During the final session of the workshop, the committee, the presenters, and the attendees convened in a single large roundtable in which everyone was invited to comment on issues associated with national resilience to hazards and disasters. Below are examples of some of the points made by individual participants during this last session.
Preparing for Hazards and Disasters
• Reliability, durability, sustainability, and operational readiness can be seen as guiding principles for critical infrastructure.
• Resilience implies the existence of systems to maintain health, such as electronic medical records and accessible primary care.
• Metrics to gauge levels of resilience and progress toward preparedness goals could be helpful.
• Many public facilities exist that could be repurposed for disaster preparedness and recovery.
• Many kinds of disasters occur and many forms of resilience exist, including psychological resilience in the face of great uncertainty and stress or loss of community.
The Politics of Resilience
• The short-term perspectives associated with politics frequently make it difficult for politicians to address long-term issues, including many issues associated with resilience.
• It can be difficult for politicians to tell people who have lived in a location for decades that they cannot rebuild there. Politicians seek to manage risk, but they are subject to many constraints.
• Despite the great needs for expenditures on national resilience, state and federal budget deficits and popular calls for reductions in government spending point toward greater constraints on budgets in the future.
Self-Sufficiency in Disasters
• Many valuable responses to disasters are based on the initiative and resources of individuals and communities, not governments.
• Individuals and communities could benefit by being more self-sufficient to achieve desired levels of resilience (as the Vietnamese community has exemplified). Because some areas cannot be completely evacuated, people may need to be prepared to live through disasters.
• Despite the need for greater self-sufficiency, the resources of government are irreplaceable in many respects. Balance between nongovernmental and governmental solutions and between local and national solutions is important.
• Government has a responsibility to protect vulnerable populations and communities and help them become less vulnerable and more self-sufficient.
• Greater self-sufficiency may help free resources for people who need higher levels of outside care.
• A community can be resilient yet contain many individuals who are not resilient.
Creating a Culture of Resilience
• Government can help create a culture of resilience through education and the provision of appropriate resources.
• Multiple ways exist in which government can provide preparedness information.
• Education can benefit from the enhanced awareness of disasters made possible through modern communications.
• Training teenagers to provide assistance during disasters is a valuable way of enhancing knowledge about resilience in young people. Teenagers also can help educate younger children about resilience in disasters, including in families that do not speak English at home.
• Cultural change is possible. For example, the construction industry used to accept some loss of life as inevitable in its business but does not accept such losses today.
• Promoting healthier communities through education and clinical access may help to raise the overall resilience of those communities before, during, and after a disaster.
Toward Better Public Policy
• The question of who pays and who benefits from resilience is integral to improving public policy.
• Disasters are more usefully interpreted in terms of responsibility, not in terms of victimhood—who is responsible for recovery and in what ways?
• Even where entire communities need to be relocated, cultural traditions and community cohesiveness can remain intact.
The Future of Resilience
• Although Katrina was one of the largest and most catastrophic events ever to hit the United States, resilience is also important for the smaller and more frequent disasters that will occur in the future.
• In the future, many communities could be geographically far flung and linked by communication technologies. How will the nature of resilience to hazards and disasters change in such a world?
• The rise of sea level and other effects of climate change could radically change the susceptibility of many communities to hazards. What planning for the possibility of such changes is occurring today?
• A fundamental constraint in resilience is the inability to imagine every kind of disaster that could occur.
• Uncertainties associated with the natural world inevitably bring uncertainties to planning for resilience.