In 2005 the Gulf of Mexico coast was devastated by hurricane Katrina. It was the most costly natural disaster ever to strike the United States, killing 1,800 people and flooding 80% of New Orleans. Katrina also brought chaos to the city’s key infrastructure, swiftly cutting off all transportation, communications and health services as well as the energy, water and sanitation networks. The city is still dealing with the effects of this disaster.
To protect itself against similar events, unexpected shocks or chronic stress, the city decided to prioritize improvements to its understanding of its exposure to risk and to transform its urban systems. This policy was delivered as part of the world’s first public-private partnership for resilience, in association with Swiss Re and Veolia and under the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation.
The partnership aims to optimize prevention costs and reduce post-event losses and the time taken to recover after a shock. Thirty Veolia and Swiss Re experts worked for four months with the city’s stakeholders, examining 200 drinking water, sanitation and stormwater dispersal facilities to determine their degree of vulnerability and recommend appropriate actions to ensure these facilities can resist an unplanned event. The city was then able to release a road map for its Resilient New Orleans strategy. Veolia and Swiss Re work with the city council to improve management of its critical resources.