Building resilience from the business out: BARS campaign kicks off in Chelsea
BY KRISTIN KELLEHER, JULY 26th 2018
Massachusetts is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts; it is ranked fourth in the nation for the most commercial properties at risk by the end of the century, and about 20% of the city of Chelsea currently lies within flood zones. By 2030, flood maps indicate that the percentage of the city within the potential coastal flooding area increases to 35%, and to 45% in 2070.
“There was trash floating in the streets, it was crazy. Our hoses were floating in the water. The water came up through the parking lot… the water would be up to your knees. My employees and I got stuck here for 2 hours, we were unable to leave because the flooding was so severe. The customers couldn’t get into the location because of the parking lot’s condition.” – Alejandro Guttierez, Assistant Manager at Scrub A Dub Car Wash Chelsea (speaking of the January 2018 storm)
With the help of the President of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Richard Cuthie, and Maria Belen, the Associate Executive Director at GreenRoots, our Resiliency Team at the Climate Action Business Association (CABA) engaged with 40 at-risk businesses in Chelsea last week. The Businesses Acting on Rising Seas (BARS) campaign aims to inform community leaders and small businesses about the urgency of climate change and the need to incorporate climate resilient practices. The city of Chelsea is the first of more than 10 at-risk communities that CABA is engaging with as part of our 2018 BARS Campaign.
We collaborated with Chelsea’s Planning Department to develop resiliency guides for businesses in Chelsea to begin addressing climate change risks. CABA’s tailored research outlined in the guides highlights the need for businesses to begin resiliency planning and introduces eight low-cost steps they can take to prepare for extreme weather and flood risks. As an additional resource, each guide contains a resilience checklist that walks owners through the steps needed to create a robust emergency plan.
Business leaders expressed how the BARS Campaign helped the community better understand the effects of climate change on their businesses and how they can plan for future climate risks.
“Climate change isn’t something that’s really been on our radar. Storms are something we think about a couple weeks or a couple months before our big holidays. But in the summertime, we’re blessed with nice weather, so it gets filed somewhere in the back of our heads. Resources, like this [Resilience] guide, aren’t something that we’ve seen before, so this will definitely help us out.” – Miguel Londono, Designer’s Choice– Chelsea.
When speaking with local Chelsea businesses, we found that many owners were forced to close their doors during extreme storms over the course of the winter because staff were unable to commute to work safely, or they feared they would not have the customer base to justify opening. Smaller businesses are concerned with how this will affect their bottom line. The Boston Business Journal found that the three nor’easter storms Massachusetts experienced from January through March of 2018 cost Massachusetts businesses up to $950 million in sales.
“We’re surrounded by water so we need to be very aware of what’s going on. If I stand in the middle of our street and look I can see the river and it’s not that far away. And we all know that it is rising, as the polar caps start to melt.” – Joseph Vinard of Chelsea Bank a division of East Cambridge Bank
The Businesses Acting on Rising Seas Campaign engages businesses as implementers of solutions and advocates for change. By engaging with local businesses and encouraging them to recognize their risk, plan for different scenarios and review their insurance policies, we help them develop an emergency plan with their staff, and communicate the need to become involved in policy and planning within their communities. With these tools, Chelsea businesses can prepare for the storms ahead and become the local restaurant or grocery store that remains open and provides vital services to their community when the power is out.
“This past winter the whole North Shore was impacted by the lack of electricity for days…..Everyone’s thinking about the instances [of extreme weather] and I’m over here connecting all the dots. Absolutely, climate change is a higher risk. I can see how negative these impacts are going to be to us.” – Roy Avellaneda, City Councilor and owner of Pan y Cafe.
Looking to the Future
Beyond the low-cost steps that every individual business can take to become more prepared, the Climate Action Business Association is committed to a more resilient community in Chelsea. Our team is working closely with the Resilient Urban Neighborhoods Green Justice Coalition and GreenRoots to conduct a community-led, distributed resource microgrid feasibility assessment.
A microgrid incorporates renewable energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency measures to reduce emissions and costs for local businesses, while ensuring full-time resilience of community networks. The neighborhood-focused microgrid offers a unique opportunity for local economic development. By investing in this smaller scale energy system, Chelsea can safeguard reliable communications; delivery of support services, food and water; reliable heat, light, and cooling; and preserve an affordable and healthy community. Eliminating local businesses’ reliance on our regional grids would undoubtedly allow Chelsea to become a more resilient neighborhood and remain a functioning community in the face more frequent and intense storm events. If you’d like to learn more about microgrids and how they can can help communities after disasters, click here.
When the power goes out, our BARS Resilience Guides have given businesses in Chelsea the tools to be prepared. We will be speaking at the Chelsea Chamber Breakfast on September 26th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and join us to learn more and see how your business can remain resilient in a region that will be heavily influenced by the changing climate in the coming years.