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28 MAY 2018

Toronto is strong because of the work Torontonians do

How prepared are we for an emergency? We saw that Toronto is a resilient city when a van-driver struck several pedestrians on Yonge street. Our collective hearts broke when we learned of the deaths of our neighbours. But in the light of this devastation, we saw our strength.

We saw strength in the hospital staff who reacted with professionalism and we saw strength in the police officer who arrested the van-driver without firing a shot. We saw strength in the first responders who set up a triage system to save lives. We saw strength in the media who reacted with heart and verified their sources to ensure accuracy. We saw strength in our politicians who came and felt and saw with us. And even though it was difficult to wait, we saw strength in the coroner who did not release identities of the victims until he felt certainty.

When praised for the work of his staff, the hospital CEO said they ran repeated drills to prepare for a “code orange” so that when it was called, they followed their procedures step by step. When called a hero, the police officer said he was just doing his job. First responders, media, politicians and the coroner relied on the processes put in place for unforeseen emergencies.

When triggered, we value the work that goes into emergency preparedness. RICS is holding summits to discuss the future of cities across the Americas and one of the main themes is resiliency. We’ve learned that every dollar spent on hazard mitigation saves six dollars in future disaster costs, according to a study by the National Institute of Building Sciences. But it’s not just about money. It’s about the lives saved.

A high-rise in San Francisco has been fitted with the world’s first evacuation elevators to ensure occupants are safely and quickly evacuated from the building during emergencies. Miami Beach is raising roads against frequent flooding and sea level rise. Staff at the New York City Mayor’s office is building community cohesion so the community will come together to support each other in times of need.

And yet it can be a real challenge for leaders to find funding for resiliency measures even in the face of known threats like terrorism, climate change and aging infrastructure. This is a question we’re tackling at the RICS Summit Series Americas 2018 – how do we fund the work that gives us our strength? Join us in Toronto on June 4 as we learn from each other.

Amie Silverwood, Writer and Media Relations, RICS Americas