and programs among federal agencies exist for all parts of the resilience process—including disaster preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation, and adaptation, as well as research, planning, and community assistance. Although some of these gaps are the result of the legislative authorization within which agencies are directed to operate, the roles and responsibilities for building resilience are not effectively coordinated by the federal government, either through a single agency or authority, or through a unified vision.

Community resilience is broad and complex, making it difficult to codify resilience in a single comprehensive law. Rather, infusing the principles of resilience into all the routine functions of the government at all levels and through a national vision is a more effective approach.


Increased resilience cannot be accomplished by simply adding a cosmetic layer of policy or practice to a vulnerable community. Long-term shifts in physical approaches (new technologies, methods, materials, and infrastructure systems) and cultural approaches (the people, management processes, institutional arrangements, and legislation) are needed to advance community resilience. Resilience to disasters rests on the premise that all aspects of a community—its physical infrastructure, its socioeconomic health, the health and education of its citizens, and its natural environment—are strong. This kind of systemic strength requires that the community members work in concert and in such a way that the interdependencies among them provide strength during a disaster event.

Communities and the governance network of which they are a part are complex and dynamic systems that develop and implement resilience-building policies through combined effort and responsibility. Experience in the disaster management community suggests that linked bottom-up and top-down networks are important for managing risk and increasing resilience. Key interactions within the nation’s resilience “system” of communities and governance can be used to help identify specific kinds of policies that can increase resilience and the roles and responsibilities of the actors in government, the private sector, and communities for implementing these policies. For example, to understand hazards or threats and their processes, research and science and technology policies allow federal and state agencies to coordinate efforts on detection and monitoring activities that can be used by regional and local governing bodies, the private sector, and communities to evaluate and address their hazards and risks. Identifying resilience policy areas, identifying those in community and government responsible for coordinating activities in those areas, and identifying the recipients of the information or services resulting from those activities reveal strengths and gaps in the nation’s resilience “system.”

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