Some city staff members have been studying how the city could be better prepared in the face of more and more frequent rounds of severe weather and health threats.
Jermaine Freeman, Kristen Hewes, and Lara Freeman gave the City Council a presentation on their regional resiliency plan. Because of the increasing number of extreme weather events, the city found it to be a worthwhile endeavor last year. Jermaine Freeman used the fires in 2016, the tornado last year, and the increasing and record-breaking amount of rain each year as examples of weather that disrupts and cripples Chattanooga.
“We started it because the administration saw a clear need for Chattanooga and its partners to analyze and make changes because of how extreme weather events are putting a strain and could impact our public infrastructure,” Mr. Freeman said.
Ms. Hewes said Chattanooga is the sixth-fastest warming city in the United States, which means extreme weather will continue to be commonplace. She said regional stakeholders, representatives from the county, and partners like EPB have become involved in this plan.
Lara Freeman said this study will look at ways Chattanooga government and businesses can plan for and adjust to weather and other natural disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. She did point out this resiliency plan is not preventative.
“This project was designed as a climate assessment plan, and was adapted to focus on extreme weather events and pandemic planning and geographic resiliency plans,” Ms. Freeman said. “We took a range of hazards and evaluated their risk to both operations and facilities of Chattanooga’s owned and operated plants and facilities. This is not focused on sustainability, which mitigates the causes of extreme weather.”
Councilman Russell Gilbert asked, “Do we have other facilities ready to go if we have a disaster like that somewhere else?”
Jermaine Freeman said right now the facilities that best suit this would be the YMCA centers, as well as the Youth and Family Development centers around the city. However, he said the city does not have any certain partners at this time.
“That’s why these partnerships are so important,” Mr. Freeman said. “When tornadoes or extreme weather happen, we can reach out to our partners in the community.”
Mr. Freeman pointed out that last year, after the tornado, a religious site like Silverdale Baptist Church opened their doors to allow people in after the tornado. He said faith-based organizations are extremely helpful in situations like that.
Councilman Erskine Oglesby asked if there was any organization or agency that oversees the entire plan. Mr. Freeman said no one organization oversees it at the moment.
“This is why we wanted to start this conversation,” Mr. Freeman said.