Solar panels

During extreme weather, low-income communities tend to suffer the most.

In the case of an evacuation, residents may not have a car or a safe place to go. They may live in older homes that are more easily damaged. And with less money, it’s harder to recover.

Kristin Baja of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network says supporting these communities should not wait until disaster strikes.

Baja: “How are we actually helping communities year-round? Because resilience is not just in the event of a shock. It’s all the stressors we’re dealing with every day that are then exacerbated by that shock.”

Baja’s group is working with several cities, including Washington, D.C. and Miami, that are interested in developing what she calls “resilience hubs.”

The idea is to retrofit trusted spaces – such as community centers – with solar panels and battery storage. In an emergency …

Baja: “There’s extra food. There’s extra water. There’s a location to go to charge phones or to communicate with folks.”

The rest of the year, these spaces can serve the community in other ways – for example, by offering job training workshops or health services.

She says it’s a model for strengthening communities before, during, and after a disaster.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.