Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative

Authored by the National Academies Committee on Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters and the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy - this book focuses on how to increase the nation’s resilience to disasters. It argues that building resilience will involve a cultural shift in which disaster risk is taken more seriously, and resilience and disaster preparedness is valued at all levels of government.

While this book does not focus on climate change adaptation, it does recognize that climate change could influence the intensity and frequency of hazards. It notes that historical data may not be a good indicator of weather-related events likely to be impacted by climate change or for hazards with long return periods such as earthquakes.

The book argues that to build resilience, the nation must increase capacity related to preparing for, responding to, and measuring risk. It advocates for a bottom-up approach in which local communities are actively engaged in resilience strategies, but notes that more resources and information is needed to help communities be effective in this role. A precursor to any response is an understanding of the hazards facing a community and the strategies available to prepare. The book stresses that understanding risk is a continuous process that must be reviewed and reassessed regularly. Additionally, decision-makers must have some way to demonstrate that investments in resilience will provide measurable benefit. More work is also needed to identify indicators of resilience, so that communities can monitor their progress.

The book identifies six recommendations that can help enhance resilience.

  • Federal agencies should incorporate national resilience as a guiding principle to inform their mission and programs.
  • The public and private sectors in a community should work cooperatively to create a risk management strategy that includes structural (e.g. levees, floodwalls, and disaster-resistant construction) and non-structural (e.g. zoning and building codes) risk reduction methods.
  • A national resource of disaster-related data should be established.
  • The Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with others, should develop a National Resilience Scorecard.
  • Federal, state, and local governments should support the creation and maintenance of broad-based community resilience coalitions at local and regional levels.
  • All federal agencies should promote resilience in their programs and policies. This will involve a self-assessment within agencies and better communication across agencies.

The book is organized into eight chapters that define resilience, describe why resilience investments are important, explain existing efforts and potential methods for measuring progress towards resilience, identify ways that local capacity can be strengthened, describe current federal policies, and delineate a possible path forward.


Publication Date: 2012

Related Organizations:

  • The National Academies


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Academic research paper
  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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