Community Resilience

Community resilience is a measure of the sustained ability of a community to to better mitigate and defend against dynamic threats, minimize risks, and maximize the ability to respond and recover from attacks and disasters of all kinds. Community resilience encompasses the full fabric of the community and its ability to resist and/or rapidly recover from extreme events.





“Building Resilience with Diverse Communities: Faith-based and Community-based Organizations involved in Emergency Preparedness and Response”
Brian Burke, Joe Eyerman, Michael Burke, Casey Tischner, Sarah Lycan

As part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s mission to protect the safety and security of U.S. residents, the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships seeks to engage local organizations in emergency preparedness and response (EPR). To support this initiative, RTI International is conducting a two-part project to expand the contribution of diverse local organizations as they help their communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) are invaluable assets to communities during and after natural disasters. As the Center seeks to help these organizations become more involved in making their communities resilient to disasters, this project seeks to fill a knowledge and practice gap by identifying procedures to expand the capacity of FBCOs involved in EPR activities.

The short-term goals accomplished during Phase I of the project, completed in 2009-2010 in the Miami-Dade area, were 1) achieving a better understanding of the strengths and assets that FBCOs bring and, 2) understanding the challenges faced as organizations engage in emergency preparedness and response. To achieve these goals, the project team and its partners hosted a number of community engagement activities; conducted a desk study to identify the current state of research on this topic; interviewed key informants from local FBCOs; conducted a social network analysis of local FBCOs; and developed an initial set of management guidelines for future testing.

Phase II will build on the work completed in Phase I to assess and model the role of FBCOs in EPR and will address the following goals:

  • advance engagement by FBCOs in emergency response planning
  • develop standards applicable to FBCOs emergency response management to be implemented in other regions
  • evaluate the effectiveness of these standards and their impact on contributions made by FBCOs in community resilience.

In Phase II, the project team will develop and implement an EPR management training program to meet the needs of FBCOs. The training program will be evaluated, refined and developed as a resource for use in other regions. To complete work for this project, the project team will develop materials for outreach and training; collect, code and analyze FBCO guidance documents; train pilot FBCOs; revise guidelines, training materials and recruitment protocols; conduct full-scale training; evaluate training; conduct a community workshop; and finalize management guidelines and training materials for transition to other regions.

Link to Desk Study
Project Bibliography
Link to Project Overview


“Methods for Assessing Vulnerability of Critical Infrastructure”
Eric Solano, PhD, PE
Published 04/05/2010

Several events in the recent past, including the attacks of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, revealed the lack of plans to protect infrastructure from destructive threats and prompted the need to work on preparedness, response, and recovery plans related to infrastructure safety. To work on preparedness, response, and recovery plans, given the scarce resources available, it is necessary to select infrastructures for protection and decide how they will be protected against potential threats. To accomplish these goals, policymakers will benefit from data and information derived from risk, vulnerability, and resilience assessments and scenario simulations. The research question that motivates this brief is whether an inclusive approach that incorporates physical, social, organizational, economic, and environmental variables in addition to empirical measurements and operationalization of resilience and vulnerability will help to improve the understanding and management of risk associated with threats to complex infrastructure systems. This brief reviews recent literature in vulnerability and resilience assessment, summarizes the most important findings, and suggests future directions to advance the field of vulnerability and resilience research.

Link to Research Brief

“Institutional Barriers to Resilience in Minority Communities”
Toby Moore, PhD
Published 05/19/2010

An overlooked source of vulnerability for minority residents of the United States is the degree to which their communities and institutions are isolated from or at odds with the institutions, organizations, and agencies responsible for emergency planning and response. Local conflicts between communities and governmental and non-governmental agencies, distrust of law enforcement and the justice system, and social and political isolation are among the barriers that impair the ability of some minority communities to withstand natural or manmade disasters, yet not enough has been done to incorporate this factor into measures of community resiliency. At the individual level, the vulnerability of ethnic, racial, and language minority people is well documented, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. If an emphasis on community resiliency is intended, in part, to roll back the federalization of relief efforts and reassert local responsibility, DHS policy makers need to take into account institutional barriers to equal access at the community level. Minority communities left to rely on neglectful or even hostile local institutions may find their vulnerability increased through the devolution of authority down to the local level. A critical first step is to better understand the magnitude and location of these barriers. This research brief examines the literature of the civil rights of emergency response at a new scale—that of the institution and the community—and suggests ways we can broaden and deepen our knowledge in this area, and thus our ability to quantify and overcome these barriers.

Link to Research Brief

“The American Community Survey and Enhanced Community-Level Social Vulnerability Assessment”
John Boos, MS
Published 09/30/2009

Understanding the potential impacts of hazards on the well-being of a population is essential for policy makers in the Department of Homeland Security in order to improve the nation’s preparedness and response to threats. Numerous methods exist to quantify physical and economic vulnerability and to geographically describe the distribution and likelihood of hazard occurrence. A third type of vulnerability, social vulnerability, is the potential for loss or destruction of livelihoods, incomes, community resilience, and coping mechanisms. This research brief examines approaches to social vulnerability, the current literature on the measurement of social vulnerability, and the use of the American Community Survey as a potential source of data for assessing social vulnerability.

Link to Research Brief

“Engaging Local Stake Holders: A Conceptual Modal for Effective Donor-Community Collaboration”
Volker Franke, Ph.D.
Published August 2012

In an effort to stabilize and reconstruct post-conflict countries and fragile states, the United Nations and the European Union are currently involved in 29 peace operations in communities throughout the world. The Communities impacted by disasters, both man made and natural, or by the growing range of threats to peace, security, and development, require assistance from domestic and international organizations. Donor agencies and academic observers have addressed the importance of partnering with stakeholders in local communities in order to provide aid most effectively for the best possible outcome.

Link to Literature Review and Concept Paper

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