to include the full fabric of a community and all its partners. The “domain of interest” in this report is community disaster resilience. Seeing communities as dynamic and connected with entities beyond jurisdictional boundaries does not negate the importance of collaboration that reflects the needs, priorities, and economies of the geographic communities and regions the collaborative networks serve.

The phrase “full fabric of the community” is used throughout this report and is integral to the committee’s definition of community, particularly in the context of disasters and the role of collaboration at the local level. Community disaster mitigation, planning, response, and recovery require the active involvement of local government, but the attention and engagement of federal, state, regional, and tribal governments are also essential, as are private-sector energies and assets (Edwards, 2009). The committee defines the private sector broadly and comprehensively as including large and small for-profit corporations and also nongovernment, volunteer, academic, faith-based, and other entities that help define the social life and stability of a community. The committee understands that private–public collaboration to achieve community disaster resilience hinges on the notion that disruptions such as disasters tear at all or portions of a community’s social fabric.


A myriad of potential disasters puts communities at risk. Natural and human-caused disasters result in public health emergencies suffering, loss of life, damage to economies, and damage to community environments. Individuals and institutions often fail to perceive that hazards may pose unacceptable risk to their communities and ways of life. Further, individuals and institutions often fail to accept their role in reducing that risk. The next sections describe some types of disasters that could affect communities. These hazards include natural disasters, public health emergencies, human-caused disasters, disasters caused by cyber vulnerabilities or by emerging technological and business practices, and climate change. Some of these risks may be greater for some communities than others, and communities may face other hazards not discussed in this report, including those related to the very real effects of economic recessions and unemployment.

Losses from disaster can devastate communities and nations. Natural and human-caused disasters claimed 240,000 lives in 2008 and nearly 15,000 lives in 20092 worldwide and led to economic losses of approximately US$268 billion and US$62 billion, respectively (see Figure 1.1). Swiss Reinsurance Company estimated in early 2010 that the cost of natural disasters alone in 2010 could reach US$110 billion worldwide (Swiss Re, 2010).


Nearly 9,000 people died or were missing because of natural disasters in 2009; the others were victims of human-caused disasters, i.e., major events associated with human activities (excluding war, civil war, and warlike events).

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