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Developing local resilience and planning urban spaces in times of emergency: A multi-disciplinary study comparing preparedness for extreme weather conditions to preparedness for conflict

Shlomit Paz, Hani Nouman, Maya Negev, Motti Zohar (University of Haifa) and Hagai Levine (Hebrew University)

The frequency of extreme weather events worldwide and also in Israel is increasing due to climate change. This is the greatest challenge of the current century, affecting all aspects of human health and safety.  

The aims of the research were to evaluate the preparedness of the local authorities of the health and welfare sectors in Israel to emergency situations resulted by extreme weather events. The evaluation was made also in comparison with the preparation steps initiated towards wars. The study is based on the case study of Haifa as a city representing heterogeneous population as well as varied geographical and sub-climatic regions. 

Research products: 
Research products:1. Mapping health and welfare indices for populations at a high level of vulnerability.2. Mapping climatic and environmental data for areas sensitive to floods, wildfires andheat waves.3. Online resident survey for 549 participants (including questions related to Covid-19).4. 32 in-depth interviews with key local authority officials to examine the health andwelfare system's preparedness for extreme weather events.5. Literature review to examine existing preparedness plans for climate change in Israel.

Most vulnerable population (according to the socio-economic index of the Central Bureau of Statistics) is concentrated in the lower parts of Haifa (downtown) as well as in the Hadar area and in the western part of Kiryat Shmuel. From the spatial mapping of sensitivity to risks (floods, forest fires and extreme heat), it appears that there are specific areas in the city that are highly sensitive to emergencies following extreme weather events. For example, Western Haifa and Hod HaCarmel are highly sensitive to floods, Ramot HaCarmel and the Carmel are very sensitive to forest fires and the industrial area in the Haifa bay is particularly sensitive to extreme heat. An effective preparedness for these various emergencies needs to take into account the specific characteristics (such as socio-economic level, distance from forests, etc.) of the areas at risk. The survey of Haifa residents found that the perceptions of danger, community resilience and national resilience in light of the Covid-19 crisis are moderate. However, the perception of danger was the lowest (average = 2.64, s.d. = 0.82), while the sense of community resilience was higher (average = 2.96, s.d. = 0.76). The national resilience, in the light of the Covid-19 crisis, was estimated at the highest level (average = 3.28, s.d. = 0.84). An analysis of the structured in-depth interviews with officials in the health andwelfare sectors at the city found that in comparison with the existing preparedness for an emergency situation resulted from war, there is insufficient preparation for emergency situations from climate change. In addition, it was found that there is a gap between the central government and the local authority in the perception of readiness for emergencies, as well as barriers in cooperation between the various authorities.

In the coming decades, significant climatic changes are expected globally and locally. The effects of these changes are already being felt in various ways including negative effects on the public health. The city of Haifa has developed preparedness instructions for various emergency situations such as fires, earthquakes, and others, but there is no preparation for climatic changes, nor for extreme heat waves and temperature increase. There are no clear regulations procedures and guidelines, no exercises are carried out and there is no structural preparation for extreme weather. Based on the specific characteristics of the areas at higher risk, it is of great importance to be prepared for the effects of climate change on the health and security of the local population through actions that reduce exposure to the risks, on the short and long-terms.

Final report (Hebrew)

See publication:
Negev, M., Zohar, M. and  Paz, S. (2022). Multidimensional hazards, vulnerabilities, and perceived risks regarding climate change and Covid-19 at the city level: An empirical study from Haifa, Israel. Urban Climate,Volume 43,2022,101146,ISSN 2212-0955