Two years ago, President Obama launched the National Disaster Resilience Competition for leaders in communities affected by disaster who are working to increase the security of their neighborhoods and people. The nearly $1 billion competition allowed disaster-torn communities to vie for recovery funds and has the thought of “resilience” on everyone’s mind.
But the question is—what exactly is resilience? Defined as “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens,” resilience is more than just recovery. Resilience is creating a community that is not only able to thrive, but is prepared for future disasters. It’s not just about structural hardening that will bear stronger winds or tower above rising tides. Resilience focuses on enhancing a community’s systems, structures, leadership and social fabric to better resist and recover from the impacts of a natural or manmade event. This type of resilience requires intentional development and planning.
In the aftermath of a disaster, governments often emphasize recovery because time and resources are too constrained to focus on resilience. It’s important to design for resilience—NOW. Waiting to implement resilient design into impacted communities will delay recovery and frustrate stakeholders. There’s no time like the present.
Our emergency managers and first responders spend countless hours planning and preparing to respond to various disaster event scenarios, but how much time are we investing in resilient actions that could one day spare us from some events altogether?
A knowledgeable team with an array of expertise is key to resilience planning. Leaders should take the time to engage architects, engineers, planners and financers to implement resilient design requirements into high-risk communities. Work with professionals that have disaster recovery experience and those that do not. Building a team with diverse points of view will bring the most innovative results. With a team that can think outside the box, communities will set themselves apart and create viable solutions, and the National Disaster Resilience Competition is our nation’s first step to advocate and fund these ideas.
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