Preparing for climate-related disasters

Preparing for climate-related disasters

September is Disaster Preparedness Month. And even though we’re a little late to the game, don’t worry! We’ll be peppering readers with disaster preparedness and community resilience tips and resources all year long.

As I’m writing this, Hurricane Ian is working it’s way across Florida. Some Floridians have chosen to follow evacuation mandates and advisories, some have not. Hopefully, all will have prepared adequately and will come out unscathed. I’ve seen Florida friends post to social media about their preparations, whether it’s installing the hurricane shutters, stocking up on food or digging out the solar phone chargers. Of course, this brings to mind the question: what prepares us for disaster in the Kansas City region? And what does disaster-preparedness mean in the face of climate change?

Climate change will exacerbate those natural hazards we are all familiar with here in the metro: flooding, heat, drought, winter weather, tornadoes and thunderstorms. The full impact of more extreme versions of these hazards leaves a lot of uncertainty. But one thing is for sure, the impacts could be broad and wide-reaching. We need to think expansively about our risks and vulnerabilities. Disasters in a different area of the country could impact our region — mass migration, food shortages or economic disruptions, as examples. Read on for a few ways you, your household and your city can build climate resilience by being prepared when we are faced with disaster.


  1. Know your local risks and vulnerabilities. The Climate Action Plan recommends that cities and counties undertake their own Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA). A CRVA is a starting point to better understand where your risks and vulnerabilities lie and where to focus climate adaptation efforts. So, in the face of disaster, your city/county assets, services and the residents they serve experience less severe impacts and are able to bounce back. Helpful resources: Kansas City Regional Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit’s Steps to Climate Resilience.
  2. Make a risk communications plan. Cities and counties flexed their risk communications skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. Partnerships, communication channels and audience may change when talking about climate-related risks and emergency management. NOAA has developed a short webinar called the Seven Best Practices for Risk Communication to help local governments and other organizations focus in on climate risk communication. The next live webinar is on Nov. 9th. Register here.
  3. Update and share your warming and cooling center locations. Warming and cooling centers can be a literal lifesaver for vulnerable individuals during extreme temperatures. Are your community warming and cooling centers up to date? Do residents know about them and when they are available?

Individuals and Households

  1. Stock up on provisions to last two weeks. We saw supply chains break down to various extents over the last couple of years, driven by the pandemic and other causes. When preparing for disasters, it’s a good idea to make stocking up your top task. Food and water are critical but don’t forget about medication, diapers, baby formula, first aid supplies, solar chargers, etc. Check our for more provisions to consider.
  2. Grow your own food. Speaking of food, 49% of the lower 48 states are experiencing drought this week–impacting nearly 120 million people. This persistent drought across much of the country and the globe is already impacting the food supply. This means, increased prices of food, nutrient deficiencies and increased food insecurity. You can help alleviate some of these impacts on your household by growing your own food. For those without adequate growing space, check out nearby community gardens and orchards, or participate in a community-supported agriculture program through a local farm.
  3. Build resilience by getting to know your neighbors. Community is the most important kind of resilience infrastructure. Do you feel like you could lean on your neighbors in an emergency? Do you think your elderly neighbor down the street would feel looked after in her older home during a freeze? Getting to know your neighbors is not only rewarding in and of itself, it helps build an informal service network and provides support for the most vulnerable among us. So get out there, share your extra cucumbers, host a block party or offer to help fix your neighbor’s bike chain.

In what ways are you preparing for the impacts of climate? Shoot us an email with your ideas, resources, tips, etc. We may feature them on upcoming social media posts to help inspire others to take similar actions.