomorrow’s challenge. For that reason, it’s critical that we start this process now. Every moment delayed could make the difference.

The ResilientALX Project is going to take an enormous amount of work, from many people for a long time. But it’s something that must get done. We have the ability. We have the leadership. We have the framework. With the right combination of collaboration with private, state, and federal partners, we have the resources. At this moment in time, we have the will. I say again, WE HAVE THE ABILITY; and with it, we have the responsibility.

I’m so honored to be the Chairman of this most excellent group of community leaders that make up the Citizen Corps Council (CCC). I am committed to seeing this through as I know we all are. Let’s keep this ball rolling, Alexandria!

Our presentation was at started about 1:20:00 if you’d like to check it out.

If you would like to participate in the project, please shoot me a message or comment below. It’s going to be a team effort!

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