Collaborating for Community Resilience

Shannon Carroll, AVP Environmental Sustainability, AT&T Corporate Social Responsibility
June 27, 2023
Broadband Access and Affordability, Community Impact

Collaborating for Community Resilience

Sitting on stage at the recent U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, I learned that managing a telecom network and running a city are more similar than I thought. City officials must prioritize infrastructure investments to ensure the safety of their constituents and the vitality of their economy. At AT&T, we must remain focused on building reliable networks that keep the communities we serve connected, especially during disasters when they need it most. In both cases, understanding and preparing for climate impacts is critical to enhancing the resiliency of the infrastructure that’s essential to those we serve.

As I listened to Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, I heard pain points we’re all too familiar with: rising sea levels, floods, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes – all growing increasingly more dangerous – and more costly – as weather patterns change. When managing a footprint as large as a city or a nationwide communications network, finding the right solutions can be difficult. Whether allocating budget or determining the next big challenge to tackle, we’re all seeking resources that help sharpen our prioritization and planning.

Mayor Woodards, along with other local leaders, spoke about the complexity of developing action plans that effectively prepare neighborhoods for future extreme weather events. To make informed decisions, they need access to neighborhood-level data to understand exactly where their community is at risk – and the same is true for our company as we deploy and maintain our broadband networks. These collective needs led to the development of the Climate Risk and Resilience Portal (ClimRR).

  • While working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne) to use local-level climate projections to precisely target our internal resiliency efforts, we realized the impact this data could have beyond AT&T’s own four walls. With Argonne and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), we developed ClimRR to make localized climate data publicly available for free with the hope of helping leaders understand – and better prepare for – their communities’ extreme weather vulnerabilities.

ClimRR features data on factors like temperatures, precipitation, wind speeds and wildfire risk. It covers the entire continental United States, offering valuable insights for communities along both coasts and everywhere in between. In Tacoma, for example, they’re developing action plans to help prepare each of their neighborhoods for future extreme weather threats. This work can be supported by combining existing neighborhood-level data from the Tacoma Equity Index with environmental data from ClimRR.

“Mayors continue to be on the front lines as they deal with the consequences of the climate crisis in their own communities and push for solutions.” – Francis Suarez, Mayor of Miami

The annual meeting reminded me that collaboration across the public and private sectors is the fastest path toward innovative solutions to challenges like preparing for climate-related extreme weather events. Especially at a time when leaders are tapping into an unprecedented amount of federal funding for network deployments and future-proof infrastructure, working together is key to finding success.

We all have a role to play in creating more connected and resilient neighborhoods. At AT&T, we’re committed to continuing to support our communities and their leaders in the years to come – whether through ClimRR, FirstNet®, Built with AT&T or other public-private projects.

You can watch my panel discussion with Mayor Woodards, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, and FEMA Director for Community Preparedness Karen Marsh here: