Background Information

Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, home to over 40% of the state’s population. Over 100 languages are spoken among the city’s 300,000 residents—a diverse mix of native Alaskans, immigrants, migrants, and refugees from across the U.S. and around the world.

The city’s high latitude—which translates to a cold climate and long winters—shortens the growing season to a point where the vast majority of food and goods consumed by Anchorage residents must be imported from outside Alaska. Most of these goods move through the Port of Anchorage, which is vulnerable to earthquakes, severe weather, and other environmental risks, but only three to four days’ worth of food is stored locally. The Port of Anchorage is a major economic driver of the region, with much of the city’s economy tied to transportation and logistics.

Climate change amplifies the risks faced by the city, especially its most vulnerable residents. Anchorage is projected to see increased average temperatures and periods of extreme heat, which will threaten the glaciers that feed reservoirs and coastal fisheries. Warmer temperatures may also increase the spread of insect-borne diseases. Reduced rain and snowfall could also result in more wildfires and a shortened ski season. The City of Anchorage is committed to addressing these risks while continuing to be a welcoming city for newcomers.

Team Summary

The team is working to develop a long-term, city-wide resilience plan built on community engagement and equity that harnesses current environmental and socio-economic initiatives. The working group and plan—titled “AWARE: Anchorage: Welcoming and Resilient”—must be finalized by the end of 2017.

Promising Practices

  • The Anchorage team is committed to welcoming and including all members of their dynamic community—immigrants, refugees, natives, long-term rural residents, and recent urban transplants—and is actively establishing programs to improve this process.
  • The team is developing a community resilience plan that will include specific and comprehensive community-wide benchmarks and data collection measures to evaluate the success of the AWARE strategy and measure social cohesion.
  • In 2015, the mayor assigned each of his staff members to act as mayor’s office liaisons to various community councils. The on­going direct interaction between local government and the community councils has fostered much more open dialogue on all local issues.
  • Anchorage has worked very actively across the Anchorage School District to educate youth and families about food security, resilience planning, and emergency preparedness.

Key Challenges

  • Establishing food security in emergency preparedness and planning (almost all food is imported and only 5% is local).
  • Creating food security and emergency preparedness materials that are comprehensive enough to be useful and educational, but can also accommodate the nuanced needs of all community members.
  • Relaying information, documents, resources, and announcements across the language barriers—which often affect those who need the information most—in this multilingual community.
  • Getting community buy-in, engaging residents, and leading from the ground-up; many residents are focused on daily survival and lack the time and opportunity to engage.
  • Engaging residents from all populations during the planning process. Many residents are not interested in theoretical situations and typically will not engage unless it’s concrete and will have an immediate impact on their daily life.