The CIP Report

Practical Community Resilience

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By David Vaughn, Ed Hecker, and Cherrie Black

The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP) has embarked on a campaign over the last two years to improve the disaster resilience and economic stability of communities and the critical infrastructure and supply chains they depend upon. Our plan will employ current best practice methodologies, using all-hazards and economic development approaches to inventory, assess, manage, and reduce long-term risk. (Note: For purposes of this discussion, the community is divided into the following four sectors: public sector, private sector, citizens, and the insurance industry.)

The purpose of this effort is to counteract the rising costs of responding to disasters, and the burden of rebuilding communities that is shared by all Americans when federal funds are appropriated for recovery. Public- and private-sector infrastructure owners need to improve the resiliency of brittle 19th- and 20th-century structures and lifeline infrastructure to 21st-century hazards, and communities need to address resources needed for assuring lifecycle safety, security, and economic stability through reducing the risk associated with these hazards.  A set of practical, implementable procedures and policies will enable communities to strategically plan for and prioritize mitigation of impacts to existing infrastructure.  Those same procedures and policies will drive requirements for building new infrastructure, utilizing resilience and sustainability practices to ensure that resources are available when they are needed. Within a couple of decades we should see a savings in disaster recovery spending and a stronger national economy.

The federal government between years 2009 and 2012 provided an average of $80 billion annually to assist communities recovering from natural disasters.[1] In spite of this dramatic spending, it is the general practice in the United States not to improve its infrastructure, but to rebuild damaged and destroyed roads, buildings, and utilities to their original state.

Over the past few decades, data indicates that there are more natural hazard events and that there are higher economic impacts from these events. Research suggests that the increase in frequency and magnitude of weather-related events is tied to climate change (whether it be a natural cycle or human caused). In Building Safer Cities, Torben Juul Andersen notes that in the past 30 years, the frequency of disaster events has quadrupled, economic losses have increased by a factor of 2,000 to 3,000, and insurance losses have increased by a factor of 1,000.[2] The economic losses have far outweighed economic growth figures for the same period, suggesting that factors beyond the increase in number of events have impacted loss figures.

In Catastrophe Modeling: A New Approach to Managing Risk, the author Grossi notes that losses from individual disasters during the past 15 years (as of 2005) are an order of magnitude above what they were over the previous 35 years. Further emphasized throughout this book, Grossi states, “Residential and commercial development along coastlines and areas with high seismic hazard indicate that the potential for large insured losses in the future is substantial. The increasing trend for catastrophe losses over the last two decades provides compelling evidence for the need to manage risks both on a national, as well as on a global scale.”[3]

Additionally, current federal recovery programs primarily focus on individual and public assistance but largely overlook the private sector (with the exception of some small business loans). When any of the four sectors falter, all suffer as a consequence. Nearly 7,900 businesses were permanently shut down in southeast Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and similar cases have emerged from Superstorm Sandy.[4] These shutdown businesses reduce tax revenue to government, reduce available jobs to citizens, reduce the business-to-business customer base for other businesses, and reduce potential clients for insurers. With private industry serving as the primary source of income for the public sector (taxation), citizens (income), and insurance (premiums), it is imperative to develop approaches that will allow for rapid recovery of the private sector.

At the same time, research from FEMA has demonstrated that every $1 spent mitigating risks to our infrastructure saves at least $4 on recovery or reconstruction efforts after a disaster. Money that is already being spent could be dramatically more impactful if even a portion of it was redirected to pre-disaster mitigation—but this cannot be done without a clear assessment of local risk and infrastructure priorities.

At the community level, the need to assess and mitigate risk often far exceeds the capacity of many communities to do so. Unfortunately, many communities lack mitigation and economic assessment skills and the ability to demonstrate the business case for investing in infrastructure resilience programs.  City leaders and staff must understand the interactions and interdependencies of storm-water systems, electricity generation and distribution, transportation networks, and other infrastructure that may or may not be located within their community. Such assistance will not only help secure lifeline systems in an emergency, it will enhance everyday effectiveness and efficiency in providing city services.

To move forward, many of these issues were presented and discussed during the 2014 Critical Infrastructure Symposium hosted by TISP.[5]  An action emerging from the symposium was to establish a subcommittee that was tasked with development of strategies and tactics to operationalize resilience within communities.  The subcommittee created a notional operational framework that was reviewed and approved by TISP Leadership.  This framework set the stage for a series of cross-sector workshops over the next six months.  The Operationalizing Community Resilience Workshops were conducted in 2015 across the nation, to address the following problem statements:

  1. Escalating threat/hazard environment compounded by human migration and increased population densities in geographically vulnerable locations;
  2. Uneven or nonexistent planning to mitigate threats/hazards to the built environment, social, governance and service delivery;
  3. Absence of consensus on processes and incentives/disincentives to develop resilience;
  4. A multiplicity of grants, competitions, and investments to enhance resilience with ill-defined metrics/outcomes to measure progress; and
  5. Communities that suffer from poor cross-sector communications.

These workshops arrived at a strategy that will launch a pilot that leverages the development of a low cost execution model targeting economically disadvantaged communities.  This model should leverage industry professionals and harness the talents and capabilities of university students to work with the state and local communities to create operational resilience by engaging all four sectors (Public, Private, Citizens, & Insurance).

To accomplish the initial pilot project, TISP and its national partners propose to identify one county government to receive resilience development services as a proof of concept pilot for this initiative. Utilizing this approach, we will not only aid the selected community, but improve the state of practice for cities and counties that employ these services in the future.  The components of the pilot will include:

Infrastructure Inventory and Risk Profile – To address lessons learned from prior events, this effort will ensure communities have complete inventories of infrastructure, up to date risk assessments, improved situational awareness, and an informed prioritization of resources.

Stakeholder Engagement – The people and infrastructure necessary to build a resilient community are not located entirely within the geographic or political boundaries of the community itself. Once the inventory and the vulnerability assessment is complete, an alignment session will be conducted with regional and state stakeholders to discuss shared dependencies.

Strategies to Implement and Operationalize Resilience – Most local governments do not have a single, master plan for development of public infrastructure and private land. Coordination and feedback procedures must be developed to integrate multiple plans for economic development, land use, storm-water management, sustainability, disaster resilience, and climate adaptation. After evaluating the pilot community’s risk profile and working with stakeholders in a regional public -private partnership, TISP, the pilot community, and the partners will present field-tested methodologies and tools that will help the community and the regional partnership identify short-, medium-, and long-term resilience plans as well as an implementation plan. Additionally, procedures will be recommended to continually involve stakeholders and reassess risk as it changes over time.

Objectives, Outcomes, and Outputs – As previously discussed, the primary objective of this project is the development of a low-cost execution model for determining current resilience for all community systems, specifically targeting disadvantaged communities.  In order to implement strategies derived from analysis, the proposed model must account for community values and future goals. To be effective it must leverage the abilities of industry professionals and harness the talents and capabilities of university students to work with the state and local communities. Moreover, with the development of these indispensable relationships it will be possible to create operational resilience through the engagement of four primary sectors – Public, Private, Citizens, & Insurance.

Facilitators, Contributors and Roles – TISP has maintained a facilitation role to date which will transition as the operational elements move forward.[6]  Going forward, Clemson Universities “Risk Engineering and System Analytics Center” (RESA)[7], in collaboration with the USACE Silver Jackets[8] and the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA)[9] will execute the pilot.  The John Hopkins University and University of Maryland are also collaborating with this initiative. Numerous partners have been and will continue to be involved as we move forward.  If your organization would like to participate, please reach out to one of the authors at the address provided.

Author Contact Information

David Vaughn:

Ed Hecker:

Cherrie Black:

[1] Brad Plumer, “The Government is Spending Way More on Disaster Relief than Anybody Thought,” The Washington Post, April 29, 2013,

[2] Torben Juul Andersen, “Globalization and Natural Disasters: An Integrative Risk Management Perspective,” in Building Safer Cities: The Future of Disaster Risk, ed. Alcira Kreimer, Margaret Arnold, and Anne Carlin (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2003), 58.

[3] Patricia Grossi & Howard Kunreuther, “Introduction: Needs, Stakeholders, and Government Initiatives” in Catastrophe Modeling: A New Approach to Managing Risk, ed. Patricia Grossi, Howard Kunreuther, & Chandu C. Patel (Boston: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc., 2005), 4.

[4] Kathy Chu, “Smaller Businesses Struggle to Recover from Katrina,” USA TODAY, Aug. 29, 2007,

[5] “2014 Critical Infrastructure Symposium,” The Infrastructure Security Partnership, accessed December 4, 2015,

[6] The Infrastructure Security Partnership, accessed December 4, 2015,

[7] Risk Engineering and System Analytics, accessed December 4, 2015,

[8] “About the Silver Jackets Program,” Silver Jackets, accessed December 4, 2015,

[9] “What is the NHMA?,” Natural Hazard Mitigation Association, accessed December 4, 2015,