Characteristics of a resilient community include “a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the community … (and) the ability to communicate and share resources during … or very shortly after … the disaster.”
Iowa citizen, 2011
National resilience emerges, in large part, from the ability of local communities to plan and prepare for, absorb, respond, and recover from disasters and adapt to new and diverse conditions such as economic growth and decline, technology innovations, and rising sea level. Interventions to enhance resilience to disasters require both the “bottom-up” approaches at the local community level detailed in this chapter and the “top-down” strategies at the federal and state levels addressed in Chapter 6.
Bottom-up interventions are essential because local conditions vary greatly across the country and often jurisdictional issues exist around who can respond to the call to increase resilience, and when. The nation’s communities are unique in their history, geography, demography, culture, economic enterprise, governance, and infrastructure. Moreover, the risks faced by every community vary according to local hazards and exposure levels, vulnerabilities, and capacities to mitigate. Plans to enhance resilience to hazards and disasters in one locale may not match community baselines, assets, and requirements in another (see Chapters 2 and 3; NRC, 2011b). Building resilience in the face of disaster risk can also have benefits for a community even in the absence of a disaster in advancing the social capital for dealing with more mundane community challenges.
Although each community is responsible for developing its own path toward greater resilience, the committee identified some universal steps that can aid local communities in making progress to increase their capacity to withstand and recover from disasters. These steps are intended to strengthen both the social infrastructure, which reflects the ties among people and their commitments to collective problem solving, and the physical infrastructure, which includes the built environment and critical lifelines that house and sustain human activity. These steps include
• Engaging the whole community in disaster policy making and planning;
• Linking public and private infrastructure performance and interests to resilience goals;
• Improving public and private infrastructure and essential services (such as health and education);
• Communicating risks, connecting community networks, and promoting a culture of resilience;
• Organizing communities, neighborhood, and families to prepare for disasters;
• Adopting sound land-use planning practices; and
• Adopting and enforcing building codes and standards appropriate to existing hazards.
This chapter reviews the essential elements of these steps as a means for communities to secure a foundation either to begin, or to help reinforce, initiatives and programs to enhance resilience.
Consensus is emerging among policy makers (DHHS, 2009; DHS, 2010; FEMA, 2010, 2011), practitioners (Patton, 2007; Waugh and Streib, 2006), and researchers (NRC, 2010, 2011b) that collaboration between the private and public sectors can enhance the disaster resilience of a community. Indeed, the National Research Council has released a number of recent reports that spotlight the role of private—public partnerships and collaborative organizational structures in strengthening community resilience to disasters (NRC, 2005a, 2006a, 2009, 2010, 2011b).
The most pressing issue in moving forward with this kind of collaboration is how to involve the community and businesses—both part of the private sector—effectively and productively in decision making and capacity building for disaster resilience. During the course of this study, the committee has identified four mechanisms for engagement that could assist communities in building capacity and becoming an effective part of the decision making process for disaster resilience (Table 5.1). These mechanisms tie back to the risk management cycle outlined in Chapter 2.
Table 5.1 Mechanisms for Community Engagement in Disaster Policy Making
|Development of broad-based community coalitions||Rather than just an instrument to secure a community's concrete commitment to disaster resilience, the development of a broad-based community coalition is itself a resilience-generating mechanism in that it links people together to solve problems and builds trust.|
|Involvement from a diverse set of community members–the "fill fabric” of the community||Because no single entity can deliver the complete public good of resilience (see Chapter 3). resilience becomes a shared|
|value and responsibility. Collaboration in fostering interest in resilience in the community can ensure that the full fabric of the community has the opportunity to be included in the problem–solving endeavor–and that it represents public and private interests and people with diverse social and economic backgrounds.|
|Building organizational capacity and leadership||Meaningful private–public partnerships for community resilience depend upon strong governance and organizational structures, leadership, and sustained resources for success.|
|Resilience plan||A priority activity for a local disaster collaborative is planning for stepwise improvements in community resilience.|
Community Coalitions to Foster Community Resilience
Teaming up to take proactive steps to manage risks—such as a resilience private—public coalition—embodies several preconditions for successful adaptation by a community facing a major disturbance or stress. In their interdisciplinary review of the resilience literature, Norris et al. (2008) conclude that those communities that adapt well to adversity—and quickly return to a state of population wellness—do so through reliance on four key resources and their interactions: (1) economic resources (including the level and diversity of, and access to, these resources), (2) social capital (including organizational and interpersonal links, the sense of community among the citizens, and citizens’ own participation in community life), (3) information and communication (which have to involve trusted information sources and outlets), and (4) community competence (group skills for collective action and a system of shared beliefs). Another leading model of resilience similarly recognizes resources, communication, connectedness, commitment, and shared values, and critical reflection and skill building as major contributing factors to a community’s ability to rebound from disasters (Pfefferbaum et al., 2008).
In this context, private—public partnerships become an essential vehicle for enhancing community resilience to disasters (e.g., the Safeguard Iowa Partnership; see NRC, 2011b). Such partnerships have the potential to focus diverse social networks around a common cause, to facilitate the sharing of information essential to understanding risk and means to reduce it, and to apply the intellectual strengths of many people to the problems of building resilience to disasters. These partnerships serve as coalitions to act as a collective and cohesive unit that can define, address, and solve problems for the betterment of the community (Pfefferbaum et al., 2008). Experience in the emergency
management sector illustrates how private—public coalitions are integral to community efforts to build resilience (Box 5.1).
Emergency Management and Unity of Effort to Increase Resilience
The following is extracted from the document “Principles of Emergency Management” (IAEM, 2007) and identifies some of the principles of emergency management that relate to the role of emergency managers as practitioners of risk management.
“Emergency managers ensure unity of effort among all levels of government and all elements of a community. In the early 1980s, emergency managers adopted the Integrated Emergency Management System (IEMS), an all-hazards approach to the direction, control and coordination of disasters regardless of their location, size and complexity. IEMS integrates partnerships that include all stakeholders in the community’s decision-making processes. IEMS is intended to create an organizational culture that is critical to achieving unity of effort between governments, key community partners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.
Unity of effort is dependent on both vertical and horizontal integration. This means that at the local level, emergency programs have to be integrated with other activities of government. For example, department emergency plans have to be synchronized with and support the overall emergency operations plan for the community. In addition, plans at all levels of local government ultimately have to be integrated with and support the community’s vision and be consistent with its values.
Similarly, private sector continuity plans have to take into account the community’s emergency operations plan. Businesses today are demanding greater interface with government to understand how to react to events that threaten business survival. Additionally, businesses can provide significant resources during disasters and thus may be a critical component of the community’s emergency operations plan. In addition, given the high percentage of critical infrastructure owned by the private sector, failure to include businesses in emergency programs could have grave consequences for the community.
In this sense of using coalitions to best advantage to increase disaster resilience, local emergency management programs also have to be aligned and synchronized with higher-level plans and programs in government. The need for this kind of synchronization is most noticeable in the dependence of local government on county, state and federal resources during a disaster [see below; also Chapter 6]. If plans have not been aligned and synchronized, allocation of resources may be delayed.
Integrating emergency management into daily decisions in the community is important so that critical decisions are not made only during times
of disasters. While protecting the population is a primary responsibility of government, this kind of protection is difficult to accomplish without building partnerships among disciplines and across all community sectors, including the private sector and primary communications entities such as the media.”
The Full Fabric of Community Woven into Resilience Coalitions
Resilience is a shared responsibility. As outlined in Chapter 3, responsibility for strengthening resilience does not rest solely with government, particularly given the wealth of resources and capacities resident in the community itself. In the United States, the public sector constitutes just 10 percent of the total workforce (NRC, 2011b). The remaining 90 percent works in both the private sector—from small, individually owned businesses to national and global conglomerates—and in nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs). Ownership, management, and intimate technical understanding of the country’s critical infrastructure—water, power, communication, health care, and transportation networks—rests largely in private hands. Community- and faith-based groups usually have established leadership and communication structures and social standing in the community. They have proven powerful allies in disaster response and recovery (Wachtendorf and Kendra, 2004) and thus have natural roles in the building of overall disaster resilience (Box 5.2). Often, they are assisted by their networks outside of the disaster region, thus improving the response to the disaster, and providing valuable experience for groups in other regions. For example, in the case of Hurricane Katrina, churches around the country assisted their counterparts in New Orleans and Mississippi. Universities did the same, taking in students from the affected region for the fall semester, often at no charge.
Health Department Uses Community Approach to
Protect People Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
In December of 2006, record-setting torrential rains and high wind speeds in King County, Washington, interrupted power to 1.5 million utility customers. As power outages wore on, area hospitals saw unprecedented numbers of patients with carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. This health threat accounted for 8 of the state’s 15 storm-related fatalities. The profile of early patients showing up at local hospitals with evidence of CO poisoning suggested that immigrant groups were at increased risk. Faced with no power, for instance, some Somali and Vietnamese immigrants turned to cooking and warming themselves over charcoal grills indoors. The difficulties conducting effective outreach to immigrant and refugee communities during this power outage
propelled Public Health—Seattle and King County to reevaluate communications procedures to include the whole of the community.
Working with their Vulnerable Populations Action Team (VPAT), the health department developed a Community Communications Network consisting of over 150 community organizations to relay information to the people they serve. Stronger relationships developed with many of these organizations, leading to the formation of new groups who were ready to mobilize, such as a Somali Health Board of ethnic community leaders. Informational interviews and focus groups with diverse members of the local communities lead to better information about trusted sources of information and effective methods of distribution.
In January 2012, the region experienced a snow and ice storm that led to a similar power outage situation. However, with the strengthened resilience coalition in place, Public Health—Seattle and King County rapidly disseminated CO information to community partners using channels recommended by the community. Flyers in 25 languages blanketed hardware stores, grocery stores, language schools, apartments and businesses in identified neighborhoods. Information was broadcast over ethnic media outlets, community webcasts, loudspeakers at Lunar New Year festivals, taxicab dispatchers, and through a robo-call from a local mosque. Most importantly, hundreds of community partners received CO warnings and relayed information to their constituents. As a result, the number of CO poisonings was a tenth of what they were 5 years prior, and there were no fatalities. This culturally sensitive, social network-driven response likely reduced poisoning incidents. At the same time, it built up relationships and goodwill between the health department and diverse community segments.
Sources: Broom (2007); Public Health—Seattle and King County (2006, 2012a,b).
Successful collaborations in the interest of resilience also require input from people representing the full spectrum of a community’s members including minorities, the disenfranchised, those with disabilities, children, senior citizens, and other subgroups that are potentially vulnerable to disaster impacts. Integrating the perspectives and contributions of these populations into resilience-enhancing activities is especially important because the chances for greater victimization during a disaster are unevenly distributed in society, as are opportunities for enhanced safety (Tierney et al., 2001; NRC, 2006b; Enarson, 2007; Morrow, 2008; Mary Claire Landry, personal communication, 2011 [see also Appendix B and NRC, 2011a]). At the same time, the resilience of at-risk populations and the perspective that they can bring to disaster risk reduction cannot be underestimated (Schoch-Spana et al., 2008). People who have coped with daily disasters such as poverty, deprived neighborhoods, or high rates of crime and violence may not see themselves as vulnerable, and ethnic groups cut off from mainstream society may still have strong internal ties that protect against some disaster impacts. An example is the Vietnamese community in
New Orleans and their recovery after Hurricane Katrina (Box 5.3; see also NRC, 2011a).
At the broadest scale of the nation, integrating the full fabric of a community into a resilience-enhancing collaboration may require a diverse set of strategies and incentives to motivate participation. People may be more inclined to embrace disaster loss reduction and enhanced public safety when they see something of personal value in reaching for these goals (Geis, 2000). A commercial enterprise, for example, may be motivated to engage in resilience-enhancing initiatives by the potential return on investments (e.g., reduced chances for business interruption), by access to information that improves business continuity planning, and by an increase in its public standing in the community (NRC, 2011b). A good example of this occurred in Rutland, Vermont, which was severely affected by flooding from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, as was the surrounding region. The only large grocery store in the area was badly flooded, but a very functional, temporary solution was established to allow residents to meet their daily needs and return to a sense of normalcy (Figure 5.1).
Seeing Itself as Self-Reliant, a Vietnamese Community Weathers Serial Disasters in the Gulf
About 8,000 of the approximately 40,000 Vietnamese residents on the U.S. Gulf Coast live in New Orleans East, among a large African American and Hispanic population (NRC, 2011a). Many community members came from Vietnam in 1975, when a large number of South Vietnamese immigrants arrived in the United States. Presently, the East New Orleans community now includes the children and grandchildren of these original immigrants. The residents with whom the committee spoke during their visit to the area described their relative isolation before Katrina as one without interaction with other sociocultural groups living in the area, but that all of these groups joined together after Katrina. They described themselves as self-reliant people who had built new lives after fleeing Vietnam. Community members spoke of their collective efforts to get everyone to safety during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina in a community where they said ~30 percent were elderly. The pastor of the local Catholic church where many of the residents attend services, Rev. Vien The Nguyen, took a boat through flooded neighborhoods to check on community members; they lost only one elderly person to the storm out of the entire population. Their evacuation planning was coordinated through the church and the local radio station directly through community initiatives.
Because fishing was a main source of income, Hurricane Katrina significantly affected a large segment of the community’s livelihood, and after the storm, the community collectively decided to work together to rebuild, sharing with the community building and carpentry skills that some community members had developed back in Vietnam. Of the experience, one community
member said “We are all carpenters now (NRC, 2011a).” After repairing their houses, they helped each other repair their boats, without bank loans, and with little immediate help from federal or other government sources. Nonetheless, when some federal funding did arrive, the community members expressed some surprise and gratitude for the additional support.
As with other communities along the Gulf Coast, the Deepwater Horizon blowout and subsequent oil spill in 2010 affected the community in East New Orleans again. With one-third of the community in the fishing industry, the fishing season was severely affected and anticipated income from the fishing industry put into doubt.
The Vietnamese community members stressed their ability to plan as a community, to carry out their plans when disaster struck, to rebuild, and to work together to seek improvements in their community following both disasters. From an outside perspective, their refugee experience and cultural values around helping each other helped to build both resilience and a sense of community, which served as points of strength during natural and human-induced disasters.
In California’s Alameda County, Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster (CARD) promotes disaster preparedness among grassroots groups and social services agencies serving vulnerable populations, by providing them with dual-use tools. CARD, for instance, has transformed the traditional Incident Command System into a leadership course that improves the skills of nonprofit organizations at managing resources and relating to other agencies on a day-today basis (Schoch-Spana et al., 2008).
FIGURE 5.1 Grocery store in a tent. This tent began operating shortly after the flooding in Vermont as a result of Hurricane Irene. A generator truck is off to the left and the brick and mortar store (the damaged grocery store) behind the tent. The makeshift tent supplied residents’ needs through at least early January 2012. Source: Allan H. Stern.
Building a diverse constituency base around the public goal of disaster resilience has the added benefit of countering interests that otherwise motivate people to engage in risky behavior. Driven by a profit motive, for example, developers may elect to build homes in hazard-prone areas such as along the nation’s coasts; similarly, people continue to purchase homes in these areas, driven by the wish to live in what they perceive as a desirable location. In addition, development of vulnerable coastal zones or river floodplains may be encouraged by local decision makers who see such development as an opportunity to expand the tax base for their jurisdiction. On the other hand, strategies exist both to deter people from either building or choosing to live in hazard-prone areas and to mitigate against existing hazards through specific building techniques and approaches (see structural and nonstructural measures in Chapter 2). A broad-based constituency may help build the local political will to execute community resilience-enhancing measures possible only through public institutions and government action. Positive examples include Tulsa, Oklahoma’s land-use reforms and stormwater utility fees in support of the local flood control program (Meo et al., 2004), or locally supported taxes to subsidize the retrofitting of public buildings against seismic hazards, in the case of Berkeley, California (Chakos et al., 2002; see also Chapter 2). However, these kinds of systematic remedies in the public interest can be unpopular to some and prove difficult to establish more broadly in the country. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while committed to a long-term recovery and mitigation strategy following the dramatic 2008 floods, is nonetheless challenged with how to cover its portion of the costs associated with a proposed flood protection and management system (Chuck Wieneke, personal communication, March 8, 2011).
Organizational Capacity and Leadership to Sustain Collaboration
Strong leadership and a sustained organizational base are critical for facilitating collaboration to enhance resilience. Successful community-based partnerships leading to improved hazard mitigation practices often have had key, inspired individuals or champions who have catalyzed larger institutional changes (Prater and Lindell, 2000). Such was the case in the Berkeley, California, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, cases mentioned earlier. Institutionalizing a shared vision improves the likelihood that the collaboration will be sustained even after the dynamic leadership changes (NRC, 2010).
Sustaining public—private resilience coalitions requires an individual or group dedicated to advancing the collective project and keeping resilience on the community’s overall agenda when interest might otherwise lag or opposition is encountered. For example, local coordinators for government-sponsored programs such as FEMA’s Project Impact, preparedness coordinators for local health departments, and dedicated staff and institutional champions have been suggested as key ingredients for successful collaborations for resilience-building activities (Roussos and Fawcett, 2000; Tierney, 2000; Avery and Zabriskie-Timmerman, 2009; Orians et al., 2009).
Although the coordinating function is seen as central to the longevity and effectiveness of a resilience-focused collaboration, opinions are divided as to whether government or a nonpartisan entity is the appropriate actor to fulfill this duty (NRC, 2011b). Whether a governmental entity or a nongovernmental group is the final accountable entity for integrating individuals, communities, and businesses to increase community resilience, any resilience-focused collaboration is necessarily a part of consistent support for the legal authority of emergency management agencies. Regardless of where responsibility for coordination lies, resource allocation for this management function is important.
A Resilient Future Relies upon a Commitment to Planning
Communities can greatly increase their resilience through short- and long-term planning that is developed, endorsed, and implemented by officials of government, business, health care, education, and community-based organizations (CBOs). The plan would include risk management (see Chapter 2), community organization with chartered roles and responsibilities, named leaders, and a jointly developed community-committed culture; a resource management function to assign value to the community assets (plans, programs, control/oversight; see Chapter 3); and metrics to assess progress (see Chapter 4) (Table 5.2).
To maximize effective implementation, a resilience plan may align its goals with a culture of self-reliance; community self-sufficiency; and mutual aid and interdependencies with neighboring communities, state and federal government entities, and NGOs CBOs, and FBOs. Although specific resilience goals may vary among communities, a common set of principles (see Chapter 1) may help build a culture of resilience and steps toward achieving higher levels of disaster resilience.
Table 5.2 Suggested Elements of a Local Resilience Plan
|Community organization||Reflects community structure and leadership|
|Standards and codes||Represents current and needed building and development codes, standards, and zoning ordinances, where compliance and enforcement are emphasized|
|Performance merries and resilience rating system||Represents assessment status and needs for essential progress in building resilience and desired performance of critical services and infrastructure following disruption|
|Education and communication||Represents critical education, outreach, and communication plans and practices for resilience to reach all community members|
|Local capacity||Designed ro establish baselines and close essential capacity gaps in the community|
|Resource management||Integrates resources such as human and financial capital, mutual aid agreements- asset management strategies, essential relationships within interdependent communities and agencies|
The second step for enhancing resilience at the local level is to link private and public infrastructure performance and interests. Accountability for critical infrastructure systems is dispersed across the public and private sectors (see Chapter 3). Lifelines— essential utility (e.g., domestic water/wastewater systems, industrial waste systems, power systems, fuel systems, telecommunications systems) and transportation systems (e.g., highways, bridges, railroads, transit systems, airports, seaports, waterways)—are both publicly and privately owned and share the attributes of being distributed systems, rather than isolated facilities. They also provide products and services that are transferred through networks that often cross legal and jurisdictional boundaries (ALA, 2005). To complicate matters, these lifelines are in variable states of age and condition. It is essential to conduct assessments of the quality and condition of these, and to make needed improvements in order to enhance resilience.
Genuine resilience of community lifelines cannot be achieved in piecemeal fashion by private and public entities acting on their own. Instead, as Chapter 3 outlined, resilience requires that local infrastructure leaders come together to assess the status, vulnerability, and interdependencies of their holdings; set performance metrics for individual components and entire systems; and develop plans for enhancing the infrastructure’s ability to withstand failure and for speeding the resumption of operations during disaster response and recovery (Box 5.4). As a locally based method of risk management, public— private infrastructure coalitions can also run joint community exercises using stress scenarios to test their systems for weak spots, initiate operational
improvements to keep their enterprises functioning, and establish multiyear regional capital investment priorities.
San Francisco “Lifelines Council” Strives for Earthquake Resilience Through Infrastructure Upgrades
On October 14, 2009, San Francisco held its first Lifelines Council meeting realizing a vision proposed by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), a community-based nonprofit committed to civic planning that represents citizens’ voices and nurtures a vital urban center. Recognizing disaster planning as essential to the city’s well-being, SPUR launched the Seismic Hazard Mitigation Initiativea to advance greater understanding of what it would take—from an engineering standards perspective—for “the city to remain safe and usable after a major earthquake” (Poland, 2009, p. 4). If San Francisco hoped to rebound quickly and minimize disaster costs, then the city needed to take active steps toward measuring and improving the performance of local buildings, utility systems, and transportation networks under the stress of a major earthquake. A highly recommended step was the creation of a local “lifelines council” to engage infrastructure owners and operators in comprehensive planning for seismic mitigation (Barkley, 2009). Chaired by the mayor’s office, the proposed council includes representatives of city agencies responsible for local lifeline sectors (e.g., San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, Municipal Transportation Authority) and city departments with a coordinating role (e.g., Public Works, Emergency Management); state, regional, and private-sector entities operating or regulating lifelines that serve the city (e.g., CalTrans, AT&T, Bay Area Rapid Transit); and risk and industry experts (Barkley, 2009). Among the council’s charges were:
• Coordinating planning across sectors, given lifeline interdependence (e.g., electric power runs the water and wastewater systems);
• Developing and adopting common performance goals and standards;
• Guiding a seismic performance audit of lifelines in the city, thus providing an evidence base for the city to establish priorities for system improvements;
• Establishing a funding plan for modifications to city-owned systems and for assistance to other system owners for modifications in areas of overwhelming public interest; and •
• Communicating to political leaders and the public the value of improved lifeline performance, enlisting their support for potential service costs to cover enhancements (Barkley, 2009).
Many reports and studies address the importance of protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure (Flynn, 2008; Chang, 2009; National Infrastructure Advisory Council, 2009a,b, 2010) and improving its resilience. However, the majority of these studies focus on national strategies and policies (top-down strategies), rather than on more locally based options. Community-based research suggests benefits for communities by engaging in development of complementary strategies for linking private and public goals and interests for upgrading and hardening infrastructure such as constructing levees and restoring wetlands as flood control projects (Guikema, 2009), enhancing the seismic resilience of communities (Bruneau et al., 2003), or enhancing the resilience of major commerce and transportation systems such as at the Port of Los Angeles (Box 5.5).
The Nation’s Busiest Port Merges Green and Resilience Goals
The Port of Los Angeles (below) is one of the nation’s busiest ports, and together with the adjacent Port of Long Beach handles the largest volume of containerized freight of any port complex in the United States. In 2010 the Port handled over 540,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units; 40-foot containers count as two in this statistic). Containerized cargo is moved out of the Port on rail via the Alameda Corridor to the yards near Downtown Los Angeles, and by the approximately 12,000 trucks that operate in and out of both ports. The immense size of the port (over 7,500 acres of land and water) and the value and importance of the freight handled make for a very significant and demanding security mission. The potential impact of a disruption at the Port is immense, both within the Los Angeles Basin, with a population approaching 20 million, and across the United States.
The Port of Los Angeles is a public entity, but operates as a self-supporting business by taking profits and putting them back into maintaining and upgrading infrastructure. The Port is not self-sufficient, but relies on other infrastructure providers for water and power, and so enhancing resilience requires cooperation among different sectors, agencies, and jurisdictions. As part of its modernization and capital improvement plan, the port is committed to green growth principles: that is, it “will maximize its social, economic, and environmental objectives to find mutually reinforcing solutions, recognizing their interdependencies. Likewise, the social, economic, and environmental impacts of port actions are considered when assessing organizational performance” (Port of Los Angeles, 2011). One specific effort is implementing a green building policy in which all Port structures are built to LEED gold standards. In both rhetoric and practice, the Port of Los Angeles exemplifies locally based efforts to enhance resilience.
Source: Port of Los Angeles, 2011.
Resilience to Disaster in the Health Arena
Other infrastructure in communities is affected in similar ways. For example, the U.S. health care system is a dispersed, mostly for-profit system in which individual hospitals and other institutions (e.g., clinics, nursing homes, dialysis centers) compete for patients and resources at the same time that governmental public health agencies are responsible for the well-being of entire populations (Toner et al., 2009). Unlike most countries, the United States has no national health system. Also, there is no universal access to health care, even preventative care such as immunizations. The Department of Health and Human Services, including agencies such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state health departments have some responsibility for guidelines, coordination, and even regulation in emergencies, but responsibility for acting on these remains at local levels with wide variation in capacity. In addition, there is no national- or state-level system for housing medical records electronically in ways that would permit retrieval of essential individual health information in emergencies. This was clearly demonstrated in the Hurricane Katrina disaster (see also Chapter 3). A major problem for those evacuated before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina was the absence of medical records indicating major health problems and medications taken routinely. People fled with no or insufficient supplies of medication (NRC, 2011a). Also, their
essential care was interrupted when health care facilities became impaired, they lost resources with which to pay for care even if available, and they were displaced from the usual sources of treatment and support (Kessler, 2007; Zoraster, 2010). LTG Russell Honore, Commander, Joint Task Force, Katrina. has argued, “The health of a community before any crisis has a direct correlation to the magnitude of the health crisis after the event” (Honore, 2008). Research and responder experience have borne this out repeatedly. For instance, Gulf residents saddled with the highest burden of chronic disease prior to the infamous 2005 hurricane (many of them poor and medically underserved) were the hardest hit, as noted above.
Individuals with chronic disease such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes, too, were among those at highest risk for developing flu-related complications during the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic (CDC, 2012). At that time, racial and ethnic minorities were at a threefold disadvantage medically because they were at higher risk of being exposed to the H1N1 virus, of being susceptible to its complications (because of a high prevalence of chronic conditions and immunosuppression), and of having impaired access to timely and trusted health information, vaccination, and treatment (Quinn et al., 2011).
From a health perspective, resilience to disasters and catastrophic health events involving infectious disease is grounded in both a robust population and a robust public health preparedness system. Leading figures in U.S. public health and national security have spotlighted the importance of promoting healthy lifestyles, investing in preventive care, and reversing health disparities as key to increasing the country’s overall resilience (Honore, 2008; Lurie, 2009; Satcher, 2011). At the same time, they have underscored the importance of building and sustaining a network of ready and responsive individuals and institutions poised to reduce morbidity and mortality levels should a major crisis emerge. These priorities are not being upheld by necessary resources.
Assuring access to preventive care, aggressively providing secondary prevention, and implementing population-level interventions to prevent chronic disease are important means of creating a robust and resilient population (Lurie, 2009). Remedying health inequities, too, will help build resilience and reduce the medical footprint of hazards, disasters, and epidemics (Kessler, 2007; Honore, 2008; Zoraster, 2010; Quinn et al., 2011; Satcher, 2011). Fundamental resilience—that embedded within the very health and wellness of the population—helps mitigate the potential medical consequences of a disaster or epidemic. So, too, does a capable and comprehensive public health emergency preparedness system. Strong health agencies at the state and local level, backed up with federal support, serve as the coordinating backbone for this system that also incorporates individuals, businesses, and civil society groups (IOM, 2008).
The importance of public health agencies was underlined in the measures that federal decision makers took to reinvigorate the U.S. public health infrastructure in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and anthrax letter crisis in 2001. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response
Act of 2002 established a system of federal grants to state and local health departments to upgrade their readiness and response capabilities for bioterrorism and other public health emergencies.1 From FY 2001 to FY 2012, an estimated $8.95 billion has been awarded to support state and local public health preparedness activities (Franco and Sell, 2012). This infusion of funds has drastically improved the country’s ability to handle extreme health events (Nuzzo, 2009; CDC, 2011a,b; Trust for America’s Health, 2011). All state health departments, for instance, have staff on call all day and every day to evaluate urgent disease reports (Nuzzo, 2009). In 1999, only 12 states had this capability. All 50 states and the District of Columbia now have staff trained in their roles and responsibilities during an emergency (Nuzzo, 2009). Again, in 1999, only 12 states had this capability.
State and local health departments continue to work hard at enhancing the full range of preparedness capabilities including biosurveillance, medical countermeasure dispensing, emergency operations coordination, emergency public information and warning, and medical surge management (CDC, 2011c). Measurable advances in public health preparedness over the last decade, however, are now in jeopardy because of declines in federal, state, and local government budgets, cuts in the public health workforce, and an evolving list of public health threats (Nuzzo, 2009; CDC, 2011a,b,c; Trust for America’s Health, 2011). Projected pressures on public health by 2020 include an increase in the U.S. population from 308 million to 336 million, the demands of more diversified age groups (e.g., a 54 percent increase of citizens over 65) on an already overburdened health care system, and mass migrations due to extreme weather events (CDC, 2011a).
Community health networks are another example of linking private and public infrastructure interests at the local level to foster resilience. Over the past decade, health care coalitions have emerged as an adaptive mechanism to overcome differences between the individualized nature of health care delivery and the large-scale, population-based demands for care in a public health emergency (Courtney et al., 2009). As institutionalized entities, healthcare coalitions are more frequent now across the United States since the establishment in 2002 of the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP, though variously named over the years), a federal grant initiative mandated by Congress to upgrade local healthcare readiness for biological attacks and other public health emergencies (HRSA, 2002). Though initially focused on enhancing the preparedness of individual hospitals for biological incidents, the program has evolved and expanded to encourage greater all-hazards coordination among healthcare facilities in the same community or region (Courtney et al., 2009).
1 Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Pub. L. No. 107-188, 107th Cong., June 12, 2002. Available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ188/pdf/PLAW-107publ188.pdf. Accessed June 17, 2012.
Prior to the creation of the HPP grants, preparedness and planning across healthcare facilities did not exist in most communities (Courtney et al., 2009).
Healthcare coalitions are a locally-based resilience-enhancing measure insofar as member institutions align their interests and commit their resources to conduct a cohesive, coherent medical response to the increase in, and unique needs of, patients during a public health emergency. In a major health event, individual healthcare facilities in a community need to engage effectively with one another, the larger response systems, and potentially neighboring jurisdictions. Such collaboration ensures that the personnel, supplies, and equipment distributed across otherwise autonomous facilities are applied in a systematic fashion to achieve the best medical outcomes for the community at-large (Courtney et al., 2009). Effective health care coalitions, while evolving in relation to local hazards, geography, politics, and prior institutional relationships, nonetheless exhibit an effective leadership and governance structure and strive to achieve their stated objectives (Box 5.6).
The committee saw direct evidence of the benefits of health care coalitions in discussions in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with health care professionals affiliated with the state, county, and city. The potential for a nuclear power plant accident at a nearby facility motivated the city of Cedar Rapids and the county to establish a risk mitigation strategy for that hazard (see Box 2.4 in Chapter 2). The city’s emergency planners, hospital personnel, and citizens drill four times a year along established evacuation routes in the event of a nuclear accident. These drills, including the relocation of essential medical facilities and personnel were invaluable training and were implemented during the response to the flooding of the Cedar River in the second week of June 2008.
The health care issue that has yet to be addressed is that of access to medical records of medications routinely taken and major health conditions and risks. Access is currently not readily available in emergency situations. Among the solutions discussed is a nationally linked medical record system, such as the kind already maintained by several pharmaceutical store chains, and/or a personal card containing a chip with the relevant information. Privacy issues are clearly of critical concern in these discussions, but as the post-Hurricane Katrina problems in helping patients with chronic illnesses demonstrated, the need for this information is vital.
In summary, public—private coalitions are essential for the development and execution of plans to strengthen the resilience of a community’s critical infrastructure. A public—private partnership can evaluate and expand community capacity to address disaster-related risk to lifelines. Such partnerships can also help to integrate resilience into the infrastructure life cycle to ensure maintainability, sustainability, and operability of those systems before, during, and after a disaster.
New York City Preparedness Benefits from Government—Health Care Partnership
The New York City Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Program (HEPP)a is a coalition of hospitals, long-term-care facilities, primary care centers, emergency management services, professional associations, and medical university partners that conducts emergency preparedness activities. The coalition is coordinated with assistance from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The number of facilities includes 65 hospitals and acute care facilities, 400 outpatient centers, and 73 emergency medical services organizations, in addition to participants from public safety, emergency management, public health, medical societies, and hospital associations.
The goal of the program has been to create integrated and coordinated emergency planning and response in the New York Area and the coalition works toward meeting specific benchmarks such as isolation capacity, trauma care, and pharmaceutical capabilities. The program has used hazard vulnerability analysis, has developed connections to other medical facilities and city agencies, has implemented an incident command system, and has conducted training exercises and citywide drills.
SOURCE: Toner et al. (2009)
The third theme in building resilience is communication and public education, which may result in a populace that knows what hazards it faces, has the social connections that will help it endure, understands how to protect its safety and well-being, and sees itself as capable and self-sufficient. Such communications should happen at all levels, especially in promoting resilience as a national priority and a goal. However, communication and public education may be most crucial at the local level, where they strengthen social ties and capabilities, and where local knowledge and trusted relationships can amplify the power of communications. Understanding the purpose of communications is a key element in motivating resilient actions (Box 5.7).
The tactical details of risk communication—such as warning strategies, emergency communication planning, and content of messages—are vital to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery and they have been well documented elsewhere (NRC, 1989a, 2005b; Mileti and O’Brien, 1992; Mileti and Peek, 2002; Morgan et al. 2002; Fischhoff, 2009). Tactical risk communication strategies ensure timely information, reduce economic losses, prevent stigmatization, and save lives and suffering. However, communication for resilience encompasses more than tactical risk communication because
resilience communication is fundamentally social, reliant upon interactions and relationships between and within communities. Communications construct how people see their roles in disasters, build the resolve necessary to endure, and encourage learning from historical precedent. Disaster planners can increase their communities’ ability to plan for, absorb, and adapt to disasters by employing knowledge of specific audiences and evidence-based strategies, leveraging new media, strengthening communications networks, and helping construct disaster-resilient narratives (Table 5.3). Specific actions for this kind of communication are briefly described.
Communication That Motivates Resilient Actions
A cornerstone in communication is to know its primary objective. Is it simply to provide information without actions or is it to provide guidance on taking action? Ideally, communication should motivate individuals, families, blocks, neighborhood groups, and entire communities to develop and even rehearse plans. For example, prior to the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, neighborhood clusters such as blocks were encouraged to prepare as individuals and collectively. Individual preparation included earthquake kits, family communication plans, emergency lighting, etc. In Bel Air, neighbors got together and each home had a red flag and green flag. After the earthquake, people with no emergencies put a green flag in front of their homes. Designated neighbors checked houses with red flags (signaling help was needed) and without flags. The neighborhoods were essentially on their own for several days, and neighbors shared food, water, flashlights, and first-aid kits. Several houses on that street were a total loss, but there was no loss of life.
In another example, Hurricane Irene in 2011 destroyed numerous roads and bridges in upstate New York, in Vermont, in parts of Massachusetts, and in New Hampshire. In several of these states, it was difficult to determine which roads were open and which were closed. In Vermont, within 24 hours of the disaster, the Vermont Agency of Transportation had a map on the Internet with detailed information on hundreds of road closures. Essentially, it was impossible to cross from New Hampshire through Vermont to New York State for at least 30 days post-storm, but motorists and businesses could identify where they could travel and where they could not based on this kind of communication.
Source: Personal observation and experience from a committee member.
TABLE 5.3 Communication to Build Resilience: What and How
|Communication Strategy||Strategy Implementation|
|Construct narratives that promote resilience||
• Frame communities as problem solvers, individuals as capable responders
• Construct narratives that reinforce social bonds, helping, and cooperation
• Maintain social ineinory of disasters
|Use evidence-based strategies for communication and public education||
• Ground strategies in communities
• Communicate risk
• Test and evaluate efforts
|Leverage social aspects of communication to strengthen ties and involve community||
• Promote social interaction
• Improve community use of social media networks
• Improve quality, value, and trust in crowd-sourced information
|Strengthen communication networks to ensure access to information||
• Create multipronged, interconnected communication networks
• Ensure equity m access to information
Construct Narratives that Promote Resilience
Increasing national resilience will require more than just improving communication structures and processes. To create a culture of resilience, public education and communication are important to help shift the way that Americans perceive themselves in relation to disasters and ensure that the lessons learned from our history with disasters stay active in the public’s consciousness.
Communal narratives give shared experiences meaning and purpose and they demonstrate how a community sees itself and others (Alkon, 2004). By defining a group’s identity and experiences and giving reason to its actions, such narratives can shape how they adapt to and recover from adversity, and thereby serve as important resources to foster resilience (Norris et al., 2008). For example, oppressed groups’ positive constructions of themselves allowed them to adapt to and survive adversity (Sonn and Fisher, 1998). The extent to which communities and individuals frame themselves as capable, connected, adaptable, and self-sufficient—rather than dependent, victimized, or helpless— will affect their decision making, their actions, and their ability to cope in the face of crisis (see Box 5.3)
Top-down, command-and-control approaches to disaster management discourage community involvement, setting up expectations that only those government actors in decision-making positions can tackle the problems (NRC, 2006a). While the role of government agencies is irreplaceable, as a group of Gulf Coast community leaders and responders noted, many of the valuable responses to disaster come from the initiative and resources of individuals and communities (NRC, 2011a). A narrative shift that frames communities as the primary problem solvers and individuals as capable responders recalibrates expectations and spotlights people’s innate resilient capacities (NRC, 2006a).
Norris et al. (2008) identify social linkages and a sense of community—characterized by high concern for community issues, respect for and service to others, and a sense of connection—as attributes of resilience. For example, mixed-race groups in South Africa during Apartheid maintained community resilience in the face of discrimination because of their sense of community and close bonds (Sonn and Fisher, 1998). Members of a group can strengthen their sense of community by embracing narratives that characterize the group as cohesive. Following the tragic mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, Ryan and Hawdon (2008) describe how the faculty at the university accepted the administration’s frame that the shooting had been an attack on the larger university community, and this in turn guided them to assume greater responsibilities in assisting students. In this way, narratives can reinforce social bonds and also establish norms of helping, cooperation, and reciprocity. Alkon (2004) found that residents of one community internalized a narrative of themselves as people who are good at working together and were thus able to make complex policy choices despite competing interests.
Strategies to Keep Social Memory Alive
• Annual or periodic commemoration events held by community organizations, FBOs, schools, and municipalities;
• Collections of oral histories from survivors, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Pandemic Influenza Storybooka” and the “Voices After the Deluge” research by the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;b
• Inclusion of local disaster histories in school curricula;
• “Digital stories” that capture people telling their personal experiences in disasters, captured on video for viewing on YouTube, Vimeo, or other websites; an illustrative example are personal stories about Hurricane Katrina captured in the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank;c
• Exhibits at local history and natural history museums and libraries such as museums in Cedar Rapids (Figure);
• Opportunities for intergenerational dialogue and storytelling about experiences with disasters and overcoming hardship
• Storybooks, videos, and other narrative materials that tell the stories of real disasters, such as the Survivor Tales comic books developed by the Seattle-King County Advanced Practice Centerdd
FIGURES (Left) At the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids, the memory of the June 2008 floods that flooded the museum and damaged some of its collections is kept alive through (Center) a permanent plaque marking the high-water level inside the museum building. ☺ Right) At the Czech Museum in the Czech Village of Cedar Rapids, a timeline display documents the course of the floods over a 9-day period in June 2008. The floodwaters also reached this museum building and its collections; the high-water mark is the horizontal orange line in the top left corner of the image. Pictured are committee members and museum guide on the committee’s visit to Cedar Rapids in March 2011. Source: John H. Brown, Jr., The National Academies.
responsibilities in assisting students. In this way, narratives can reinforce social bonds and also establish norms of helping, cooperation, and reciprocity. Alkon (2004) found that residents of one community internalized a narrative of themselves as people who are good at working together and were thus able to make complex policy choices despite competing interests
Communities are only resilient insofar as they have the ability to learn from previous events and draw upon those lessons to mitigate against future events. Colten and Sumpter (2008) argue that preserving the social memory of disasters is important for resilience to take hold; they point to vital lessons about evacuation that were lost after Hurricane Betsy in 1965 that could have prevented some of the losses during Hurricane Katrina (see also NRC, 2011a; Colten and Giancarlo, 2011). When social memory is lost, communities can forget how they survived previous disasters, individuals and institutions may not retain skills needed for response and recovery, and policy makers may make decisions without regard for the hazards that exist. Maintaining social memory as a strategy for promoting resilience requires creativity by public educators and
professional communicators when they draw attention to the past and its lessons for the future (Box 5.8).
Collective narratives can play a role in maintaining social memory, as they did on Simeulue Island in Indonesia, where residents orally passed down lessons learned from a devastating tsunami. When an earthquake occurred on December 26, 2004, these residents knew they had to evacuate to higher ground immediately and their island experienced far lower casualties than other neighboring islands (Meyers and Watson, 2008). In New Orleans East, the older members of the Vietnamese community transferred what they had learned from previous adversities, such as how to pool resources and how to construct homes, sharing their experiences with the younger generations. Consequently, their community recovered more quickly than other devastated parts of the region (NRC, 2011a)
Use Evidence-Based Strategies for Communication and Education
Communication strategies should be grounded in the characteristics of local communities. Audience research techniques—such as focus groups, key informant interviews, surveys, and demographic studies—will reveal what people need and want to know, leading to more effective communications than those based on assumptions (NRC 1989a). For example, in developing the California Shakeout, a large-scale public earthquake drill, planners conducted audience research that indicated that people were less interested in information about the probability of an earthquake, preferring communications that focused on what concrete actions they should take (USGS, 2008).2
The public is not homogenous, and no single communication approach will suffice (Bolton and Orians, 1992). Identification of personal and social characteristics of targeted audiences—such as their shared perceptions, beliefs, communication patterns, and their social contexts—will aid in the design of messages more likely to motivate behavior change (Mileti and Peek, 2002; Paton et al., 2008). To alleviate communication gaps, public educators and communicators should also examine the preexisting understandings and beliefs about disasters, hazards, and response and recovery measures held by targeted groups in comparison to experts and emergency management (Morgan et al., 2002). Understanding the differences between public and professional perspectives can identify communication gaps, especially regarding highly charged, ethical dilemmas. For example, in preparation for communicating about pandemic influenza, public engagement meetings were held in the state of Minnesota and King County, Washington, about how to ethically distribute scarce, life-saving medical resources in a crisis. By involving diverse community members and vested stakeholders, emergency planners identified
2 Lucy Jones, personal communication, May 24, 2011 (see Appendix B).
similarities and differences in opinions held by each group and were able to develop targeted communication strategies (Li-Vollmer, 2010; Garrett et al. 2011).
Even with high levels of risk awareness, individuals may not translate that information to their own situation (Fitzpatrick and Mileti, 1993; Mileti and Peek, 2002). Instead, people are more likely to take protective actions if they believe those measures influence the consequences of disaster, even if they can’t control the causes (Mulilis and Duval, 1995; Paton et al., 2006). In fact, whether households take protective measures depends more on how they perceive the effectiveness of those measures than on their perceptions of risk itself (Weinstein and Nicolich, 1993; Wood et al., 2011). Therefore, risk communication, a specific type of communication to build resilience, should emphasize protective actions and their benefits and also neutralize beliefs that a threat is too great for personal action to make a difference.
People are more likely to believe that their actions could make a difference when presented with messages asking them to consider helping those more vulnerable than themselves, such as children and the elderly (Paton et al., 2006). For example, Latin American immigrants, some of whom initially reported that there was no way to prepare for emergencies, said they would be motivated to develop an emergency plan for my family or to be informed so we could help others (Carter-Pokras et al., 2007). Similarly, leaders of nonprofit organizations in the Mississippi Gulf Coast advocated for messages that empower individuals to care for themselves and others, rather than those based on fear, based on their experiences helping their communities recover from Hurricane Katrina (NRC, 2011a).
People are more likely to believe that preparedness is worth the effort when they understand the potential losses that can occur from disasters, and what they can do to prevent or reduce those losses. This requires specific information about how each protective action reduces risk or contributes to safety (Paton et al., 2006; Mileti and Peek, 2002). If people are given a small number of preparedness items, starting with those easiest to adopt, they are more likely to enact them. Nonetheless, this kind of effective communication of the value of resilience represents a continual challenge for community and government leaders (see Chapter 3).
Formative testing and subsequent refining of messages and materials may help ensure that they are memorable, actionable, culturally appropriate, and comprehensible for targeted groups (Morgan et al., 2002; Andrulis et al., 2007). Using community representatives to review disaster scenarios and provide feedback on planned messaging is one approach (Paton et al., 2008). In addition, evaluation of risk communication plans following a crisis event can be used to engage the community in being part of their resilience-building strategies (NRC, 1989a).
Leverage Social Aspects of Communication to Strengthen Ties and Involve Community
When faced with uncertainty, people tend to turn to others for guidance and confirmation. Studies have found that people’s interaction in their social networks can overcome passivity and have direct and indirect influence on what they know and whether they intend to take preparedness steps (Paton et al., 2008; Wood et al., 2011). To maximize communication and public education, forums encouraging community members to discuss hazard issues with ample use of visual aids, compelling media, and peer group discussion methods has been suggested (Mileti and Peek, 2002). For example, Los Angeles County Public Health and the University of California at Los Angeles have developed preparedness outreach programs using peer mentors to educate developmentally delayed adults and promotora3 community health workers in the Latino community. Social media, as discussed below, offer multiple promising opportunities for promoting community planning and discussion.
The fabric and nature of community have been profoundly affected in recent years by the growth of online social media. Social networks can now grow and survive without the same ties to geography that existed in the past. Instead, electronic media allow instant communication within networks of friends (and strangers) who may be separated by long distances, and lead to a sense of community that may have little to do with geography.
So much interpersonal interaction now occurs online that the very term social network often implies a digital medium such as Facebook or Twitter. These networks can play a very important role in strengthening community by providing new ways to interact, but at the same time their lack of ties to geography may weaken local communities by diverting some of their attention elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is clear that efforts to strengthen communities and their social networks must include these new media. There is ample evidence that sites such as Craig’s List can play a valuable role in helping a community’s recovery by sharing information about skills and assets (Torrey et al., 2007).4
Individual citizens are now empowered by technology to collect and disseminate information, and such mechanisms have proven increasingly important during disasters, when reports from citizens may lead official information by minutes, and in some cases hours. Against these potential advantages the doubts about quality and the lack of the kinds of checks and confirmations of information are weighed. Goodchild and Glennon (2010), Liu and Palen (2010), Palen et al. (2010), and others have documented the role that these social media can play in collecting and sharing information about the local
3 A promotora is a person who provides educational, guidance, and referral services in a community as an informal community-based worker.
situation: injuries, needs, locations of severe impact, for example. Such information is inevitably unreliable to some extent, coming as it does from volunteers who may have little training and may even have malicious intent, but it does provide immediate situational awareness. In the various wildfires that have hit the Santa Barbara area in the past few years, Goodchild and Glennon (2010) showed that volunteers can also play a vital role in synthesizing reports culled from blogs, tweets, and other postings, and reconciling apparent contradictions.
The problem of quality assurance in these situations needs specific attention. A fundamental principle of crowd sourcing argues that information is more reliable if it comes from multiple, independent sources. More effective, however, is the kind of social hierarchy used by prominent sites such as Wikipedia and Open Street Map. Individuals with a track record of reliable information are promoted through the hierarchy and play a key role in moderating and vetting reports. In essence, such systems replicate the structure of traditional government agencies, but in a manner that is consistent with their voluntary nature.
In the final analysis, however, an individual citizen experiencing the effects of a disaster must make a simple choice: to act in response to potentially unreliable but timely information provided by voluntary mechanisms, or to wait until officials are able to check and verify, by which time the impacts of the event may be severe. Efforts to strengthen communities and their use of social media, and to develop the social hierarchies that can foster trust, can do much to improve the quality, and thus increase the value, of crowd-sourced information during disasters or other traumatic events.
Strengthen Communication Networks to Ensure Access to Information
Two different mechanisms may improve communication networks to ensure access to information for resilience: (1) creation of multipronged interconnected communication networks, and (2) ensuring equity in access to information. A strong communications infrastructure can efficiently centralize collection and distribution of information and news at national, regional, and local levels before a disaster (Andrulis et al., 2007; Norris et al., 2008; Olshansky et al., 2008). This infrastructure includes the technological means to transmit information, skilled and trained human resources to carry out communication functions, and the organizational processes and social networks that facilitate the flow of communications (FEMA, 2004; NRC, 2005b; Comfort and Haase, 2006). Alternate routing and backup plans (as a part of the infrastructure planning) could prevent the type of communication breakdown that happened when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the communication system in New Orleans (Comfort and Haase, 2006). Plans for communication that maintain parity with the technologies that the public widely uses, such as text messaging and social media, are also important (Karasz and Bogan, 2011; Merchant et al., 2011), as are nonelectronic forms of communication such as
door-to-door provision of information, distribution of brochures, and meetings at community centers in the event of power failures and for those who lack easy access to online communication.
Flexibility in the face of the unknown is vital to a communication network that can adapt to changing circumstances. Reliance on rigid command-and-control strategies for communication can prove detrimental; instead, building multipronged networks that feed into and pull from many community nodes may constitute a better communication strategy (Norris et al., 2008). Dense communication networks contribute to community action because individuals tend to confirm information across multiple sources and within their social spheres before determining courses of action (Wood et al., 2011). Inclusion of CBOs—along with local, state, and federal agencies and response partners—creates more avenues for rapidly delivering critical information. More importantly, incorporating CBOs also leverages sources of information that are already trusted in their communities, resulting in better outreach to diverse populations and more effective coordination of communications (Andrulis et al., 2007). A more inclusive communications network also creates a feedback loop that circulates communities’ needs from the communities to leaders and helps set realistic expectations from leaders to communities (Schoch-Spana et al., 2007). An authentic two-way flow of communications builds trust in public information campaigns and the public’s willingness to take needed actions (NRC, 1989a; Paton et al., 2008).
A second component of the communications network is recognizing and addressing inequities in access to information that result from culture, language, socioeconomic status, functional ability, literacy, and trust (Kasperson et al., 1992; Vaughn, 1995; Andrulis et al., 2007). When these communication barriers are not addressed, equal access to food, medical treatment, safety information, and other lifesaving resources cannot be assured (Fothergill et al., 1999; Carter-Pokras et al., 2007). For example, failure to provide evacuation orders in multiple languages, culturally competent ways, or through adequately targeted channels has led to endangerment and unnecessary deaths among ethnic minority and immigrant groups (Muñiz, 2006; Spence et al., 2007). People who have difficulty accessing needed care and resources day to day are at even higher risk from disasters, and failure to ensure equity in access to information can further amplify the hardships these individuals face.
Communication networks that include diverse stakeholders are fundamental to reaching more diverse populations. People working in specific communities often have the expertise and relationships in place to best communicate to the families and individuals they serve. When trusted sources from the community act as messengers, the information is more likely to be received, understood, and accepted than if it comes from an unknown or government source (Fothergill, 1999; Mileti and Peek, 2002; Muñiz, 2006;
Andrulis et al., 2007; ). Trusted community sources include ethnic media, FBOs, health care providers, community leaders, and CBOs (Andrulis et al., 2007; Carter-Pokras, 2007). The Aware & Prepare Initiative in Santa Barbara County6 is an example of a public—private partnership to enable nonprofit organizations and government agencies to work together on disaster resilience-building measures. A particular focus of the public education and awareness segment of this initiative is on communicating directly with vulnerable populations (J. Moreno, personal communication, May 24, 2011; Appendix B).
As standard protocol, communications and educational materials must be available in multiple languages and in translation (Mileti and Peek, 2002). Translation alone may be insufficient, and the review by individuals from target communities to ensure cultural adoption and the ability of the materials to meet needs of people with lower literacy or different functional abilities can ensure that the messaging is appropriate and acceptable and is absorbed and adopted by the intended audiences (Mileti and Peek, 2002; Andrulis et al., 2007).
Local communities have a variety of mechanisms at their disposal to reduce risks and enhance resilience—mechanisms that are largely under the control of local jurisdictions. Among the most basic of these are land use, zoning, and building codes and standards (see also Chapter 2 under “Nonstructural Measures” as part of risk management planning and implementation).
Zoning and Building Codes and Standards to Strengthen Community Resilience
Building codes set the minimum requirements for infrastructure and are established through a hierarchy of national, regional, and local governments. Codes and standards exist to guide construction of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings, and to inform zoning and land-use considerations (Ching and Winkel, 2009). Building codes can support resilience by helping to prevent or minimize damage to the built environment during natural disasters; minimum standards of siting and construction can also help ensure public health and safety. However, a balance between adding to the codes to protect infrastructures from disasters and causing the cost of buildings to increase to a point where the costs prevent or delay new construction are considerations that decision makers, the private sector, and community have to take into account. Also, if adjacent communities adopt or enforce building codes differently,
developers may choose to develop in the community with lower requirements in order to save money on construction. Such discrepancies may call for increased regional or statewide consistency in the use of building codes. Additionally, the federal government constructs its buildings to meet a set of federal codes, and maintaining a balance between federal and local codes and standards is also challenging. For example, an NRC report found that “designs for federal buildings were inappropriate to local conditions and resulted in costly difficulties during construction that could have been avoided had local building code provisions been updated to reflect the model codes” (NRC, 1989b, p. 10). Presently, high-level resilience is not addressed in these minimum requirements for the codes, resulting in limited design guidance available to the community on providing enhanced safety to the built environment (NIBS and DHS, 2010).
Background on and Purpose of Codes and Standards in Resilience
National codes provide a base upon which regional and, subsequently, local codes are developed. This base lays the groundwork for a minimum level of resilience to be set at a national level, with room for specific updates at the regional and local scales. The origin of the building codes used today lies in the fires that damaged American cities throughout the 1800s and were initially written to support the needs of insurance companies for fire protection and hazard reduction (NIBS and DHS, 2010).6 This fire-based foundation of building codes can be considered an initial step toward establishing resilience. The codes are written in such detail that specifications for means of exiting from a building are included (Ching and Winkel, 2009). At the core, the codes are designed to protect health and life—providing safe passage for individuals if a building should collapse. The minimum standards for codes do not consider the structure’s performance or hazard resilience in a specific way, although stricter codes may be developed to consider these aspects of a structure (Box 5.9).
Most communities adhere to the International Code Council’s (ICC) International Codes (or I-codes), which provide minimum standards for building and fire safety.7 Codes also provide a consistent set of standards for residential and commercial buildings across the nation. Model codes published by ICC are adopted, sometimes in modified form, by the legislatures of individual U.S. states and carry the force of law. These codes include8:
• International Building Code,
• International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings,
7 See http://www.iccsafe.org/AboutICC/Pages/default.aspx for more information on the International Code Council’s history and its guidelines. Accessed February 8, 2012.
8 International Code Council, http://www.iccsafe.org/AboutICC/Pages/default.aspx.
• International Existing Building Code,
• International Fire Code,
• International Zoning Code, and
• International Wildland-Urban Interface Code.
Building code enforcement, however, is generally the responsibility of local government, which hires building inspectors to ensure their implementation. Building codes have been shown repeatedly to be effective in reducing property damage, preserving human life, and increasing the resilience of communities (Multihazard Mitigation Council, 2005; see also Box 5.9). However, except where federally owned property or interests are involved, the federal government has little role in establishing local building codes and standards, or zoning laws (see below). Thus, the adoption and enforcement of building codes and standards lie predominantly at the local level, and are highly variable across the nation. Rigorous enforcement of updated building codes continues to be one of the surest mechanisms for improving resilience of infrastructure.
Wind Resistance Building Codes Helped Floridians Weather Hurricane Charley
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Andrew when it struck Florida in 1992 triggered a reevaluation of existing building code standards and their enforcement. In 1995, coastal areas of Florida started to use and enforce high-wind design provisions for residential housing, including those that ensured that all loads were directed to the foundations. Builders and building officials received extensive training in concert with this development. In the late 1990s, the state of Florida moved toward adopting a statewide building code, something that was achieved in 2002. This was accompanied by the training of all licensed engineers, architects, and contractors in the new code. In 2004, four major hurricanes, the first of which was Hurricane Charley, pummeled Florida from both coastlines over a period of 6 weeks. A study of losses in the hardest hit area, Charlotte County (which had implemented high-wind standards in 1996) revealed that enforcement of modern engineering design-based building codes significantly enhanced the performance of residential homes during Hurricane Charley. Charlotte County policyholders for homes built after 1996 filed 60 percent fewer claims than those for homes built before 1996; when a loss did occur for a post-1996 home, the claim was 42 percent less severe than that for a pre-1996 home. The study also concluded that the new building code requirements permitted homeowners to return to their residences more quickly, thus reducing the disruption to their daily lives.
SOURCE: Institute for Business and Home Safety’s Building Code Resources (2004).
In a similar manner, zoning laws reduce the vulnerability and impacts of disaster in a community by preventing the development of communities in places exposed to hazards. Zoning laws are the responsibility of local, regional, or state authorities, depending upon the specific setting and agreements among authorities. The authority for zoning laws generally lies with the city or county government, though agreements among jurisdictions may assign authority to a metropolitan or regional commission.
The first municipality in the United States to develop a zoning law was New York City, which implemented its groundbreaking Zoning Resolution of 1916 in response to competing public needs related to urban development (New York City, 2011). Though zoning laws developed slowly over the following 100 years, and some provisions of zoning laws are contentious and have been tested and challenged in the courts, it is widely recognized that thoughtful land-use planning combined with zoning laws constitute a very effective set of tools for keeping citizens and their property, to some extent, out of harm’s way (Burby, 1998; see also Chapter 2).
A recent example of such a law is the new zoning code adopted by New Orleans in 2011, six years after the events associated with Hurricane Katrina (Box 5.10). The new master plan for development in New Orleans even contains a chapter dedicated to community resilience and has, as one of its goals, a broad and encompassing community standard of resilience with respect to flooding and other hazards.9 This zoning code also explicitly recognizes the valuable role of natural defenses to natural disasters. Clearly, effective community land-use planning and zoning are fundamental to building resilience.
New Orleans’ New Zoning Code
According to New Orleans’ new ordinance, the purpose of zoning is
1. To encourage and promote, in accordance with present and future needs, the safety, morals, health, order, convenience, prosperity, and general welfare of the citizens of the City of New Orleans;
2. To provide for efficiency and economy in the process of development;
3. To provide for the appropriate and best use of land;
4. To provide for preservation, protection, development, and conservation of the natural resources of land, water, and air;
5. To provide for adequate public utilities and facilities, and for the convenience of traffic and circulation of people and goods;
9 See Chapter 12 of the “Plan for the 21st Century: New Orleans 2030,” available at http://www.nolamasterplan.org/documentsandrresources.asp#C3.
6. To provide for the safe use and occupancy of buildings and for healthful and convenient distribution of population;
7. To provide for promotion of the civic amenities of beauty and visual interest, for preservation and enhancement of historic buildings and places, and for promotion of large-scale developments as means of achieving unified civic design; and
8. To provide for development in accord with the Comprehensive Plan.
SOURCE: New Orleans Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance, March 3, 2011, http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=16306&stateId=18&stateName=Louisiana.
Consequences of a Lack of Building Code Enforcement and Zoning Provisions
Despite widespread availability of codes and zoning guidelines and agreement by most officials that these governance tools benefit community resilience, many unsafe buildings still exist and many communities continue to allow development in hazardous areas. The major reasons that municipal and state jurisdictions find it difficult to enforce building codes and zoning laws include the lack of resources or number of qualified personnel to do so, pressure from developers to grow communities, and lack of political will to manage land use through zoning (Burby, 1998).
Building code enforcement costs money, namely in the form of salaries for qualified, trained technical staff who inspect both new and retrofit construction, issue judgments on compliance, and carry out follow-up inspections when failure to comply arises. Municipal and county governments facing limited budgets, and many competing public demands often result in cuts to these critical personnel. As expressed by useful-community-development.org, “Most towns and cities practice only complaint-based code enforcement, largely for cost reasons.”10 Construction and building inspectors held about 106,400 jobs in 2008, and the median annual wages of construction and building inspectors were $50,180 in May 2008 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). Many of the 19,510 incorporated towns and cities in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010) struggle to maintain the most basic public services delivered by police, fire, and teachers. At the same time that inspectors are in short supply, the builders and building owners may resist compliance, especially if such measures require additional investment. Though the short-term funding issues are unfortunately often the determinant of local code enforcement, the adoption and enforcement of building codes have proven to be economically beneficial in reducing property damage, improving life safety, and increasing the resilience of communities (Cohen and Noll, 1981; Multihazard Mitigation
Council, 2002). However, tension between local and national interests arises when local building codes contain provisions that respond to specific community interests and concerns. The national code may be seen as a constraint on the community’s ability to construct buildings the way that they require (NRC, 1989b).
Strategies to Reverse Lack of Enforcement
Existing engineering technologies, tools, and design criteria provide guidance for codes and standards to support prevention, mitigation, and risk avoidance; however, accelerating the enforcement of these regulations has proved to be difficult and expensive for local government. What is the best way to encourage and accelerate the enforcement of building and zoning codes where enforcement is currently not universal? One potential mechanism is to tie the adoption and enforcement of building codes to state eligibility requirements for federal disaster relief funds and programs. Although sometimes politically unpopular, such an approach can help build a culture of resilience. Other mechanisms may include the provision of additional training to public safety officials for code enforcement inspections(e.g., fire departments, emergency services personnel, emergency managers) who could assist in tight fiscal times (Timm, 2004). Finally, penalties and sanctions levied against developers who blatantly ignore codes is another option, but this may also result in the need for more inspections and the resources to hire additional staff.
To address resilience in the built environment, codes and standards may also need to consider integrating new language, considering all of the building design criteria, and expanding standards beyond life-safety aspects, including safety and usability (Poland, 2011). Performance-based standards and codes, for example, have historically served as objective-based requirements for a building designer to meet (Ching and Winkel, 2009). New building codes and standards that extend beyond life-safety aspects may include resilient design concepts in a performance-based approach, as well as continuity of operations (NIBS and DHS, 2010). Additionally, the codes could integrate frequent and well-adopted design measurements and standards, providing a flexible platform to address different facility and structure types and recognizing the differing levels of performance that are required.
Higher minimums for building codes may be another mechanism to increase the visible, direct links between building code and standard enforcement and resilience. The current minimum requirements prescribed by building codes, while laying the groundwork for resilience, do not provide adequate design guidance for resilience. An outcome of the Designing for a Resilient America: A Stakeholder Summit on High Performance Resilient Buildings and Related Infrastructure held in November 2010 was that U.S.
building codes and standards need to set more stringent minimum requirements, for health and life safety, that are enforced by many jurisdictions across the country and supported by state legislation.11 Design guidance on providing serviceability criteria and enhanced safety standards is limited or, in some cases, unavailable to designers and owners because higher resiliency requirements are not integrated at the most minimum model building codes. Uniform adoption by jurisdictions begins with the development of design criteria, building codes, and standards that address resiliency objectives and the technologies and validation for their use (NIBS and DHS, 2010).
A number of areas need additional research to fully understand local opportunities for and constraints to enhancing community resilience. First, no systematic or evidence-based assessment has been conducted to identify which strategies are most effective in fostering local collaborations to build community resilience. Most of the information appears to be anecdotal or tied to case studies at present, with little evidence to support whether generic strategies can be customized for the local context. Second, the economic impacts of changes in building codes or zoning laws are not tied well or directly to the receipt of disaster relief. Would such explicit ties make communities more receptive to implementation and/or enforcement of building codes and zoning laws? At present, that question cannot be answered. Finally, studies are needed to evaluate the reliability and validity of information communicated through social media and whether the integration of social media into disaster preparedness, response, and resilience efforts affects the costs, quality, or outcomes (Merchant et al., 2011).
Resilience requires reinforcement of our physical environment—the buildings and critical infrastructure that support the communities in which we live. It also requires the strengthening of our social infrastructure—the local community networks that can mobilize to plan, make decisions, and communicate effectively. The interconnectedness of the social and physical infrastructure requires that both aree enhanced simultaneously with equal consideration to increasing resilience. The principal action through which a local community could vastly accelerate progress toward enhanced resilience of its
11 For more information on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stakeholder summit, please see http://www.dhs.gov/files/publications/st-bips-designing-resilient.shtm. Accessed February 12, 2012.
social and physical infrastructure is establishment of a problem-solving coalition of local leaders from public and private sectors, with ties to and support from federal and state governments, and with input from the greater citizenry. The charge of such a coalition would be to assess the community’s exposure and vulnerability to risk, educating and communicating about risk, and evaluating and expanding its capacity to handle such risk. A truly robust coalition would have at its core a strong leadership and governance structure, with a person or persons with adequate time, skill, and dedication necessary for the development and maintenance of relationships among all partners.
Recommendation: Federal, state, and local governments should support the creation and maintenance of broad-based community resilience coalitions at local and regional levels. Efforts to support coalition development should include:
• Assessment by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Health and Human Services—to the extent that these two agencies administer state and local grant programs to bolster national preparedness capabilities—of present federal funding frameworks and technical guidance. Such an assessment could gauge whether communities have sufficient support and incentive to adopt collaborative problem-solving approaches toward disaster resilience and disaster risk management.
• Adoption by communities of collaborative problem-solving approaches in which all private and public stakeholders (e.g., businesses, NGOs, CBOs, and FBOs) are partners in identifying hazards, developing mitigation strategies, communicating risk, contributing to disaster response, and setting recovery priorities. The emergency management community is an important integrated part of these discussions, potentially taking on a leadership role.
• Commitment by state and local governments to secure adequate personnel to create and sustain public—private resilience partnerships, to promulgate and implement proposed national resilience standards and guidelines for communities, and to assist communities in the completion of the proposed national resilience scorecard.
Building codes and standards are effective in mitigating and reducing disaster risk to communities. However, codes and standards have some variability due to the nature of local hazards; across the nation they are unevenly enforced and many people do not know they exist. In addition to codes and standards, guidelines, certifications, and practices also can be effective in fostering resilience.
Recommendation: Federal agencies, together with local and regional partners, researchers, professional groups, and the private sector should
develop an essential framework (codes, standards, and guidelines) that drive the critical structural functions of resilience.
This framework should include national standards for infrastructure resilience and guidelines for land use and other structural mitigation options, especially in known hazard areas such as floodplains. The Department of Homeland Security is an appropriate agency to help coordinate this government-wide activity. The adoption and enforcement of this framework at the local level should be strongly encouraged by the framework document and accompanied by a commitment from state and local governments to ensure that zoning laws and building codes are adopted and enforced.
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