Building Community Resilience

What Can the United States Learn from Experiences in Other Countries?

Published in: Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, v. 7, no. 3, June 2013, p. 292-301

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2012

by Melinda Moore, Anita Chandra, Kevin Carter Feeney

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OBJECTIVES: Community resilience (CR) is emerging as a major public policy priority within disaster management and is one of two key pillars of the December 2009 US National Health Security Strategy. However, there is no clear agreement on what key elements constitute CR. We examined exemplary practices from international disaster management to validate the elements of CR, as suggested by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), to potentially identify new elements and to identify practices that could be emulated or adapted to help build CR. METHODS: We extracted detailed information relevant to CR from unpublished case studies we had developed previously, describing exemplary practices from international natural disasters occurring between 1985 and 2005. We then mapped specific practices against the five elements of CR suggested by HSPD-21. RESULTS: We identified 49 relevant exemplary practices from 11 natural disasters in 10 countries (earthquakes in Mexico, India, and Iran; volcanic eruption in Philippines; hurricanes in Honduras and Cuba; floods in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Mozambique; tsunami in Indian Ocean countries; and typhoon in Vietnam). Of these, 35 mapped well against the five elements of CR: community education, community empowerment, practice, social networks, and familiarity with local services; 15 additional practices were related to physical security and economic security. The five HSPD-21 CR elements and two additional ones we identified were closely related to one another; social networks were especially important to CR. CONCLUSIONS: While each disaster is unique, the elements of CR appear to be broadly applicable across countries and disaster settings. Our descriptive study provides retrospective empirical evidence that helps validate, and adds to, the elements of CR suggested by HSPD-21. It also generates hypotheses about factors contributing to CR that can be tested in future analytic or experimental research

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