Disaster Management

The United States experienced over 20 "billion-dollar" disasters in 2023. But costs are just one of the many problems that face a community reeling from wildfires, severe storms, droughts, and other serious disaster incidents.

RAND's interdisciplinary team of experts directly supports decisionmakers in developing actionable plans and improving policies for disaster management and resilience. Within the Homeland Security Research Division (HSRD), the Disaster Management and Resilience Program (DMR) serves as the focal point for RAND's activities in this area.

The Challenge

As the United States faces larger disasters more frequently, understanding the best ways to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of disasters will become increasingly important.

A U.S. Coast Guard photo of the 2023 Maui wildfires

A scene from Lahaina, Maui as rescue efforts were underway during the August 2023 wildfires

Photo by the U.S. Coast Guard

RAND's History

Disaster management is not new work for RAND. In fact, in 1975, RAND research proved pivotal to the government of the Netherlands as it sought solutions to prevent catastrophic flooding from the North Sea after an incident in 1953 killed thousands of people. For that effort, RAND developed methodologies for predicting the effectiveness of alternative approaches to prevent flooding. That holistic approach to disaster management and response underpins RAND's work today. See, for example, Supporting Puerto Rico's Disaster Recovery Planning and Recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Progress, Challenges, and Options for the Future.

Mission Support

RAND brings its exceptional talent pool to bear on a broad array of disaster types: natural disasters such as fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and pandemics; technological hazards, such as dam failures and industrial accidents; and human-made threats such as terrorist or cyberattacks, biological warfare, and radiological fallout. Our researchers include former senior government officials with extensive practical knowledge of public sector programs and challenges, and RAND is home to nationally recognized experts across multiple fields, including:

  • Recovery planning and implementation
  • Program assessment and process improvement
  • Flood insurance
  • Disaster cost analysis and evaluation
  • Mitigating the effects of disasters
  • Risk assessment
  • Grant program analysis and support
  • Emergency management training and education
  • Equity in disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery
  • Change management and workforce planning

On this page, you'll find recent work on disaster management and resilience curated especially for the homeland security community. To view all of RAND's work on disaster management and resilience, visit our topic pages on Disaster Recovery, Emergency Preparedness, Flooding, and Community Resilience.

  • Improving Financial Resilience to Natural Disasters

    Natural disasters have grown costlier and more frequent and are having a significant financial impact on U.S. households. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected. What programs can help improve individual and community financial resilience?

  • Turning Climate Information into Action for Stormwater Management in the Mid-Atlantic Region

    Flooding is one of the costliest types of natural disasters in the United States and planning for extreme precipitation poses major challenges to stormwater management agencies. Based on applied research, RAND researchers offer recommendations for more effective stormwater planning, design, and management in the Mid-Atlantic region.

  • How Do We Know Whether Federal Disaster Programs Are Equitable?

    Some U.S. communities, such as low-income or minority communities, are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. This report presents an initial methodology for how the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant program can assess its social equity performance in its activities aimed at reducing damage and easing recovery with predisaster actions.

  • Aging and Emotional Well-Being after Disasters

    Researchers investigated age differences in well-being among adults residing in the U.S. Gulf Coast. Older age was associated with fewer depression and PTSD symptoms, and this association was stronger for those who experienced hurricane-related adversities.

  • How Do Multiple-Loss Properties Drive Flood Insurance Costs?

    Most natural disasters in the United States involve floods, and climate change is increasing their frequency and severity. More data on the properties that experience multiple flood losses can help inform decisions related to floodplain management, insurance, and mitigation efforts.

  • Addressing the Needs of Older Adults and People with Disabilities During Disasters

    Disasters and public health emergencies disproportionately affect older adults and people with disabilities—especially those with complex medical conditions. Best practices and policies are needed that consider the specific challenges to preparedness, response, and recovery related to these populations.

  • Options for Improving Availability of Residential Landslide Insurance in Sitka, Alaska

    Landslides pose a serious risk to lives and property in Sitka and other parts of Southeast Alaska. Following a devastating landslide in 2015, what little insurance coverage was available for residential properties prior to the slide disappeared. Researchers examine how the market changed after the 2015 landslide and offer four approaches to make landslide coverage more available.

  • Community and Individual Disaster Resilience for Floods: Options for Improving Protective Action Guidance

    Drawing on a review of academic and grey literature, RAND researchers used a conceptual framework, which was operationalized to review Federal Emergency Management Agency flood protective action guidance. This study resulted in key findings and related recommendations that should help FEMA improve its flood communication strategy and messaging.

  • Independent Review of the Homeland Security Grant Program Terrorism Risk Formula and Data

    Researchers evaluated the Homeland Security Grant Program's terrorism risk formula for assessing threat, vulnerability, and consequences of terrorist attacks in states and major urban areas. The review suggests alternative approaches that the Federal Emergency Management Agency could consider to improve the risk formula and to address additional dimensions, such as community resilience and equity.

For more projects, see our topic pages Disaster Recovery, Emergency Preparedness, Flooding, and Community Resilience.