Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative

The National Research Council of the National Academies developed the Committee on Increasing National Resilience to Hazards and Disasters to examine ways to increase disaster resilience in the United States. The committee’s report presents its findings and recommendations on how to increase the nation’s resilience to disasters through a vision of the characteristics of a resilient nation in the year 2030.  

The report opens with a compelling message: "The nation needs to build the capacity to become resilient, and we need to do this now...Enhancing the nation’s resilience to hazards and disasters is a laudable aspiration, but as is the case with such lofty goals, the devil is in the details."

One overarching message presented in this report is that increasing national resilience is profoundly complicated. These challenges were recognized collectively by eight federal agencies and a community resilience group affiliated with a National Laboratory, who asked the National Research Council to address the broad issue of increasing national disaster resilience. 

The resulting report is built in response to the following directives:

  • Define “national resilience” and frame the primary issues related to increasing national resilience to hazards and disasters in the United States;
  • Provide goals, baseline conditions, or performance metrics for resilience at the U.S. national level;
  • Describe the state of knowledge about resilience to hazards and disasters in the U.S.;
  • Outline additional information or data and gaps and obstacles to action that need to be addressed in order to increase resilience to hazards and disasters in the U.S.; and
  • Present conclusions and recommendations about what approaches are needed to elevate national resilience to hazards and disasters in the U.S.

The report provides actionable recommendations and guidance on how to increase national resilience from the level of the local community, states, regions, and the nation. A set of six recommendations (see Box S-1 at the close of the Summary) were developed and provide the foundation for each of six chapters in the report. The final chapter draws together these six recommendations made in earlier chapters and provides suggestions as to how these recommendations might be implemented.

To collect regional data and experience, the committee held three open meetings in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast; Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa; and Southern California. These three regions of the country were selected because each possesses a direct experience in building resilience through disaster preparedness, absorbing and responding to disasters, and in disaster recovery, adaptation, and mitigation. Although many of the examples in the report are drawn from these three regions, the ideas and lessons are designed to be applicable to communities across the nation. Discussions in workshops held in each of these three regions were supplemented by field excursions in the local communities to collect essential information about the their efforts to become resilient to disasters.

The study was sponsored by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, NASA, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Community and Regional Resilience Institute. 


Publication Date: 2012

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