Frequently Asked Questions

How is resilience different than preparedness?

Usually, government agencies and a few community organizations that focus on disaster response have gotten involved with disaster preparedness activities.

But now, resilience shows that more community organizations are needed to improve response and recovery.

Resilience is way of linking disaster preparedness with all of the other activities that community organizations do to improve social, economic, and health well-being. If you focus this way, communities that are already “healthier” will respond and recover more quickly from any type of disaster-big or small.

Why do we need to do this now? Hasn’t preparedness been working? Shouldn’t we just do more of that?

While government at various levels has made progress in preparing for disasters, lessons learned from responses to real emergencies suggest that we still have a long way to go. Although we don’t know when emergencies will strike, we can be sure that emergencies are part of our future. Therefore, we shouldn’t continue to do more of the same and expect things to be different.

Recently, there is growing attention from both inside and outside the disaster response community that we need to have “whole of community” responses that leverage the assets, skills, and knowledge of diverse members of the community such as community organizations, the private sector, faith-based organizations, and individual community members. Because budgets are tightening and resources are shrinking, in the future we have to do more with what we have within our communities. This requires the involvement of new partners.

How do you define resilience? Seems pretty complicated to me.

In its simplest form, we think about resilience as the ability of communities to withstand and recover from disasters as well as to learn from past disasters to strengthen future response and recovery efforts.

A resilient community can:

  • Take stock of its assets and vulnerabilities to minimize the damage
  • Can really use partnerships between and among government and nongovernment organizations for effective recovery
  • Can get back on its feet more quickly—get back to health, social and economic functioning
  • Can continue to learn from past incidents to improve future response

A resilient community not only has resources but is resourceful—it is flexible and innovative when times are tough.

I am thinking about how to build resilience in my organization, but aren’t we already doing this with emergency planning teams?

While many organizations are participating in resilience-building activities, these efforts are not typically coordinated through formal relationships and partnerships. Activities occurring within one organization or sector may be underutilized in a response because no one knows about them. Also, if you are not partnering with others in the community both within and outside of your sector, you may not be aware of important activities and developments affecting the people you serve.

My organization does not do “preparedness”, do I need to be involved in resilience?

Disasters affect all of us. In order to meet your goals as an organization, you must be able to function and serve your clients during emergencies—which are becoming more and more frequent. Just the past year, we have faced Hurricane Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and extreme wildfires. We are likely to face disasters on a regular basis. So if you want to ensure the wellbeing of your clients during disasters and prevent service interruptions, you should think about preparedness and resilience.

In addition, government and non-governmental organizations may call on your organization during a disaster because of their perception of the role you play and equipment and staff that you have. By knowing what these expectations are you can prepare to meet them or send the message that they are unrealistic.

An added benefit of resilience-building is that it is focused on helping existing systems to work more efficiently and allows you to do your job better. Improving routine work via stronger partnerships and information sharing makes you stronger when a disaster hits, but also makes you more effective in your day-to-day operations.

Where can I go for more information?

For more information please check out the rest of our website and also see RAND’s main community resilience topic page:

If you have specific questions or comments please email us at: