The 2012 National Research Council (NRC)1 report, Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative, identified the development and use of resilience measures as critical to building resilient communities. Although many kinds of resilience measures and measuring tools have and continue to be developed (see Appendix B), very few communities consistently use them as part of their planning or resilience building efforts. Since federal or top-down programs to build resilience often yield mixed results, bottom-up approaches are needed, but are often difficult for communities to implement alone (e.g., NRC 2013, 2015). A major challenge for many communities in developing their own approaches to resilience measures is identifying a starting point and defining the process. Other challenges include lack of political will due to competing priorities and limited resources, finite time and staff to devote to developing resilience measures, lack of data availability and/or inadequate data sharing among community stakeholders, and a limited understanding of hazards and/or risks.
Following the release of the 2012 report, the NRC convened two workshops, one in November 2012 and the other in September 2014. These workshops focused on launching a national conversation to establish resilience as a long-term goal and societal vision, outlining actionable steps to help build a more resilient nation—including measuring progress toward becoming resilient—and developing a framework for community measures of resilience.
To build on this existing work, a planning committee of the Resilient America Roundtable (Roundtable)2 of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine organized a third workshop, Developing Community Resilience Measures, on July 14-15, 2015 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (see Appendix A for the workshop agenda and materials). The Roundtable helps communities and the nation build resilience to extreme events, save lives, and reduce the physical and economic costs of disasters; a core part of this work is the community pilot partnership program in which the Roundtable partners with communities across the country to help community decision makers and stakeholders build approaches for deciding how and where to invest resources to mitigate risk and build resilience in ways that allow them to explain and communicate those investment decisions. The Roundtable’s pilot communities are: Charleston, South Carolina; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Seattle, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.3
1 Effective July 1, 2015, the institution is called the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. References in this report to the National Research Council are used in a historic context identifying programs prior to July 1.
2 Additional information is available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/resilientamerica/index.htm. [Accessed February 24, 2016]
3 Tulsa, Oklahoma became the fourth Roundtable community pilot partner in Summer 2016.
The goal of the July 2015 workshop was to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and information about ways to advance the development and implementation of resilience measures by and within diverse communities. A secondary goal was to gain a better understanding of the challenges these communities face in the pursuit of resilience and whether the approach used during this workshop can help guide communities in their efforts to build their own measures of resilience.
Participants included representatives from 11 communities across the United States, a total of 21 community representatives, from Boston, Massachusetts; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Charleston, South Carolina; Des Moines, Iowa; Eugene, Oregon; Omaha, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Washington, District of Columbia; and Woodstock, Vermont. Three of these communities were invited to present ongoing measures work being implemented in their communities, three were Resilient America pilot communities, and five were selected to provide diversity to the group in terms of geographic location, hazards, and community size. Most participants represented urban areas and included climate and energy analysts; city and regional planners; emergency managers; city officials with expertise in health, community preparedness and resilience, flood recovery, and transportation planning; representatives from community organizations; and researchers and educators. In addition to the representatives from these 11 communities, other workshop participants included members of the workshop planning committee, the Resilient America Roundtable, and National Academies’ staff (see Appendix C for biographies of speakers and the planning committee).
Following presentations by the chair of the workshop planning committee and the director of the Resilient America Roundtable, community representatives shared their visions for resilience, and three panelists discussed their communities’ experiences in developing and/or implementing resilience measures. In subsequent breakout sessions, workshop participants discussed and identified ways to measure resilience within their communities.
At the 2014 workshop, a preliminary framework was established based on four target categories as defined in the 2012 NRC report:
- Critical Infrastructure (components = power, water, environment, communication . . .)
- Social Factors (components = financial structure, governance, community networks . . .)
- Buildings and Structures (components = businesses, homes, bridges . . .)
- Vulnerable Populations (components = minority status, health, mobility, education . . .)
Based on subsequent feedback from Roundtable members and some of the workshop participants, these four categories evolved into six broad environments that make up a community (defined below and in Appendix A). These six environments provided a starting point for the breakout group discussions:
- Social/Wellness Environment = the capacity for people to connect with each other (e.g., social relationships, communication, formal and informal institutions)
- Human Environment = the sum of people’s skills, knowledge, labor, and good health (e.g., education, workforce, healthcare)
- Financial/Economic Environment = level, variability, and diversity of income sources, and access to financial resources that contribute to wealth and enable investment in community capacity building (e.g., financial systems and services, employment opportunities)
- Physical-Built Environment = the built environment (e.g., buildings and critical infrastructure such as roads, the power grid, dams)
- Natural Environment = natural resources, nonengineered structures, and associated ecosystem services (e.g., erosion, surge, flood protection)
- Governance/Leadership Environment = leadership, governance, and power (e.g., the ability to influence and enforce policy, standards, rules, regulations)
During the breakout sessions, workshop participants were encouraged to add to and/or change the six environments depending on their community goals and values. In addition to asking participants to consider the six environments, Table 1-1 was used as a guide during the breakout sessions to frame the discussions. Workshop participants were
TABLE 1-1 Community Resilience Measures: Guiding Considerations
|Community Environments||How resilient do you think your community is now in each environment?||What factors did you consider to determine your community’s level of resilience?||What are the key elements of this environment in your community? (List 2 to 3)||How could you measure the resilience of each component, asset, or function?|
SOURCE: Compiled by the Resilient America Roundtable Staff based on input and feedback provided by the Committee on Processes and Objectives for Community Measures of Resilience
given the table prior to the workshop, and were encouraged to share it with their colleagues and other stakeholders in their communities to obtain broad feedback and ideas.
Dr. Lauren Alexander Augustine, director of the Resilient America Roundtable, opened the workshop by providing a brief overview of the program. Launched in 2014, the mission of the Roundtable is to convene experts and diverse community stakeholders from academia, public and private sectors, and nonprofit organizations to design or catalyze activities that build community resilience to extreme events. Weather and other extreme events are becoming more destructive and costly in the United States and around the world. In the United States alone, floods, hurricanes, wildfires, windstorms, and other natural hazards collectively kill or injure thousands of people each year and cost billions of dollars in damages.4 Resilience, as defined in the 2012 NRC report, is the “ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events.” The report stressed that having greater resilience to these types of extreme events can help reduce risks and vulnerability, decrease costs, and mitigate impacts.5
Four key recommendations for building community resilience were articulated in the 2012 NRC report; these recommendations provide the foundation for the Roundtable:
- Understand and communicate disaster risk.
- Identify and develop ways to measure resilience to disasters.
- Build and strengthen partnerships and coalitions with diverse community stakeholders.
- Share and facilitate access to information, tools, data, and experts needed to build resilient communities.
The Roundtable is focused on four main workstreams: the community pilot program, measures and metrics, expert meetings and workshops, and critical infrastructure and economic supply chain resilience. One of the main objectives of the community pilot program is to identify resilience challenges and priorities, and to identify and develop ways to measure progress. Communities are often engaged in efforts to strengthen their resilience and to protect their people, property, and quality of life. However, it can be difficult for communities to implement resilience-building approaches on their own, and federal or top-down programs frequently yield mixed results.
4 See http://www.noaa.gov/extreme2011/; http://www.emdat.be/result-country-profile?disgroup=natural&country=usa&period=2011$2011; Presentation by Susan Cutter, Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, 2012.
To help communities build resilience, the Roundtable is
- identifying and sharing key elements in building resilience at the community level and documenting outcomes;
- working directly with a select group of communities—specifically, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Charleston, South Carolina; and Seattle, Washington—as they develop their own resilience-building strategies, approaches, and activities;
- convening and facilitating workshops, meetings, table-top exercises, and other multi-stakeholder interactive events in communities; and,
- providing resources,6 experts, and information to help communities and decision makers better understand, communicate, and manage risks.
In conclusion, Dr. Augustine shared the Roundtable’s goals for the workshop: participants would gain a clearer sense of resilience measures; share their experiences about building resilience in order to contribute to a broader strategy of building a national culture of resilience; and create a network to advance future endeavors.
Dr. Gerald E. Galloway, Jr., Glenn L. Martin Institute Professor of Engineering at the University of Maryland, member of the Resilient America Roundtable, and chair of the workshop planning committee, opened the workshop by asking, “How do I know if I am resilient and how do I know if I am moving ahead?” He pointed out that the 2012 NRC report envisions a resilient nation in the year 2030 as one where “the nation, from individuals to the highest levels of government,” has embraced a culture of resilience.
Dr. Galloway noted that resilience could be measured at both the national and the community levels. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses the Community Rating System;7 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a number of community resilience assessment tools, such as the Coastal Resilience Index;8 the National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing the Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems,9 and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction has developed a checklist of the 10 essentials for making resilient cities.10
Dr. Galloway posed several questions for workshop participants to consider during the course of the workshop:
- What is your vision for the resilience of your community and why?
- What criteria, factors, or environments define this resilience vision?
- What goals, objectives, or criteria define these factors?
- What measures define progress or status in meeting these goals?
- What barriers exist to conducting these measurements?
- How can you deal with these barriers?
In closing, Dr. Galloway suggested that there were many different ways that a community could measure resilience. The key is for communities to identify their current and ideal levels of resilience, and then decide how to track their progress toward meeting their resilience goals.
6 The Roundtable does not provide funds for projects, therefore “resources” refers to the expertise, knowledge, or logistical support associated with convening activities.
8 Additional information is available at https://toolkit.climate.gov/tool/coastal-resilience-index. [Accessed February 26, 2016]
10 Additional information is available at http://www.unisdr.org/files/26462_handbookfinalonlineversion.pdf. [Accessed February 26, 2016]
Prior to the panel discussion, representatives from the 11 invited communities were asked to consider the following questions and share their responses, ideas, and thoughts: What is the resilience vision for your community? What are the major hazards your community faces? What are your community’s main assets, advantages, and capabilities? What are your community’s challenges related to managing these assets? Examples of the resilience visions, hazards, community assets, and challenges shared by the community representatives are included in Table 1-2. Many important elements and challenges for building community resilience were identified; however, one area that was not directly mentioned was incentives: an important topic that might be explored in a future activity. Mr. Chris Poland, a member of the planning committee, moderated the discussion.
Participants found the exercise very useful in helping them understand the balance between various aspects of disaster resilience at the community level. After identifying their resilience visions, as well as the risks and natural hazards in their communities, participants were able to take stock of community assets, components, and functions—hereafter referred to as “elements”—and pinpoint barriers to achieving goals. They discussed these elements in the context of the six environments during the breakout sessions, as well as the need for a cultural shift toward prioritizing and implementing resilience-building initiatives.
TABLE 1-2 Community Resilience Visions, Hazards, Assets, and Challenges
|Community Resilience Visions|
|Community Risks/Natural Hazards|
SOURCE: Compiled by the Resilient America Roundtable Staff based on comments and feedback provided by Developing Community Resilience Measures Workshop participants.