as any sort of disturbance—so that it may continue to function, or quickly recover its ability to function, during and after stress.

The committee charge included focus on “community resilience.” In its work, the committee relied on a definition of resilience put forward by Norris and others (2008), who describe it as the ability of groups, such as communities and cities, to withstand hazards or to recover from such disruptions as natural disasters. Building and maintaining resilience depend on the ability of a group to monitor changes and to modify its plans to deal with adversity appropriately. Similarly, John Plodinec has observed that the ability of a community to recover after a disaster is greater if resilience was implicitly or explicitly considered by members of the community as an inherent and dynamic part of the community (CARRI, 2009). He understands that a resilient community is one that anticipates threats, mitigates potential harm when possible, and prepares to adapt in adversity. Such communities more rapidly recover and restore functionality after a crisis. He has also indicated that a community’s ability to compare itself to other communities with respect the ability to adapt to adversity is important because it can help identify needed improvements.1

Community resilience thus refers generally to the continued ability of a community to function during and after stress. Implicit in discussion of building community disaster resilience in this report is that all sectors of a community (government, private for-profit, private nonprofit, and citizens) can and should participate in building resilience through all phases of disaster: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.


The term community is defined differently by different people when they consider disaster preparedness, response and recovery planning, and implementation. Defining communities by geographic boundaries ignores the reality that disasters do not respect jurisdictions. Community-level collaboration intended to address disruptions must draw on the full array of diverse social networks in which residents and public and private entities are engaged. These are not defined exclusively by, or confined to, jurisdictional boundaries. Definitions of community based on jurisdictional boundaries may lead to a static idea of what constitutes a community; in reality, communities are dynamic and ever-changing. Similarly, while a community may extend beyond geographical and political boundaries, it might also be defined as something much smaller. In large municipalities—such as Los Angeles, California, or New York City, New York—individuals may be tied to a sense of community that is much smaller and of more immediate scale.

Etienne Wenger defines a community as “a group of people for whom the domain of interest is relevant” (Wenger, 1998). The committee expands Wenger’s “group of people”


J. Plodinec, Community and Regional Resilience Institute, personal communication, June 28, 2010.

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