The frequency and severity of disasters due to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and other disasters in the first decades of the 21st century have resulted in unprecedented challenges for communities in the United States. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina revealed the complexity and breadth of how existing community stressors and infrastructure could combine with a powerful natural hazard to result in massive displacement, protracted recovery, unprecedented property losses, extensive human suffering, disproportionate impacts on the poor and disadvantaged, and worst of all, a high death toll (Blaze and Schwalb, 2009; Elliott and Pais, 2006; Groen and Polivka, 2010; Hori, Schafer, and Bowman, 2009; Kessler et al., 2008; McIntosh, 2008; Mortensen, Wilson, and Ho, 2009; Paxson and Rouse, 2008; Stringfield, 2010; Turnham et al., 2011). In many ways, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was a turning point for understanding and managing disasters and related plan making and policy formulation (Olshansky and Johnson, 2010). It also brought the phrase “community resilience” into the lexicon of disaster management (Cutter et al., 2006; Cutter and Emrich, 2006; Fothergill and Peek, 2015; Fussell, Sastry, and VanLandingham, 2010; Laska and Morrow, 2006; Levine, Esnard, and Sapat, 2007; Weber and Peek, 2012).
The National Research Council’s 2012 report Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative defined resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events” (NRC, 2012, 1; for a list of key terms used in this report, see Box 1-1). The 2012 report laid out six broad tenets for building national resilience to disasters:
- “Understanding, managing, and reducing disaster risks” (p. 3);
- “Demonstrating that community investments in resilience will yield measurable short- and long-term benefits that balance or exceed the costs” (pp. 3-4);
- Measuring progress toward resilience, including potentially developing a single, uniform resilience “scorecard” (pp. 4-5);
- “Building local capacity and accelerating progress,” or resilience “from the bottom up” (pp. 5-6);
- Harnessing the governance, policy, and resource landscape, or “top-down” resilience (pp. 6-7); and ultimately,
- Linking communities and governments at all levels to effectively guide national resilience (pp. 7-8).
Measuring progress toward resilience, the third tenet, is the focus of this report. Measurement helps communities set priorities, establish community-resilience baselines, and monitor change over time (NRC, 2012).
The community-level resilience landscape has expanded in the United States since the publication of the NRC 2012 report Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative, including resilience efforts at the national, state, regional, and community levels. For the purposes of the present report, a community is a geographically defined collection of people at a subnational and substate level of jurisdiction. Included in that could be regions such as a metropolitan statistical area; rural villages or townships sharing similar environmental, cultural, or political ties; politically bounded places such as counties, cities, water districts, or wards within cities; or culturally defined places such as neighborhoods or street blocks that are greater than an individual household, parcel, or built project. Community resilience encompasses “community capabilities that buffer it from or support effective responses to disasters” (Wells et al., 2013, 1172).
National efforts that promote local changes in community resilience knowledge and practice include the 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation; the National Academy of Sciences’ Resilient America Program; city-to-city networks such as the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, and C40; and professional associations such as the National Hazard Mitigation Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the National Association of Climate Resilience Planners, and the American Planning Association. A number of federal and state investments and policies have been launched to expand local resilience capacity, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology Community Resilience Planning Guide; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs Rebuild by Design and National Disaster Resilience Competition; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Resilience Grants Program; Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Planning requirements and Ready.gov resources; and the U.S. Department of the Interior Tribal Resilience Program.
Many cities have or are creating resilience offices and programs (e.g., New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability, Resilient Seattle, City of Minot Office of Resilience, Resilient Baton Rouge, Resilient Tulsa, City of New York Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency), and many regions are organizing around resilience and leveraging resources and partnerships (e.g., the Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, Boulder County Collaborative, California’s Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation, King County-Cities Climate Collaboration, Association of Bay Area Governments).
This broader landscape of activity raises questions about how or whether resilience has increased, whether investments are providing adequate returns, and how decision makers can begin to understand the impact that hazard mitigation, climate adaptation, and other resilience actions are having across numerous areas of community wellbeing.
Disruptive events are often characterized as “shocks” or “stressors.” Shocks are usually events that occur over a short period of time that negatively impact people’s well-being, assets, safety, livelihoods, and ability to endure future shocks. Stressors, in contrast, are long-term pressures that may have no clear beginning or end and that weaken the stability of a system and increase vulnerability within it (Choularton et al., 2015). Due to the timeline difference, oftentimes “acute” is ascribed to shocks and “chronic” to stressors. However, more accurately, both shocks and stressors can be acute or chronic (see Table 1-1).
The value of the process of measuring resilience lies in a community understanding the factors that affect its resilience and illuminating the presence and interdependencies of both acute and chronic shocks and stressors within the community. The process of measuring can provide community leaders and members information to help prioritize investments, allocate limited resources, and target the most effective programs and policies to mitigate the effects of shocks and stressors.
Measurement is the act of assessing an object, event, or place using a reasonable and accepted standard measure (or metric) in order to compare the object, event, or place to itself at another time, in another condition, or to another object, event, or place. Measurement can manifest in quantitative terms of numeric values, scales, or scores. Measurement can also have qualitative properties defined by nominal descriptors (e.g., yes/no, present/absent, or destroyed/functioning; rankings such as high, medium, or low; or grades A through F, as in a scorecard); visual descriptors; or textual descriptors as conveyed through observation, interviews, focus groups, or document review (Miles, Huberman, and Saldana, 1994). Qualitative measurement makes inferences about the phenomena being measured, but employs no numeric units of measurement. Qualitative properties are often used to assess underlying processes of community engagement, goal setting, capacities, or overall operation of some specific system such as infrastructure. Though measurement efforts for resilience tend to lean toward quantification, qualitative constructs and data are just as useful in depicting and measuring
|Chronic||Sea level rise, drought, land subsidence||Housing shortages; homelessness; opioid epidemic; crime|
|Acute||Flood, terrorist attack, hurricane, earthquake, environmental contamination||Loss of employment, loss of health care, financial collapse, massive mortgage defaults|
resilience (Maxwell et al., 2015). Sometimes quantitative and qualitative approaches can be used together to address common research questions (Creswell, 2015). For example, qualitative data might be translated into geographic information system (GIS) formats (Aitken and Kwan, 2009; Bagheri, 2014; Boschmann and Cubbon, 2014; Cope and Elwood, 2009) or into an economic model that can be used to assess the value of resilience-related projects or initiatives.
Interest in community resilience measurement is evolving steadily. In recent years, organizations have invested millions of dollars in the development and implementation of a portfolio of measurement frameworks to measure community resilience (see Chapter 2). Throughout this report, the breadth of activities, products, tools, and frameworks that purport to measure or support measurement of community resilience is referred to as community resilience measurement efforts. This term encompasses current scholars’ and practitioners’ attempts to: 1) operationalize and assess a specific resilience construct; 2) provide guidance to communities on indicators or components of a community that could be measured locally; 3) promote checklists or scorecards that centrally assemble indicators or subjects associated with community resilience; or 4) encourage the use of specific databases, analytical methods, or measurement tools for communities. This report builds on these efforts by distilling key elements that can guide community resilience and its measurement in ways that build on this foundation.
A defining characteristic of community resilience noted in the literature and in implementation is multidimensionality (Beccari, 2016; Cutter, 2016a; NRC, 2012)—in other words, the resilience of a community encompasses all of the resources and assets available in the community. These community dimensions are also referred to as “capitals.” The concept of community capitals is grounded in community development and disaster research, and basic forms of capital available in communities include natural, built (physical), financial (economic), human and cultural, social, and political (Flora and Flora, 1993; Flora et al., 2008; NIST, 2016; Ritchie and Gill, 2011).
The grouping and measurement of capitals in the context of community resilience have evolved based on improvements in empirical research and a broad-based examination of available data. An early example of measurement efforts for regional resilience (though not intended to be a measure of resilience to disasters in particular) was the Resilience Capacity Index,1 which included 12 socio-economic variables and no indicators for physical or infrastructure capitals (Alkire and Foster, 2011). Another, the Baseline Resilience Indicators for Communities, uses six capitals—social, economic, community, institutional, housing/infrastructure, and environmental conditions—which were derived from
an analysis of more than 60 variables (Cutter, Ash, and Emrich, 2014). The City Resilience Index retains these six capitals but suggests that as many as 156 variables operationalize the measuring of community resilience (Arup, 2015).
The number and quality of operational variables in the resilience measurement world vary widely (see Cutter et al., 2008; Cutter, Burton, and Emrich, 2010; Gunderson, 2010; Kulig et al., 2013; Mowbray et al., 2007; Norris et al., 2008; Rose and Krausmann, 2013; Sherrieb, Norris, and Galea, 2010). However, the following six types of community capitals (or community resilience dimensions) represent those most often used in the resilience measurement literature:
- Natural (or environmental): the natural resources base or environmental conditions within communities. This includes air, land, water, mineral resources, stability and health of ecosystems, natural land cover, and/or indicators of environmental quality.
- Built (infrastructure): the buildings and infrastructure systems within communities. This includes critical response support facilities, residential housing, schools, commercial and industrial buildings, and supporting infrastructure such as power, transportation, bridges, roads, communication, water, and waste water.
- Financial (economic): the totality of economic assets and livelihoods in a community. This includes income levels, personal wealth, income equality, overall employment rates, sector-specific employment, and business size and diversity.
- Human and cultural: demographic characteristics, knowledge, skills, health, and physical abilities of community members including language competencies, cultural symbols, and belief systems. Some specific examples are educational levels, age distributions, health insurance, access to medical and mental health services, food security, special needs populations, and access to transportation and communication services.
- Social: the social networks and connectivity among groups and individuals within a community. This includes levels of trust and reciprocity, political engagement, length of residence, volunteerism, religious affiliation, and community organizations and services. Also included is the feeling of belonging to and a sense of place about the community.
- Political (institutional or governance): access to resources and the ability/power to influence their distribution as well as the ability to engage external (to the community) entities in efforts to achieve community goals. This includes disaster insurance coverage (e.g., flood, crop), jurisdictional coordination or fragmentation, disaster experience in response and recovery, mitigation spending, and emergency management capacities.
Accounting for these six dimensions provides a more holistic view of community resilience, and the importance of each dimension to a community’s ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to
adverse events is becoming more established in the literature (Bourdieu, 1986; Cutter, 2016a; NRC, 2012; Ritchie and Gill, 2011; Šlaus and Jacobs, 2011). Yet, there is no consistent grouping of the various dimensions of community resilience or of the variables within them (Béné, 2013; ODI and RMEL CoP, 2016).
- Raise awareness and garner buy-in among community stakeholders about the importance of being resilient;
- Define what resilience means within their communities;
- Establish their baseline resilience to enable them to monitor their progress toward specific goals;
- Identify their risks and prioritize their needs and goals;
- Compare the benefits of increasing resilience to its costs in order to prioritize investments;
- Allocate limited resources for their resilience-building efforts;
- Quantify desired returns associated with investments to enhance resilience or prioritize among possible investments; and/or
- Determine whether they make progress toward goals, and if so, how quickly.
In addition, effective measures or indicators can be used to improve response and recovery planning; define and prioritize mitigation efforts; and make choices related to policy, insurance pricing, and other investments. Measures can also help allocate resources: In the 2017 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Resilience Grant, “measurable impact” was a key criterion for selecting grant recipients; examples of impact measures included baseline assessments, milestones or demonstrated progress toward goals, and avoided losses.
Finally, resilience measurement must be viewed within the context of historical and structural conditions such as prior stress and trauma, structural racism, government dysfunction, and shifts in demographic and economic conditions. Historical context influences what decisions can be made to mitigate and adapt to stress, prepare communities for disaster response, and help communities recover during overlapping cycles of disaster. The measurement of resilience is not complete without consideration of this historical context.
In recent years, researchers and practitioners have begun to more fully appreciate cumulative community stress—or community allostatic load—as helping to explain why some communities are able to withstand or adapt to stress and disaster more readily than others. Measurement of community allostatic load can include foundational issues such as intergenerational poverty, disenfranchisement of particular populations, or residential segregation. It also includes measurement
of community history in responding to prior stress and the equity and effectiveness of that response (Chandra et al., 2018).
On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig resulted in 4.9 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. In January 2013, TransOcean and British Petroleum pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to Deepwater Horizon. In November 2013, the National Academy of Sciences received $500 million in settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon criminal cases to be expended over 30 years to “enhance oil system safety and the protection of human health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico region and other areas along the U.S. outer continental shelf with offshore oil and gas operations [in order to] improve understanding of the region’s interconnecting human, environmental, and energy systems and foster the application of these insights to benefit Gulf communities, ecosystems, and the nation” (NASEM, 2017a). The National Academy of Sciences created the Gulf Research Program2 (GRP) to fulfill this mission.
The GRP has a rare opportunity to alter the resilience trajectory of Gulf region communities. It has the enviable combination of time and money to effect change and shape resilience actions over the next quarter century. The complexities of economy, culture, and environment in the Gulf region align well with those of community resilience. If the GRP were to take community resilience into its programmatic portfolio, establishing its approach to measurement would be important. Furthermore, the GRP could use resilience measures to quantify the program’s impact on the quality of life, safety, and resilience of the Gulf region.
In the past 15 years resilience researchers, philanthropists, and policy makers have been busy designing, testing, and evaluating how best to measure community resilience, and many of those efforts have focused on Gulf Coast communities. The fruits of that labor are ripe for consideration, adaptation, or application in Gulf region communities and the GRP’s future planning for its programs. And the need to measure resilience extends beyond the Gulf. Many other regions and communities face similar or relatable environmental choices, economic pressures, and health and social challenges, and this report aims to be relevant to these places and decision makers, as well.
The GRP requested this study and charged the committee to “produce a consensus report presenting effective options for measuring resilience at the
community level” (see Box 1-2). The consensus study process adhered to the Federal Advisory Committee Act requirements used for consensus activities with federal sponsors to ensure the committee maintained objectivity and independence in its findings and recommendations.
The committee conferred with community leaders and decision makers about their experiences in measuring resilience. The committee conducted a set of open sessions in the forms of site visits, videoconferences, and other interactions with local experts. Through these meetings, the committee fulfilled charges 1, 2, and 4. Charges 3 and 5 were fulfilled through closed session meetings that allowed for committee discussions, deliberation, and report writing.
The committee met with community representatives from four communities in the Gulf region (Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Louisiana, and Gulfport and Waveland, Mississippi); New York, New York; Minot, North Dakota; and Rapid City and Pine Ridge, South Dakota. The committee purposefully selected these
communities because they represented a range of community types (e.g., rural/urban, differing demographic profiles, population size) represented local and state perspectives, because of their recent disaster histories, and for their exposure to resilience measurement efforts.
This report reviews the status of resilience measurement to date and ends with recommendations for the GRP to advance resilience measurement and community resilience in communities on or near the Gulf of Mexico. This report is not a how-to manual on measuring community resilience or a compendium of resilience programs, fundamentals, or principles to successfully carry out measurement. Nor is it a collection of community resilience measures and indicators. Rather, this report presents a framework of four key actions (Chapter 4) that communities can take to build and measure resilience.
This report seeks to reach two audiences. The primary audience is the GRP, for whom this report provides GRP-specific recommendations to build and measure community resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region (Chapter 5). The secondary audience is decision makers at the community level who are interested in advancing resilience in their communities. For this audience, the report presents four community-focused recommendations (Chapter 4).
This report summarizes the existing portfolio of resilience measurement efforts (Chapter 2); provides an encapsulation of what select communities shared of their experiences in measuring resilience and identifies four common themes across communities for building resilience (Chapter 3); offers a framework based on the four common themes for communities looking to build and measure their resilience (Chapter 4); and provides recommendations to the GRP to build and measure resilience in Gulf of Mexico region (Chapter 5).