expertise, and importantly, by experiences shared by communities in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, and Southern California, where the committee held open meetings.


Understanding, managing, and reducing disaster risks provide a foundation for building resilience to disasters. Risk represents the potential for hazards to cause adverse effects on our life; health; economic well-being; social, environmental, and cultural assets; infrastructure; and the services expected from institutions and the environment. Risk management is a continuous process that identifies the hazard(s) facing a community, assesses the risk from these hazards, develops and implements risk strategies, reevaluates and reviews these strategies, and develops and adjusts risk policies. The choice of risk management strategies requires regular reevaluation in the context of new data and models on the hazards and risk facing a community, and changes in the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of a community, as well as the community’s goals. Although some residual risk will always be present, risk management strategies can help build capacity for communities to become more resilient to disasters.

A variety of tools exist to manage disaster risk including tangible structural (construction-related) measures such as levees and dams, disaster-resistant construction, and well-enforced building codes, and nonstructural (nonconstruction-related) measures such as natural defenses, insurance, zoning ordinances, and economic incentives. Structural and nonstructural measures are complementary and can be used in conjunction with one another. Importantly, some tools or actions that can reduce short-term risk can potentially increase long-term risk, requiring careful evaluation of the risk management strategies employed. Risk management is at its foundation a community decision, and the risk management approach will be effective only if community members commit to use the risk management tools and measures made available to them.


Demonstrating that community investments in resilience will yield measurable short- and long-term benefits that balance or exceed the costs is critical for sustained commitment to increasing resilience. The total value of a community’s assets—both the high-value structural assets and those with high social, cultural, and/or environmental value—call for a decision-making framework for disaster resilience that addresses both quantitative data and qualitative value assessments. Ownership of a community’s assets is also important; ownership establishes the responsibility for an asset and, therefore,

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