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AT&T unintentionally creates groundbreaking resource that could permanently alter local communities — here's how

"Several years ago, AT&T embarked on a forward-looking study …"

"Several years ago, AT&T embarked on a forward-looking study ..."

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Telecommunications company AT&T understandably wants to place its cellphone towers in places where they will be impacted the least by extreme weather events such as floods, wildfires, and more. 

As it turns out, the company's desire to figure out where those places are may have incidentally helped to create a resource that communities can use to protect themselves as well.

In a short piece published on Fortune.com, AT&T senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and chief sustainability officer Charlene Lake explained how the effort to ensure the safety of the company's towers became a publicly available resource.

"Several years ago, AT&T embarked on a forward-looking study of the changing climate-related hazards facing our network footprint," Lake wrote. "Working with researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, models were built for projecting locations at risk of flooding, drought, and wildfires 30 years into the future. These maps now help identify areas to safely place cell towers and harden existing infrastructure for potential hazards."

AT&T then collaborated with Argonne and FEMA to make those maps freely available via the  Climate Risk and Resilience Portal.

ClimRR allows users to search by ZIP code and access interactive maps with more than 100 climate overlays and projections for up to 30 years in the future. 

As Lake pointed out, communities could make use of this data when deciding where to place institutions such as schools, senior centers, hospitals — a troubling report revealed that one in 12 hospitals could shut down worldwide by 2100 because of extreme weather — and more. This reduces the chances of putting these buildings in the middle of future flood or wildfire zones.

Being prepared to deal with extreme weather events before they happen is a major part of climate resiliency and one that is becoming increasingly important throughout the United States and the world. A 2022 report from Rebuild by Design indicated that 90% of the counties in the U.S. had experienced at least one climate disaster between 2011 and 2021. 

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