The City of Vancouver has created the position of Chief Resilience Officer, a new role funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to oversee the city's strategy around withstanding major shocks and stresses to Vancouver.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced on Tuesday that Katie McPherson, who has been working for the city on disaster management and preparedness for several years, will assume the new role.
"It's a big boost for our efforts here to prepare for acute impacts, like an earthquake, which we would anticipate here having a huge effect on our city, but also ... on the more chronic impacts, like homelessness, poverty, the overdose crisis being our biggest current challenge," said Robertson.
The Rockefeller Foundation is planning to fund the position for at least a couple years at no cost to the city. It's part of the foundation's 100 Resilient Cities network, which includes major centres like New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City.
"In this century there are so many new threats to be faced, with climate change, with expansion of pipelines and oil, with things that are unpredictable in terms of our global economy," said Jeb Brugmann, 100RC Director of Solution Development and Innovation.
"We put a lot of resources and stock into networking cities and supporting cities to just network among themselves that face similar issues and problems — port cities, cities that are exposed to seismic risk," said Brugmann.
McPherson was on the city team that responded to recent incidents like the Marathassa bunker oil spill in English Bay and the chemical fire in a container at Port Metro Vancouver.
"All of those were good tests, but certainly pale in comparison to what we expect could happen in the future with a major earthquake, and much more major impacts that we absolutely need to be prepared for," said Robertson.
McPherson said the role will be largely to create a strategy for the city that takes a holistic look at all potential shocks and disasters, but also chronic issues, like affordability and homelessness in Vancouver.
"[We'll] assess where the gaps may be and leverage the resources and skills that will come from 100 Resilience Cities to address those gaps and to help to fast track actions that we may have already identified," she said.