The Montana Department of Commerce is leading the Montana Ready Communities Initiative (MRCI), a program to help individuals, communities, and businesses to survive, adapt and grow in the face of challenges and barriers. MRCI focuses on a proactive, holistic, and collective approach at the state-level to natural disasters, economic shocks, and other adverse events. This approach ensures that the State of Montana plans for long-term resilience and aligns projects and priorities across state agencies. In addition, MRCI will collaborate with a wide range of partners to leverage resources and deliver measurable results that create an adaptable and vibrant future for all Montanans.
MRCI will begin by creating Montana’s Resiliency Framework. The Framework is an integrated and interdisciplinary strategy to ensure that long-term planning, projects, and priorities address chronic stressors such as poverty and climate change while building resilience to acute shocks such as floods or wildfires. Numerous states have developed similar strategies that have garnered national recognition and tangible results. The State of Montana will build upon their success and tailor the Framework to the State of Montana’s unique assets, resources, and communities. Colorado’s Resiliency Framework and Vermont’s Roadmap to Resilience are both helpful examples of this type of approach.
What is Resilience?
The term resilience has been used in many different contexts, but for the purposes of this project resilience is defined as, “the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt and grow amidst stressors, shocks and other challenges.” Resilient communities are adaptable to changing conditions and can thrive in adverse situations. Additional factors that contribute to community resilience include:
- Learning from past events and integrating lessons learned
- Being inclusive by including all segments of the population
- Having durable community services and systems that can function in all conditions
- Diverse economies, biodiversity and population
Shocks and Stressors
Natural hazards such as floods and wildfires pose a significant threat to Montana communities, but they are not the only risks to consider. Community resilience can be improved by addressing both shocks and stressors. Shocks refer to high-impact, short-term events that may significantly affect basic services, public safety or the environment.Common shocks include natural disasters such as floods, wildfires, or earthquakes, but may also include industry/business closures, cyber-attacks, or mass shootings. Stressors are on-going environmental, social, or economic issues that weaken the fabric of a community and can amplify the effects of shocks and disasters.Community stressors may include high rates of poverty, unemployment, climate change, aging populations, or environmental degradation.
By addressing the most relevant shocks and the underlying stressors, communities are not only more prepared for major incidents in the future, but they are also improving current conditions. By integrating resilience planning into existing hazard mitigation plans, economic development plans and other planning documents, communities can link together environmental, social and economic sectors to holistically improve their communities.
Adoption of resilience plans and actions can also save money. According to a 2017 study by the National Institute of Building Sciences, a $1 investment in mitigation grants or improvements to building codes can save a community $4-$6 in disaster losses. Factoring in additional data such as tourism, cultural resources, and physical well-being can increase the return-on-investment when resilience is combined with mitigation.
MRCI will begin by creating Montana’s Resiliency Framework. The intent of the Framework is to develop an integrated and interdisciplinary strategy to ensure that long-term planning, projects, and priorities align with the state’s unique vulnerabilities while enhancing local, regional, state, federal, public and private collaboration. The Framework will be informed by engagement with key stakeholders, including representatives across all sectors and community members statewide. The information gathered from these meetings will identify strategies and activities that may be addressed by resources and tools at the state level.
The State of Montana currently creates, reviews, and updates a comprehensive Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan and Statewide Hazard Assessment along with a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). MRCI will not duplicate these response and recovery efforts, instead, it will plan for long-term resilience to natural disasters and strengthen the capacity of individuals, communities, and the state to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of adverse events by building off these important resources. Ultimately, MRCI will lessen the probability of devastating effects from adverse events while integrating resiliency into the fabric of everyday life.