- Steps to Resilience
- Understand Exposure
In the first step, you'll consider the things your community cares about and determine which ones are exposed to harm from weather and climate-related hazards. You can work through the tasks in any order, revisiting them as needed. By the end of this step, you'll have a finite list of the climate hazards that could damage the things your community values.
For more information on the Steps to Resilience framework, see the Overview page.
- Steps to Resilience
- Understand Exposure
Editor’s note: The Toolkit team has updated the name of the first step in our Steps to Resilience framework. We replaced “Explore Hazards” with “Understand Exposure” to better describe the foundational task of building a team and comprehending how climate-related hazards can affect the people and resources the team values.
What could happen?
Identify the things your community cares about
Identify the people, places, and services—collectively referred to as assets—that your community agrees are important to protect. These assets are the things that power your economy and make your neighborhood, community, or city special and unique.
Identify your assets by asking questions such as: What features, services, and opportunities make this a good place to live and work? What neighborhoods, historic sites, schools, tourist attractions, or retail centers make this place special? Consider physical, social, and economic assets across your location.
Explore potential hazards
Events that could result in damage to your assets are potential hazards. Many hazards are related to extreme weather and climate, but events such as earthquakes and hazardous material spills are not. These pages focus solely on weather and climate, yet communities can apply the information to build resilience to a broader range of hazards.
To zero in on the weather and climate-related hazards that are relevant for your location, check what types of weather events have caused damage in your region in the past; consider the current trends revealed by weather observations; and find out what climate conditions are projected for future decades.
Authoritative data sources linked to this table can help you answer two questions: What is the normal climate for your community? and What is changing or likely to change in the local climate?
Which of your assets are exposed to weather and climate?
Assets that are located in places where they could be impacted by weather or climate-related events are exposed to possible harm. Exposure is simply the presence of assets in places where they could be damaged.
Go over the list of assets you identified earlier: which of them are in places or situations where they could be adversely affected by weather or climate?
Identify potential hazards for each of your exposed assets
Make a list of your exposed assets.
Next to each asset, list all the weather and climate-related events or situations that could damage it.
List your Asset-Hazard pairs
Use the entries from your table above to make a new list, pairing each asset with every hazard that could affect it.
This important step results in a defined list of climate-related concerns that you can confront. Groups who have used this strategy note that it helps them move conversations about climate resilience from global to local and from abstract to concrete.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has used this pairing strategy to assess vulnerability of specific transportation assets. View their list of asset-hazard pairs »
Describe potential consequences
For each asset-hazard pair on your list, write descriptions of the range of impacts that could result from different intensities of the hazard.
Explore past events to ground your descriptions in reality, and then imagine what could happen to your assets if they experience a minor, moderate, or major hazard event. Capture vivid descriptions of the stories that could unfold at different intensities of the hazard.
These descriptions can serve as warnings about what could happen to your community's valued assets. The opportunity to help avoid these impacts may motivate individuals and groups to join your efforts.
Recognize the role of stressors
Conditions that make hazards more frequent or severe are called stressors.
- Climate stressors include changes in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events. These changes occur due to natural climate variability (i.e. episodes of El Niño and La Niña) as well as through human-caused climate change.
- Non-climate stressors include things such as changes in land cover (for instance, when natural vegetation is cleared and replaced with roads and buildings), construction projects that disrupt natural water drainage or common traffic patterns, and population growth.
If one of your potential hazards is becoming more severe or occurring more frequently, or changes in your local environment could make the impact of a hazard worse, your risk—the probability of a negative consequence—is likely increasing. You'll assess vulnerability and risk in Step 2.
Gather a team
Identify a champion
Rounding up the human and financial resources needed to design and implement effective resilience-building projects almost always takes a committed community leader who has the ability to get things done within the local government. Successful champions gather input from diverse audiences, work through conflicts to develop group consensus, and deliver recommendations to council members or other decision makers.
If you are concerned about local climate challenges, but are not yet experienced in effecting change in your community, you could be more effective by identifying a community champion who you can support.
Build a team
What groups or individuals in your community might be concerned with the issue you've identified? Make a list of all the organizations, groups, and businesses that could be affected by the issue at hand. Identify one or more points of contact for each group, looking especially to engage people who have responsibilities related to your issue.
To ensure community buy-in, it's essential to be inclusive when building a team. Successful projects take extra steps to ensure that participants reflect the full range of demographics in their region. If your issue or its resolution will affect an identifiable group of people, the earlier they are a part of your process, the better.
Define the scope of your project
Identify and focus on your group’s shared values and interests. Throughout your communications and activities, keep a strong focus on participants' common goals. The more clearly you define a problem the group is willing to work together to solve, the easier it will be to find a solution to match it.
And though you've reached the end of Step 1, please recognize the iterative nature of working toward resilience. This step describes a series of tasks that you can continue to work on, even as you move forward to step 2.
If any of your important assets are threatened by weather or climate-related hazards, continue to Step 2 »
You may find it useful to download and complete this prepared spreadsheet to record input as you move through the steps.
Access the Glossary for definitions and examples of words related to resilience.