The Coordinator: Sean Lahav
Business Perspective that say perspective. I respect that one more time. Water Shabaab is fresh out of Grad School. I'm twenty four turning twenty five in February but already he's reached the point in his career where he's in charge. Egypt coordinating resilience efforts for all of northeast Florida Room. This is the adapt podcast. I'm Brandon rivers the reporter a W. J. C. T. News in Jacksonville. Florida adapters are online magazine. About what people in northeast Florida are doing to adapt a st level rise and climate change. And in this podcast. We're hearing from some of about where they've been. And what keeps them going along. Sean is the resiliency coordinator for something called the Northeast Florida Regional Council. We'll hear more about what it does in a minute but first what is resilience. You're always GonNa get a different answer depending on who you ask. So if you're looking at a transportation planner for example they might be concerned with the resilience of a road system or a network of roads systems. This with something like sea level rise or an urban planner might think about keeping houses above water. But he really likes the definition of resilience from the US Army Corps of Engineers. So let's say okay. You have a system in this case. We'll call it Jacksonville so on a routine basis like today everyone's going to work the economy's functioning smoothly. It's it's normal but then a shock comes into the system like a hurricane event so once the shockers the system loses function the resilient species. How do we return the system in this case Jacksonville back to full functionality? How do we learn from that event so when we look into the future at the UH next shock which is going to be inevitable? How do we learn from that to reduce the curve so when the next shot comes along we don't lose as much functionality and we move forward award at a steady rate so what exactly is a resilient to coordinator? What do you do similar to a chief resilience officer for? Let's say a city or state in my responsibilities are focused on getting people in the same room to first of all talk about these issues. Then there's this educational component and really putting all the the pieces together so a big focus of my position if we're taking pyramid approach is to look at resilience from a community perspective first of all and say what steps need to be taken to make our community more resilient so that starts with public awareness so recently I designed to set of initiatives should've to first of all educate the public about what we're doing so that starts with a business continuity presentation focused on economic resilience we work with Rotary Clubs and other similar groups on the ground to talk about what small business owners can do to make their businesses more resilient to natural hazards so purchasing flood. What insurance raising your HVAC systems backing up your data things like that? So it's very tangible. And it Kinda plant seeds in people's heads here he is speaking to the rotary recove- polack Last month with the silver is in the big picture things. Nothing will ever happen in less elected officials government. Understand it and they listen to constituents constituents so if this is a priority for you as a community or as individuals tell your elected officials. They're willing to talk about it. Then we move up the pyramid into this presentation focused on building community resilience. So how can community leaders actually implement solutions in their own backyards and then and from there we partnered with Taylor Engineering on this adaptation solutions presentation. That goes over all of the solutions. That communities can adopt opt in efforts to become more resilient there's protection strategies where you completely blocked something from coming in. Let's say water then there's accommodation like living shorelines shorelines so instead of saying no water is allowed. Let the water come in. Learn how to divert the water into natural areas and then then there's also concepts related to avoidance so. Don't build in a particular place if it's going to be exposed to flooding and then there's also manage relocation in some regards in areas. Let's say in Saint Johns County and parts of Nassau County Some homeowners have no other option at this point point because of sand dunes fading away and roads fading away that they might have to leave so there's government buyout options and things like that if we go to the crux and the top of the Pyramid Pyramid. We designed a public workshop focused on asking community members. What's important to them? What are the problems facing your community? Is it storm surge urge. Is it sunny day flooding. Are You more concerned with silver is or hurricanes. Wha what's the the issue area in your community and from there we organized community members into groups where we work on map activities where citizens take sticky notes identify on a map. What's important to them? mm-hmm and then we help facilitate dialogue to create strategies to protect those assets so all of these services that were offering at the northeast Florida regional council related to resilience resilience were offering completely for free to community groups that are interested in the seven county region. That work is paid for by taxpayers cities and counties. He's in northeast Florida. Pay Dues to belong to the regional council. One of the ten planning councils in the state they help local governments not only with emergency and disaster preparedness but also with economic development and other issues. Let's talk about you so I was looking at your linked profile before we sat down. And you've got an extremely impressive resume for someone. Your Age Shannon kind of makes me wonder what I've been doing with my life so tell me about yourself and how you got to this point your career. So I'm a by product of two different states. I grew up in south Florida down in Boynton in beach and I also lived in Cape Cod Massachusetts for portions of my childhood. My parents operated a seasonal retail business in south Florida specifically specifically in big pine key down in the Florida keys but also in Massachusetts. So what South Florida and Cape Cod have in common. Is this geography that is extremely vulnerable to coastal hazards. So in Cape Cod. There's Nor'easterS in extreme snow events and South Florida. It's the obvious hurricanes. Tropical Saipan's Shawn's dad would completely bored up his house with metal shutters. I remember one hurricane in the early two thousands My parents just installed this new screener on the house. Yes we were in the home listening to this violent wind coming from every direction outside of the house and the scream was completely ripped off of the house and we heard it and it was a pretty scary sound and then once the storm passed We walked around the neighborhood and our screen room was five streets down the neighborhood Searches showed you how powerful Mother Nature was in that essence. Like many Florida and Sean has lots of memories like this flooded. Streets down power lines. His grandparents evacuating to his house. And when we come back in return to their their mobile home park just complete devastation. Asian a lot of people's lives were turned completely upside down but again I thought this was a routine part of life. Hurricane even threatened his parents livelihood flooding cargo trailer full of inventory for their store thousands of dollars and that had a big impact on their business for the year so on a personal note. When when I think of resilience I I really think about small business owners and what it means to them if they're impacted by let's say a storm event like a hurricane it? You can have a really devastating long term outlook on their life and business. When Sean was in college he spent a lot of time in nature even going on three months of off the grid? Expeditions in places like Wyoming in the middle of winter I just started developing a real interest in How the Environment Effects Society how we how we look look at the environment how we look at natural places? Do we protect them to utilize them. I don't really know how I ended up in Jacksonville I if it was just pointing at somewhere on a map but I heard really good things about the University of North Florida and I have to say it was probably the best decision I ever made. I really found a great community here in northeast Florida. So when I arrived in Jacksonville maybe several months after being here. I started talking to the U. N. F. Environmental Center and they were looking for a student to work on this video series to promote the natural parks in northeast Florida specifically in Duval County. Any and this was under their environmental leadership program which was a new program in the works to connect students with community partners to work on actual projects. He ended up producing twenty videos on Duval county's parks and later as a public administration masters student. He got another opportunity through the NF Environmental Fire Mental Center. The city of Atlantic beach was looking for help as it pursued Leed certification. You've probably heard of lead as relates to green environmentally friendly buildings but but the idea is now being applied to whole communities when Atlantic beach got certified with Shawn's help put together a case study on the process and the US Green Building Council is holding up his case a study as it tries to get other local governments around Florida to pursue Leed certification. Five days before graduation Sean was offered the job at the regional council at at the northeast. Florida regional council our main objective right now is to raise public awareness about these issues. We want to make sure that the public understands is what government is looking at and we also believe that this has to be a team sport so government will not be able to fix this issue alone. nonprofits won't either and as well as the business community. This has to be a multi discipline holistic activity. Are there any unique any challenges. We face in northeast Florida. What we're seeing recently in two thousand sixteen and then two thousand seventeen with Matthew and Irma? There's a lot of water here. And we love in northeast. Florida live on the water. So we have that. Lana Ocean the intercoastal and the Saint John's river and and we've built homes. We've developed our businesses all along these waterways. It's important to us. We look at it as a sacred entity these waterways but in addition to that we're starting to realize that water levels are rising. And we're seeing things in San Marco for instance like nuisance flooding where the sky is blue. We're not having a storm event and you have flooding in the streets so I think some of these hazards are are starting to become more visible when in the past. They haven't been so. I met one individual two weeks ago. WHO said that the pipe leading to an ice maker in their home there is a high tide in the water from the river pushed through that pipe into the ice maker flooding the kitchen? So what's happening opening in essentially San Marco. Let's say you have a storm water system that doesn't have a backflow valve on it. Water during high tide is GonNa clog that system push all of the water backup through the pipe and flood whatever's on the other end so there are preventative steps. That can be taken like backflow. Valves which I think they've started install and Saint Augustine. Yes so water can only go one way and it can't come back so I think that's an example of a solution to protect ourselves against rising seas but it's just one of many solutions out there. Given what we know about sea level rise and flooding and hurricanes why why do people keep building developing and risky coastal areas. We are attracted to waterways because of the benefits that are produced for us by living there. There's transportation so we ship and and receive goods from ports that has to do with waterways. We can on the Mississippi River for instance go up and down. It was a communication Gatien Element back in the day so there's not just this intrinsic value of or the straightforward attitude that we're living on the water but just because it's beautiful. Well I think that Naturally as humans we've always been attracted to water for agriculture and all sorts of other reasons and I think that's why cities are located where they are so i. I want to put this out there. That especially coming from the northeast. Florida Regional Council that economic development is very important to us. We believe that it's one of the most important parts of developing a safe healthy and vibrant community but on the other hand it doesn't have to be just a focus on build build build so we have to start looking at. How do we balance development with environmental protection? How do we build in the right places and when we do build? How do we we build more resilient? So if we're looking at any number of development projects let's say in Jacksonville and silver is becomes a concern learn in a specific area. The perspective is not to just say don't develop it's saying okay if you're going to build this let's factor silver is interior design plan This is the adapt podcast. Thank you for listening. Jessica Palumbo the editor of adapt so adaptation to sea level rise in northeast. Florida is personal for me because I rode out Hurricane Irma in a neighborhood that flooded when I was nine months. Pregnant regmunt got rescued by boat and like most of us I still live and work and shop in areas that are close to the saint. John's river and the beach which as flooding and other issues are only expected to get worse. Our community is looking to adapt for information and answers and since we launched last year we've heard from readers who are happy. They can find them in a single place. That's at adapt Florida Dot Org. The adopt podcast asked is a production of Wj C. T. public media. Financial support for adopt comes from our readers and listeners with additional support from the Arthur vining Davis foundations nations and the twenty four foundation more at adapt Florida Dot Org uh in twenty thirteen before Sean. Got There the northeast. Florida Regional Council released the Regional Action Plan on sea level writes. This was essentially dipping our toes in rising waters and the way the community looked at it. Was that silver is is threatening other communities in Florida and that we believe it has the potential to threaten our community here northeast Florida so in that same time period in two thousand fourteen. The Public Private Regional Resilience Committee was formed as a committee of the council. So this is the P. to Archie Committee. So so when P to archie was formed there is a question asked who are the movers and Shakers in northeast Florida. And who can guide this discussion for it and the answer was the business. Business Community in northeast Florida. I think we can confidently say that the business sector the private sector is extremely important in making these developments happen so a broad range of industry professionals from insurance legal fields engineering architecture and many other subject matter expertise bridges gathered in this PTO Arctic Committee to create a list of action items that we could pursue to make northeast Florida more resilient besides convening community conversations on resilience the regional council also collects data and develops tools planners like a website that lets people find the threats to specific locations on a map of northeast. Florida Florida so you have a map to the right and then you have all of these data layers to the left that you can turn on and off and you can play around with to understand. The region's vulnerabilities. So on the top up of the data options we have things like critical facilities population density low income population densities one of the first water layers that are featured are fema flood hazard zones so flood insurance rate maps. That tie into flood. Insurance rates are featured here. So if let's say you're in North Florida and you own a home you can look at where you are in relation to flood zones. Let's say you WANNA purchase a home. This could be a great resource to look at in making that investment decision and then the next data layer that we have is storm surge so there's extensive statewide work on understanding storm surge throughout Florida. So what this tool does is put that into one centralized location and it shows you you wear storm. Surge would go on land from category one to category five storm and then we have two other data layers as well. We have depth of flooding at different intervals or storm events. So if it's really dark blue that means there's going to be much more water if it's light blue it'd be less. And then in addition we have a sea level. Rise layer that uses. Noah mapping to look at sea level rise from a one foot increase to a six foot increase. Where this tool gets really interesting saying is that you can overlay those flares are there's water layers with social layers in wildlife layers so the regional council also recently launched a survey survey on resilience? What were your findings from that? We asked all sorts of questions. Like what are the most important things that your government should be looking at. Is it storm. Surge is is it silver is is it green infrastructure and. We're still organizing those results but at the end of the survey. We asked some big picture questions. And I think think one of the most insightful ones and this is for all seven counties there were six hundred seventy two participants in the survey we asked. Is Your community doing enough to address stress resilience planning and the overwhelming majority of respondents said. No eighty-three percent seventeen percent said yes. So what this tells us is that there is a long road ahead to figure out how to how to deal with these situations and these topics before we move on. I WanNa take a second and talk about the regional council's relationship with the city of Jacksonville in the fall of twenty nineteen. When the Jacksonville City Council was going over its budget councilman Ferraro suddenly suggested ending the city's annual financial contribution to the regional council? I was assigned to that and my first year and I had a difficult difficult time figuring out what they do for our city and I never really got an answer and as I worked at work at work through the last four years. I've I I found. There is some things that they do but but as as taxpayers were not getting our money's worth and nearly four hundred thousand dollars Jacksonville's annual contribution is larger than any other member of the Regional Council and makes about twenty percent of its annual operating budget. The city stayed in for now but she's expected to come back up in the twenty twenty budget cycle. Despite this potential threat northeast Florida's most prominent regional effort to address the level rise and his employer. Sean says there's a lot of positive momentum Jacksonville right now now. Starting with the two new committees the city created within the past year to look at sea level rise. There was the Adaptation Action Area Working Group which was very focused on long-term priority already areas for addressing resilience and then there was the storm resiliency and Infrastructure Review Committee that was more focused on short-term objectives of how we can improve for storm water systems and a lot of really valuable information came out of the work of both those committees and I think it's laying the foundation for how we're going to move forward. The work is is continuing this year with a new Brazilian committee made up of City Council members who will hear from experts around the state of Florida. There's a lot of mental right now in Jacksonville and elsewhere so there's these regional collaborative forming all around the state. There's the southeast Florida climate compact the recently created e central regional resilience collaborative and the Tampa Bay resilience coalition. And then. We're also seeing chief. Resilient officers being hired by different municipal local governments around Florida and counties is to address local concerns related to resilience planning and then there's also leadership at the state level in Tallahassee. So governor onto Santa's one of his is priorities as governor is to address a lot of the scientific issues and environmental issues. We're facing as a state and moving into the future. So he appointed appointed a chief science officer at the state level and then also appointed a chief resilience officer. Who is Dr Julian Nashua? If you haven't already listen into our conversation with Julia Watch she's one of the six people we hear from in this podcast. So there's a lot of action happening right now. We're going to start hearing a lot more about the specific topic and I think it's all positive as long as we can target in on what's important for our state what's important for our communities and and I think the the meaningfulness is GonNa come out of finding tangible solutions that we can implement in a realistic manner. So do you have any closing thoughts. I think a really really meaningful picture that advise everyone to go home and look at is. This photo of the damage left behind from Hurricane. Michael in Mexico beach out in the Florida panhandle. So there's this photo of this house. This big house built on stilts it's elevated off the ground it's an a coastal area area. It looks completely fine. It withstood the impacts of hurricane. Michael it was built resilient and it it was still standing all around that piece of property the rest of the community essentially looks like it doesn't exist. Everything was just completely devastated. Devastated if your house is still standing but everyone else's collapses what's the property value of your home or your business so I encourage urge everyone to think about all of the dynamics that tie into this conversation when we're talking about resilience. I think it's important to think about what what steps can be taken to protect the entire community not just specific neighborhoods or groups of people and I think when we start having those robust meaningful conversations. We're really going to find answers that brings together. That's Sean La. The resiliency coordinator for the Northeast Florida Regional Council to see that photo. He was talking walking out of that House on Mexico beach. Check out the web version of this conversation at adapt Florida Dot Org there. You can get to know all six of the people profiled in this podcast Thanks for listening to the adapt podcast. I'm Brendan rivers production. Help came from Lindsey kilbride with editing by Jessica Palumbo. The theme music was composed and performed by Davin Llewellyn and Keith Phelps ops from conglomerate adapt comes from W. J. C. T. public media with support from the Twenty Forty Foundation and the Arthur vining Davis foundations more on how northeast Floridians beans are adapting to sea level. Rise and climate change. Is that adapt Florida Dot Org and.