This review of the Community Resilience Program (CRP) within NIST is based on presentations and other information given to the panel by NIST staff, videos describing elements of the NIST programs, discussions with NIST researchers and management, reference literature, and websites of NIST and other organizations.
The CRP is organizationally located within the Materials and Structural Systems Division (MSSD) at NIST’s Engineering Laboratory (EL). The division develops and promotes the use of science-based tools—measurements, data, models, protocols, and reference standards—to enhance the global competitiveness of U.S. industry through innovations in building materials and construction technology and to enhance the safety, security, and sustainability of the nation’s building and physical infrastructure. The division’s programs are organized to address means of reducing the risk of natural and manmade disasters and enhancing the resilience of buildings, infrastructure, and communities. The MSSD operates four primary programs: Structural Performance Under Multi-hazards, Earthquake Risk Reduction in Buildings and Infrastructure, Engineered Materials for Resilient Infrastructure, and Community Resilience.
The MSSD currently conducts its business in concert with the Disaster Resilience Research Grants Program that solicits and funds competitive research proposals at several academic institutions. The division is actively engaged in assessing the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico. The MSSD ascertains the disaster resilience of buildings, infrastructure, and communities in cooperation with the Fire Research Division, most notably with programs on fire risk reduction for communities and buildings.
TECHNICAL MERIT OF THE PROGRAM
Resilience can be defined as the ability of a community to withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions and to adapt to changing conditions.1 Resilience planning has increased substantially in the past decade in response to increased natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, tornados, and floods. The CRP was established in 2015 by an interdisciplinary team of engineers and social scientists. The CRP’s product portfolio includes science-based tools to assess resilience and support informed decision-making for communities through guidance documents, computer programs, and disaster and failure studies, with the ultimate goal of reducing the impact of natural hazards and improving recovery. A major product with respect to community engagement is disaster resilience
1 Executive Office of the President, 2011, Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-8, National Preparedness. The White House, Washington, DC.
planning guidance, such as the Community Resilience Planning Guide to Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, Vol. 1 and 2. 2
The CRP collaborates with the Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning (a Center of Excellence [CoE]), an academic consortium of 14 universities headquartered at Colorado State University. The first 5 years (2015-2020) of the CoE involved the creation of knowledge through the development of a computational modeling environment, referred to as IN-CORE. It also involved the development of data ontology, architecture, and management tools as well as field studies and method validation. In the next 5 years (2020-2025), the CoE will move from knowledge creation to implementation, with an emphasis on making IN-CORE useful and usable to communities. The use of IN-CORE has been illustrated in studies of community resilience to earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados, as well as hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.
The CRP team is actively learning from investigations performed in the aftermath of the 2017 Hurricane Maria. The hurricane study provides primary data for modeling recovery, integrating infrastructure, business, schools, and hospitals. The Hurricane Maria investigation is used for developing recovery indicators and drawing lessons for community resilience.
Challenges and Opportunities
The development of computational open-source software will speed the retrieval of data relevant to community planning for resilience. The CRP’s work on resilience indicators will also help communities process the large amounts of data available for physical infrastructure and contribute to decision-making with respect to preparation and recovery from disasters. Relevant information on measuring community resilience is also available from a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s publication that articulates six interdependent community capitals.3 The value of the indicators at the community level can be enhanced by collaborating with vulnerable communities living in disaster-prone geographic regions, including the U.S. Gulf Coast (hurricanes and floods) and the West Coast (wildfires, drought), to assure the feasibility of implementing those indicators in a tailored fashion, building on a target community’s assets and needs. For example, CRP has developed a Tracking Community Resilience Database that allows for information to be retrieved at the county level. Such information is valuable and will facilitate the acquisition of information on community infrastructure across the United States. The data, however, are collected at the county level only, making it difficult to support decision-making for smaller units of analyses. Not only do counties differ in size (e.g., Los Angeles versus Tompkins County), but large counties will require greater granularity in policy and planning decisions for the plurality of communities living in such large geographical subdivisions.
The MSDD leads both the CRP and the Program on Earthquake Risk Reduction in Buildings and Infrastructure. The Hurricane Maria investigations are taking place while earthquake investigations are being conducted in Puerto Rico by organizations like the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER).4 Opportunities exist to coordinate and share data, enabling an integrated impact assessment of both the hurricane and earthquakes on infrastructure and society in Puerto Rico.
2 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), 2016, Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, NIST Special Publication 1190 (Volumes 1 and 2), Gaithersburg, MD.
3 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019, Building and Measuring Community Resilience: Actions for Communities and the Gulf Research Program, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, https://doi.org/10.17226/25383.
4 Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER), 2020, “Geotechnical Reconnaissance of the January 7, 2020 M6.4 Southwest Puerto Rico Earthquake and Associated Seismic Sequence,” http://www.geerassociation.org.
PORTFOLIO OF EXPERTISE
Scientific expertise in the CRP is vested in an Applied Economics Office, Community Resilience Group, and Disaster and Failure Group. The CRP at NIST works with a multidisciplinary team consisting of engineers (structural, civil, and environmental), social scientists (sociology, psychology, GIS, and environmental), and economists (microeconomics and environmental). As mentioned previously, the CRP supports the CoE, a multidisciplinary team that has benefitted from the participation of more than 100 investigators, including faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows.
The CRP has competent and qualified scientific and engineering expertise in the areas of its mission and program objectives. The organization’s expertise supports the technical programs and ability to achieve its stated objectives. The lead managers of the CRP at NIST are recognized nationally, and the academic leaders of CoE at Colorado State University have an outstanding national and international reputation. There are many reputable researchers among the universities supported by the CoE.
Challenges and Opportunities
To maximize the portfolio of CRP products applicable to the most vulnerable communities, there is an opportunity to expand the CRP team beyond the social science expertise. Other human health scientists—especially public health, environmental health, community planners, and disaster management scientists—can play an important role in facilitating the translation of data into reliance action at the community level. Such team members can be attracted intramurally, including scholars, as well as through collaborative efforts with academic institutions.
The lead CRP managers at NIST have been distinguished through the reception of a multitude of awards and distinctions. These awards generally can be divided into internal and external distinctions. Internal distinctions involve EL Morale Builder, Mentor, and Safety Awards. These internal awards represent formal recognition by the NIST EL of significant contributions to the operation of NIST. The external distinctions include awards such as the ASCE Earnest C. Howard Award, which represents important contributions external to NIST. The EL’s reputation depends on both internal and external excellence but is especially tied to contributions outside NIST. For this reason, it is advantageous to emphasize the external and distinctions, including globally, for CRP scientists as well as emerging scholars and to place special emphasis on professional society peer recognition.
ADEQUACY OF RESOURCES
The facilities, equipment, and human resources of the CRP are distributed among the Applied Economics Office, Community Resilience Group, and Disaster and Failure Group, as discussed above. These resources support achieving the objectives of community engagement, science-based tools, and disaster and failure studies. To the extent that the CRP makes use of testing and experimental work carried out by other programs such as earthquake and wind engineering and fire research, it will be impacted by the aging of the research infrastructure used by these groups. The CoE computational modeling environment IN-CORE provides additional computational support.
The facilities, equipment, and human resources provide competent and qualified support for the CRP technical programs and CRP’s ability to achieve its stated objectives. The success of these resources is closely linked to the dissemination of outputs, which is discussed in more detail below.
Challenges and Opportunities
Success of the CRP’s products is ultimately determined by the degree of uptake by targeted users—communities and organizations on the front lines of disasters involved in strengthening resilience. It is essential that computer software, models, and tools developed by CRP be user-based and driven by the needs and capabilities of actual communities.5,6
The CRP is particularly well supported from an engineering and codes and standards perspective. However, increased community resilience will require the direct participation of community planners, emergency managers, public administrators, public health and health-care professionals, and utility and business leaders. It is not clear whether and how the CRP effectively targets this diverse mix of stakeholders. The input of practicing professionals, in addition to researchers and academicians, is critical to achieving effective outcomes and ensuring the success of the program.
Many of the CRP staff are in the early stages of their careers. However, their efforts are supported by a cadre of highly respected researchers and academicians at NIST and the CoE. Overall mentoring programs exist, but many of the activities carried out by the CRP are relatively new to the NIST culture, so the traditionally deep pool of potential in-house mentors is not readily available. It is unclear whether and how the challenge of an aging workforce is addressed by the selection of emerging scholars. There seems to be a collegial culture at NIST headquarters and between CoE researchers and NIST staff that could assure a rich cadre of mentors. There are few human health, social, and geospatial scholars in the CRP; the degree to which they are integrated into the CRP was not made clear.
EFFECTIVENESS OF DISSEMINATION OF OUTPUTS
The CRP disseminates its outputs through various mechanisms, including blog posts, interviews, and presentations at NIST; contributions to standards promulgated by ASTM International, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and other bodies; publications; and surveys (principally through the Natural Hazard Engineering Resilience Institute [NEHRI] DesignSafe surveys). Publications include book chapters, conference papers, journal papers, and NIST publications. The number of NIST publications is approximately equal to the number of book chapters, conference papers, and journal papers. The CRP conducted approximately three workshops per year from 2014–2017, including national workshops at Coral Gables, Florida, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Two international workshops were held, in Dulles, Virginia, and Ispra, Italy, in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The CRP has disseminated planning guides, economic assessments, public alerts, system models, assessment methods, repositories, and tools, such as the NEHRI DesignSafe Household and Building Damage Surveys. The CRP works with several local jurisdictions, such as Boulder, Colorado; Bozeman, Montana; and Charleston, North Carolina. It engages professional organizations and other federal agencies.
The CRP supports the CoE, which in turn provides IN-CORE, the open-source computational environment for resilience analysis and assessments available to researchers. The CoE works with testbeds at Seaside, Oregon; Galveston, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Mobile, Alabama; hindcasts at Joplin, Missouri; and multidisciplinary longitudinal field studies of community recovery at Lumberton, North Carolina. The Lumberton longitudinal study involves riverine flooding from Hurricane Matthew
5 R. Little, T. Manzanares, and W. Wallace, 2015, Factors influencing the selection of decision support systems for emergency management: An empirical analysis of current use and user preferences, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 23(4): 266-274.
6 R. Little, R. Loggins, and W. Wallace, 2015, Building the right tool for the job: Value of stakeholder involvement when developing decision-support technologies for emergency management, Natural Hazards Review 16(4): 05015001, doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)NH.1527-6996.0000182.
and includes interaction with water and electric utility companies. The CRP has had beneficial direct interaction with a small number local communities (i.e., Nashua, New Hampshire; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Howard County, Maryland; Fort Collins, Colorado; and the Delaware Department of Transportation).
Challenges and Opportunities
The Community Resilience Systems ARC (Alternatives for Resilient Communities) Model with the Centerville data set shows great promise as a decision-support and training tool to develop and evaluate community responses to various hazard scenarios, but it is not readily deployable for stand-alone use by practitioners. Simpler tools, directly usable by the practitioner community, may be needed as well. The EDGe$ economic decision guide is a valuable tool developed by the Applied Economics Office to evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative resilience strategies. This tool will become more important as coastal and riverine communities need to address the impacts of sea-level rise and increased flood risk on their resilience options. The Applied Economics Office recently published NIST Special Publication 1258, Complex Event Resilience of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Natural Disaster Planning During the COVID-19 Pandemic.7 This is a timely focus on the impacts of a pandemic on community resilience. The CRP could be a valuable source of content to support the development of courses and training modules for professional certification and postsecondary (associates, bachelors, and masters) educational programs in community resilience and disaster preparedness and response.
If an institution is to become an agent of change, it is important to change agencies. These agencies include federal institutions, such as NIST, but also lifeline agencies, including water supply, electrical power, transportation, telecommunications, gas and liquid fuel, and wastewater operators, which provide for the front-line defense and recovery from natural disasters.8 Stronger relationships between the CRP and these utilities could help ensure that its products are responding to the needs and cultures of these types of organizations.
The CRP is engaged in investigations in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The devastation associated with this hurricane provides an excellent opportunity to learn how the damage to the electric power system influenced local businesses, communities, and the Puerto Rican economy. The study of Hurricane Maria as well as longitudinal studies like the one in Lumberton, North Carolina, provide the ability to partner with utilities, especially electric power utilities, which are so important for emergency response and recovery from disasters.9
The CRP is focused on resilient infrastructure and therefore could benefit from international work on hazards and infrastructure. International centers are an excellent source of collaboration. The United Kingdom Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC)10 was established with an approximate $180 million capital investment from the UK government that includes funding for 12 infrastructure laboratories, six urban observatories, and the Data and Analytics Facility for National Infrastructure. Its goal is to enable the collaborative multidisciplinary research necessary to underpin the renewal, sustainment, and improvement of infrastructure and cities in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. UKCRIC is a natural collaborator for CRP and offers the opportunity to develop an international partnership that leverages the investments made in both organizations.
7 NIST, 2020, Complex Event Resilience of Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Natural Disaster Planning During the COVID-19 Pandemic, NIST Special Publication 1258, Applied Economics Office, Gaithersburg, MD.
8 NIST, 2016, Critical Assessment of Lifeline System Performance: Understanding Societal Needs in Disaster Recovery, NIST GCR 16-917-39, prepared by the Applied Technology Council, Gaithersburg, MD.
9 T.D. O’Rourke, A.J. Lembo, and L.K. Nozick, 2003, “Lessons Learned from the World Trade Center Disaster about Critical Utility Systems,” pp. 269-292 in Beyond September 11th: An Account of Post Disaster Research, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Boulder, CO, April.
There are several ongoing activities that could be part of a comprehensive dissemination strategy (e.g., the “Taking Measure” blog), but the CRP appears to underemphasize these activities relative to the technical achievements that are reported. Much of the output of the CRP is in the form of NIST reports of various types that are quite good but can be somewhat difficult to locate on the NIST website unless one knows specifically what to look for. The output of the CRP overwhelmingly takes a “what to do” focus, but the program is mostly silent on the “how to do it.”
Dissemination of CRP products (output) provides the greatest opportunities for advancement. For example, integrating a benchmark-driven evaluation component can inform the utility of the products for frontline users (outcomes), which in turn can improve the quality and utility of the product. Similarly, an assessment of the impact of CRP products can provide important program direction for new product development.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Technical Merit of the Programs
The CRP’s research quality as exemplified by the program’s science-based tools to assess resilience and support informed decision-making are of excellent and of well-recognized quality. The intramural products are augmented by those developed by the CoE.
The CRP has tremendous potential for impacting people directly. The quality of the CRP would be enhanced by better connection with the human health infrastructure and with those who address the impact of disasters on vulnerable health systems and vulnerable populations (e.g., working with local utility companies and land-use planners).
The CRP can enhance its tools and products by modeling the impact of multiple disasters (e.g., hurricanes and earthquakes) encountered by communities simultaneously or within a short period of time. This could be facilitated by CRP and the Earthquake Risk Reduction Program collaborating more deliberately and formally.
RECOMMENDATION: The Community Resilience Program should enhance its valuable and meritorious work by heightening its focus on factors that directly impact people, including close coordination with related activities being performed by local, national, and global stakeholders in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, especially public health entities.
Portfolio of Expertise
Scientific expertise in the CRP is evident in the competent and qualified engineering team in the areas of the organization’s mission and program objectives. The lead CRP managers at NIST have been distinguished through a multitude of awards and distinctions that involve internal and external recognition.
Most of the CRP’s research portfolio is focused on the physical aspects of infrastructure such as buildings, pipes, wires, and roads and the engineering-based institutional aspects such as codes and standards. There appears to be far less emphasis on how these elements intersect with the human aspect of infrastructure, namely the people and agencies that deliver the services.
The CRP portfolio is excellent with respect to the team’s expertise in the physical and institutional infrastructure domains. However, gaps in human infrastructure expertise may limit the utility of its products and tools. From a human capital/infrastructure perspective, the effectiveness of the scholars program would be enhanced by strategically connecting with and accepting new scholars in the
disciplines where retirements are anticipated and in disciplines where there are gaps in expertise that hamper the impact of the program’s tools and products.
RECOMMENDATION: In addition to social scientists, the Engineering Laboratory should consider strengthening its Community Resilience Program workforce in the human health sciences both intramurally and extramurally—for example, through partnerships with schools of public health.
Adequacy of Facilities, Equipment, and Human Resources
The facilities, equipment, and human resources of the CRP support the objectives of community engagement, science-based tools, and disaster and failure studies. These resources, including those at the CoE, provide competent and qualified support for CRP’s technical programs and its ability to achieve its stated objectives. Retirement of senior staff is a current challenge. Some investments exist to build a pipeline of scholars.
The facilities, equipment, and human resources of the CRP are competent at present. However, the EL, including the CRP, faces a significant workforce reduction through retirement of senior staff. The pipeline of scholars represents an important strategy to rebuild the EL workforce in general and the CRP specifically.
Effectiveness of Dissemination of Outputs
The target audience for much of the program carried out at the CoE appears to be other researchers and tool developers. It is not clear how this work directly benefits the practitioners in community planning, emergency management, and other disciplines that will need to implement change. Although implied, the CRP does not specifically call out the need to address resilience measures through the lens of particularly vulnerable populations such as the poor, elderly, and medically compromised, who suffer disproportionally during hazard events. In the same vein, the impacts of extreme events on healthcare delivery are not specifically highlighted. It is important for the CRP to articulate to its stakeholders the pros and cons of the tools it develops and clearly articulate the limitations.
Outreach efforts by the CRP do not appear to reach those that may directly benefit from its tools and products. A focus on resilience measures targeting vulnerable populations is limited.
RECOMMENDATION: The Community Resilience Program (CRP) should develop and actively promote a stakeholder engagement and dissemination strategic plan that makes use of a broad range of traditional and emergent media to report and interpret results and solicit user input. The CRP should consider establishing an information flow whereby activities of testing, analysis, failure studies, and computer modeling yield program outputs that include tools and techniques, education and training, design and building codes, and conferences and publications.
RECOMMENDATION: The Community Resilience Program (CRP) should consider establishing a primary point of contact for outreach and dissemination to professional organizations, communities, regional and state agencies, and universities and community colleges. This effort should also include developing stronger relationships with several utilities to help ensure that products of the CRP are responding to the needs and cultures of such organizations. In addition, the Engineering Laboratory should analyze the current components of the Disaster Resilience Grants Program with an eye toward identifying how
the program could include support for state and local demonstration projects that utilize CRP products.
The CRP would be improved by a sharper focus on user needs. The development of computational open-source software will accelerate the retrieval of data relevant to community planning for resilience. It will also challenge CRP to develop programs and tools that address the practical needs of communities of all sizes and to demonstrate clearly that these needs are being met. The effective investment of the CRP resources is measured by the degree to which the resulting products are used by communities and organizations to strengthen their resilience. A major challenge and opportunity for the CRP is to develop programs and tools that are user-driven, not developer-driven. The Community Resilience Program, by its title, creates expectations that the end users are communities—especially vulnerable populations living in disaster-prone areas. Since the mission of NIST is also to improve quality of life, the current products are of high quality, but the products do not seem to reach end users directly.
RECOMMENDATION: Programs and tools developed by the Community Resilience Program should be user-driven, not developer-driven; address a demonstrated community need; and be guided by a multi-disciplinary user advisory group. This should include a benchmark-driven enterprise evaluation system that promotes a holistic approach to product development, implementation, and user feedback and promotes community engagement early and throughout the process of design through dissemination.
Greater awareness of CRP’s products outside of NIST and its immediate stakeholders would significantly benefit the recognition of the value of the products and the awareness of the important role the CRP can play nationally and globally. Working more directly with stakeholders and end users would provide valuable feedback that can be used iteratively to improve CRP’s products.
Expanding dissemination of the community resilience products beyond the current channels (federal agencies and engineering academic partners) to state and local agencies, especially health departments, local decision makers, and community organizations, could greatly increase the impact of the CRP at minimal cost and effort.