The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force's Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines

An Initial Assessment of Implementation by Federal Agencies

by Melissa L. Finucane, Noreen Clancy, Henry H. Willis, Debra Knopman


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Research Questions

  1. How have the Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines been implemented in decisions about how to spend federal funds to recover from Hurricane Sandy?
  2. What are the lessons learned from implementing the guidelines (including opportunities and challenges)?
  3. Could the same guidelines be implemented when allocating federal funds for infrastructure in nonrecovery environments?

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States, devastating communities across the region. This disaster motivated the federal government to examine how it might improve community and infrastructure resilience so that communities are better prepared for existing and future threats, including those exacerbated by climate change. To ensure that federal agencies incorporate key principles of resilience into their formulation, evaluation, and prioritization of infrastructure investments related to Sandy rebuilding, the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force developed its Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines in the spring and summer of 2013. On behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Interagency Policy Committee's Subcommittee on Recovery and Mitigation, the RAND Corporation conducted an initial assessment of federal agencies' implementation of the guidelines. The main goal of this study was to identify the lessons learned from the opportunities and challenges encountered when implementing the guidelines.

Researchers conducted semistructured interviews of 67 individuals employed by federal, state, and local government agencies and departments and nongovernmental organizations. An analysis of the interview notes and other documents provided information on different approaches to implementing the guidelines, the opportunities or challenges encountered during implementation, and whether the guidelines would be feasible to implement in nonrecovery environments. Overall, the guidelines were viewed as reflecting worthy resiliency principles that merit broader pursuit — and not just in a disaster recovery context.

Key Findings

Lessons Learned from Conditions That Enhance Implementation of the Guidelines

  • Our analysis indicates that the Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines reinforced the approach to resilience principles that many agencies had been pursuing in recent years.
  • Organizations already familiar with or embracing resilience principles found it easier to implement the guidelines than did those that were encountering these principles for the first time.
  • Building community resilience via a "holistic systems approach" (i.e., one that underscores the dynamic links among human, social, physical, economic, and natural resources) was a new concept for some agencies and their grantees.
  • Implementation of the guidelines was enhanced by an existing community vision for resilience.

Lessons Learned from Challenges Posed by the Guidelines

  • The guidelines need to be worded broadly to achieve interagency consensus and be applicable across different agency responsibilities and contexts, but also worded in a way that provides enough detail on the methods and outcomes that would be compatible with resilience principles.
  • Resilience meanings and metrics need to be clarified and aligned to improve communication and understanding across agencies and contexts.
  • Appropriate and sufficient resources and expertise are needed to implement the guidelines.
  • Reduced complexity and redundancy across resilience initiatives is desired by both agencies and grantees.
  • Additional research is needed to clarify specific standards most likely to improve resilience.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    How the Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines Have Been Implemented

  • Chapter Three

    Lessons Learned from Implementing the Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines

  • Chapter Four

    Applying the Infrastructure Resilience Guidelines to Nonrecovery Environments

  • Chapter Five

    Findings and Conclusions

  • Appendix A

    Semistructured Interview Protocol

  • Appendix B

    Detailed Methods

  • Appendix C

    Sample Grantees

The research reported here was conducted in the RAND Homeland Security and Defense Center (HSDC). The HSDC is a joint center of two research divisions: RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment and the RAND National Security Research Division.

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