Coastal Resilience Index

The Coastal Resilience Index, cosponsored by the Louisiana Sea Grant, Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gulf Coast Services Center (Emmer et al., 2008), provides an example of a community-based approach to developing an index of resilience to storm events through self-assessment. It adapts the principles outlined by FEMA (2001) to the specific needs of coastal hazards and operationalizes them into an ordinal metric.

The community is first asked to identify two scenarios from memory: a “bad storm” and a “worst storm.” Critical infrastructure and facilities are then evaluated: Were they impacted in either or both of the scenarios, and were they functioning afterward? Critical infrastructure includes the wastewater treatment system, the power grid, the water purification system, and transportation/evacuation routes. Critical facilities include government buildings, law enforcement buildings, fire stations, communication offices, the emergency operations center, evacuation shelters, hospitals, and critical record storage. The community is encouraged to expand these lists as appropriate. The numbers of critical infrastructure elements and critical facilities that continued to function after the scenarios are then totaled.

In the next step, the community is asked to assess whether various elements of its transportation system will be restored within 1 week after a “bad storm,” and again to total the number of such elements. The third step asks for information on the participation of the community in various plans and agreements, and whether it has key personnel in place with responsibility for disaster-related matters. The number of positive responses is counted. Step 4 yields a total for ongoing mitigation measures, Step 5 addresses business plans for the recovery of retail stores, and Step 6 asks about social networks and civic organizations.

The totals in each step are next transformed to Low, Medium, and High categories based on specified ranges—for example, to gain a High rating on critical infrastructure the community must have agreed that 100 percent of its elements would be functioning after a disaster. No weights are applied to each element; rather, the community is asked simply to count. The result is a total of seven metrics (two from Step 1 and one from each of the subsequent steps). The community is advised to treat these as separate indicators and not to attempt to combine them into a single metric.

The Low, Medium, and High resilience ratings are then converted into an overall state-of-the-community resilience for a specific category, along with some estimate of the time it would take for reoccupation of the community after the disaster: more than 18 months for a Low rating; less than 2 months for a Medium rating; and minimal impact for a High rating.

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