Preparing communities to cope with potential disasters is a tricky challenge, particularly when no one can predict with any confidence either the likelihood or the impacts of disasters.
To address that challenge, an expert scientific committee has suggested a number of measures—including a ‘National Resilience Scorecard’—to help communities anticipate and prepare for potential disasters.
This National Research Council committee, chaired by Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina, was formed by the National Academies in response to a request from nine U.S. federal agencies (see http://nas-sites.org/resilience/).
The resulting report, published in 2012, defines resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, or more successfully adapt to actual or potential adverse events,” and views a community as a system composed of environmental, infrastructure, social, economic, and institutional elements working in concert.
The report suggests that flexible risk management strategies are needed, involving multiple stakeholders, and a mix of structural improvements and policy tools. To justify investments in resilience, communities will need assurance that there will be measurable benefits, including improved prosperity and quality of life, even in the absence of a disaster. This underscores the need for resilience indicators to assess issues such as infrastructure performance, building integrity, and social and business capacity for disaster recovery.
The report recommends the creation of a National Resilience Scorecard, although it points out that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ strategy for enhancing resilience across the diversity of U.S. communities. Finally, the report outlines a vision of a resilient nation in 2030, with a culture of resilience supported at both Federal and local levels, availability of disaster-related information and insurance protection, proactive investment and contingency planning, and acceptance by communities of their responsibility to prepare for, and respond to disasters.