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Disaster Preparedness and Planning

A picture of Colorado National Guardsmen helping residents out of flood waters in Boulder County.

Colorado National Guardsmen respond to floods in Boulder County.
Photo credit: Sgt. Joseph VonNida, U.S. DOD.


In September 2013 parts of Colorado recorded historical rainfall, exceeding 1,000% of normal precipitation for that time of year. After days of monsoon rains, flood conditions stretched 150 miles along the Front Range as water and debris flooded basements, disrupted power, and collapsed roads, isolating some mountain towns. To aid in the region’s future resiliency efforts, NREL is providing technical assistance — potentially to the City of Boulder to create safe havens that focus on critical infrastructure. The city aims to ensure that the vulnerable populations can shelter in place, that the water treatment plant can maintain operations, and that the hospital can continue to serve with clean water and power in the event of another natural disaster.

For the past 15 years, NREL has provided expertise, tools, and innovations to private industry; federal, state, and local governments; nonprofit organizations; and communities during the planning, recovery, and rebuilding stages after disaster strikes. Now, NREL is taking a proactive approach to lessen the impacts of natural disasters and potential threats. NREL supports disaster preparedness and planning by informing communities on ways to:

  • Improve resistance and resiliency through microgrids, building efficiencies, islanding capabilities, vehicle fuel diversification, renewable energy technologies, etc.
  • Plan for secure, sustainable, and safe communities
  • Establish policies and codes that support sustainability, security, and safety.

Preparedness Pilots

In July 2014, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced two preparedness pilot projects designed to showcase community resiliency efforts in the City of Houston and the State of Colorado.

The City of Houston’s Climate Change Preparedness pilot, led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), focused on how to mitigate the effects of severe weather and rising sea levels on NASA’s mission and coastal properties, and on the community of Houston. The State of Colorado's preparedness pilot, led by NREL on behalf of DOE, focused on the effects of severe inland weather on a state-wide scale.

Resilience Roadmap

Through Colorado's CEQ pilot, NREL worked closely with the Colorado Governor's Resiliency and Recovery Office to bring together stakeholders from federal and local governments to identify shared vulnerabilities and interdependencies related to potential threats. The efforts are being documented by the Resilience Roadmap, which outlines a step-by-step collaborative approach to multi-jurisdictional planning that agencies, states, communities, and tribes can utilize.

Working with NREL

To find out how NREL can assist your organization with disaster preparedness and planning, contact Eliza Hotchkiss.

Recovery and Rebuilding

Learn how NREL is also working with city leaders, business owners, and residents to identify ways to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in communities recovering from disasters.