How to make cities more resilient

Siemens technology, adapted to local conditions, is helping cities around the world build resilience in preparation for natural disasters.


Worldwide, natural disasters are increasingly causing short-term damage and necessitating long-term investment in mitigation measures. It is estimated that Hurricane Sandy in 2012 alone caused around US$50 billion of damage, mainly in New York. Cities must become more resilient in order to withstand the effects of natural disasters.


“Resilience” means the ability to “bounce back” from adverse events and to establish continuity by restoring normal conditions as quickly as possible. For a city, resilience means having an infrastructure that will withstand adverse events and will assist the return to business as usual. This implies that investment in, as well as regular service and maintenance of, resilient infrastructure must be prioritized in order to reduce damage and outage time and enhance both efficiency and reliability.


Together with New York’s Regional Plan Association and Arup consultants, Siemens has carried out a research project on how cities can enhance their resilience in the face of catastrophic events. It compares the cost of repairing damaged infrastructure to the investment required to build resilient infrastructure. While repair costs are unpredictable, but usually very high, the study shows that investing in resilience usually also enhances the cost efficiency and energy efficiency as well as the safety of urban infrastructure.


The following examples show how Siemens technology, adapted to local conditions, can ensure that infrastructure elements deliver critical services including energy, mobility, sanitation, information, and emergency response effectively and reliably, despite population growth and the increasing global pressure of urbanization.

We can’t prevent natural disasters, but with our knowledge and our technologies, we can better protect our infrastructures.
Roland Busch, member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG

Sheikh Zayed Tunnel, Abu Dhabi


  • Tunnel has eight lanes
  • 4.2 kilometers long
  • Inaugurated late 2012
  • High-res video monitoring for real-time traffic management


  • Real-time system monitoring and communications for rapid recovery informs tunnel operators about congestion, smoke, obstacles, wrong-way drivers, and other tunnel hazards
  • Ability to prioritize emergency vehicles and close off lanes for rapid resolution of disruptions, speedy rescue access
  • Cameras and other Siemens systems for smart video imaging communicate via a redundant backbone network with twin 846-terabyte digital image memory and video analysis systems

Izmit Suspension Bridge, Turkey (under construction)


  • Main span: 1,550 meters
  • Suspended at 60 meters’ height
  • Two 250-meter tall bridge piers
  • Continuous asset monitoring allows shutdown in case of emergency


  • Sensors keep track of structural loads and block off access in case of emergency (e.g., earthquake)
  • Siemens’ Structural Health Monitoring System continuously monitors lateral and longitudinal expansion of bridge, swaying bridge piers tracked by GPS sensors
  • CCTV feed of traffic data to integrated operations and traffic control center

Gas-Insulated Switchgear, Hong Kong


  • GIS ensures grid reliability of 99.998 percent
  • 22.000 medium-voltage GIS switchgear panels delivered since 2001


  • Waterproof GIS equipment ensures continuity of service in extreme weather conditions (e.g., typhoons)
  • Lightweight structure can be raised on struts to escape flooding
  • Compact and robust GIS is welded into sealed stainless steel switchgear containers, for near maintenance-free operation across system lifetime

Power Backup, Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital, USA


  • Wireless 3.65-gigahertz WiMAX Ethernet links
  • Information on status of 25/14.4-kilovolt feeder relayed to control center
  • Power restored within 400 milliseconds


  • Siemens Distribution Feeder Automation (SDFA) provides emergency backup power for remote hospital in Nassawadox, Virginia
  • Replacement for fuel generator in area frequently hit with brownouts and blackouts caused by storms and hurricanes or other grid disruptions
  • Utility A&N selected SDFA to detect and isolate damaged sections and connect to different power source
  • Reclosers and automation controllers along 32-kilometer feeder ensure reliability of service on par with urban areas


Christopher Findlay, journalist based in Zürich

Picture credits: illustration by Alex Walker, photos by Shoaib Anwer and Siemens AG

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