When a community has been destroyed by disaster (unlike the human body that has died from disease) it is sometimes possible to bring it back to life. In all cases, though, avoiding destruction in the first place is cheaper, easier, and less traumatic over the long term than resuscitating a devastated community. Post-event mitigation, like remaining free from fatal illness, requires conscious, steady, and organized investment in resilience by those in charge of the care of a community and by the community itself.
This analogy can be extended to the idea that, just like a healthy body is better able to resist disease, a healthy community is better able to prepare for, absorb, and recover from a disaster. For example, infrastructure such as health care with broad access implies a population whose health problems are controlled and/or prevented to the extent possible. A robust health infrastructure enhances resilience, and provides data essential to the early detection of naturally occurring or terrorist-induced epidemics and environmental hazards.
Disaster resilience as an integrated part of community or government decision making is a relatively new concept that is only now being broadly or explicitly adopted through efforts such as Presidential Policy Directive-8 (PPD-8; see below and Chapter 6). Although many efforts have been made to understand disaster resilience and its benefits at various scales (Box 1.2), implementation of approaches to increase disaster resilience in communities has not been consistent nationwide.
The process of building disaster resilience requires continuous assessment, planning, and refinement by communities and all levels of government; resilience is not a task that can be marked as “completed.” No
What Is Resilience?
Although resilience with respect to hazards and disasters has been part of the research literature for decades (White and Haas, 1975; Mileti, 1999), the term first gained currency among national governments in 2005 with the adoption of The Hyogo Framework for Action by 168 members of the United Nations to ensure that reducing risks to disasters and building resilience to disasters became priorities for governments and local communities (UNISDR, 2007). The literature has since grown with new definitions of resilience and the entities or systems to which resilience refers (e.g., ecological systems, infrastructure, individuals, economic systems, communities) (Bruneau et al., 2003; Flynn, 2007; Gunderson, 2009; Plodinec, 2009; Rose, 2009; Cutter et al., 2010). Disaster resilience has been described as a process (Norris et al., 2008; Sherrieb et al., 2010), an outcome (Kahan et al., 2009), or both (Cutter et al., 2008), and as a term that can embrace inputs from engineering and the physical, social, and economic sciences (Colten et al., 2008).