Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

Resilient Communities Key to Economic Success

By: Warren Edwards
Director, Southeast Regional Research Initiative, Oak Ridge National Laboratory


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, citizens of the Gulf Coast region of the United States faced the daunting task of putting their lives, their economies and their communities back together. Homes had to be rebuilt, businesses had to be reestablished and basic services had to be restored just to get life back close to normal.


As the Gulf Coast slowly rebuilds, it becomes increasingly clear that traditional approaches to disaster recovery do not fully prepare communities to respond to or recover from natural or man-made catastrophes and reestablish the fabric of the community or economy quickly and effectively. Communities that wish to remain vibrant in the face of natural disasters and in a world of increasing threat of terrorism must pursue new strategies to become truly resilient.


A resilient community anticipates problems, opportunities and the potential for surprise. It reduces vulnerabilities. It responds effectively, fairly and legitimately. And it recovers rapidly, safely and fairly. In addition to the key disaster management services that local governments provide, a resilient community recognizes that private businesses, individual citizens and volunteer organizations and associations are critical parts of the fabric of a community and play significant roles in community resilience.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its Southeast Regional Research Initiative has developed an innovative new program to address this need to help communities become resilient. The Community and Regional Resilience Initiative (CARRI) is a regional program with national implications. It seeks to understand how communities can best prepare for, respond to and, most importantly, recover from natural or man-made disasters and then translate that understanding into practical processes and tools that assist communities to move to ever higher levels of resilience achievement.


We believe that community resilience is an economic driver. Communities that demonstrate resilience attract new business and assure insurers and investors that they can avoid costs in the event of a catastrophe. Resilient communities have the understanding of the interdependencies within their region that assists public officials and private businesses in making informed, effective resource decisions.


The Unites States is inherently a resilient nation. Building resilient communities and, thereby, resilient regions will result in an even stronger America – one ready to recover fully and bounce back quickly from any natural disaster or terrorist attack.


The terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and Hurricane Katrina taught us hard lessons. It’s time to help our communities put those lessons to work.


Warren Edwards is the director of the Southeast Regional Research Initiative, a project of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that is helping develop and then share critical paths that any community or region may take to strengthen its ability to prepare for, respond to, and rapidly recover from significant man-made or natural disasters with minimal downtime to basic community, government and business services.