JDR Vol.5 No.2 pp. 127-129
doi: 10.20965/jdr.2010.p0127


Special Issue on “Building Local Capacity for Long-term Disaster Resilience” Toward Disaster Resilient Communities

Kenneth C. Topping, Haruo Hayashi, William Siembieda and Michael Boswell

April 1, 2010

This special issue of JDR is centered on the theme of “Building Local Capacity for Long-term Disaster Resilience.” Eight papers and one commentary describe challenges in various countries of promoting disaster resilience at local, sub-national, and national levels. Resilience is broadly defined here as the capacity of a community to: 1) survive amajor disaster; 2) retain essential structure and functions; and 3) adapt to post-disaster opportunities for transforming community structure and functions to meet new challenges. This working definition is similar to others put forward in the growing literature on resilience.

Resilience can also be seen as an element of sustainability. Initially referring only to environmental conditions, the concept of sustainable development was defined as that which meets the needs of present generations while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Bruntland Commission, Our Common Future, 1987). Now, the term sustainability has come to mean the need to preserve all resources for future use, including social, physical, economic, cultural and historical, as well as environmental resources. Disasters destroy resources, making communities less sustainable or even unsustainable.

Resilience helps to protect resources, among other things, through coordination of all four disaster management functions: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. Mitigation commonly involves reduction of risks and prevention of disaster losses through long-term sustained actions modifying the environment. Preparedness involves specific preparations for what to do and how to respond during a disaster at the personal, household, and community level. Response means actions taken immediately after a disaster to rescue survivors, conduct evacuation, feed and shelter victims, and restore communications. Recovery involves restoring lives, infrastructure, services, and economic activity, while seeking long-term community improvement.

When possible, emphasis should be placed on building local resilience before a disaster when opportunities are greater for fostering sustainable physical, social, economic, and environmental structures and functions. Waiting until after a disaster to pursue sustainability invites preventable losses and reduces post-disaster resilience and opportunities for improvement. Community resilience involves both “soft” strategies which optimize disaster preparedness and response, and “hard” strategies which mitigate natural and human-caused hazards, thereby reducing disaster losses. Both “soft” and “hard” strategies are undertaken during disaster recovery. In many countries “soft” and “hard” resilience approaches coexist as uncoordinated activities. However, experience suggests that disaster outcomes are better when “soft” and “hard” strategies are purposely coordinated.

Thus, “smart” resilience involves coordination of both “soft” and “hard” resilience strategies, i.e., “smart ” resilience = “soft ” resilience + “hard ” resilience. This concept is reflected in papers in Part 1 of this special issue, based on case studies from India, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, and the US. Additional resilience studies from Japan, the US, and Venezuela will be featured in Part 2 of this special issue.

The first group of papers in Part 1 review resilience issues in regional and community recovery. Chandrasekahr (1) uses a case study to illustrate varying effects of formal stakeholder participatory framework on capacity building following the 2004 Southeast Asia Tsunami from post-disaster recovery in southern India. Chen and Wang (2) examine multiple resiliency factors reflected in community recovery case studies from the Taiwan 1999 Chi Chi Earthquake and debris flow evacuation after Typhoon Markot of 2009. Kamel (3) compares factors affecting housing recovery following the US Northridge Earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.

The second group of papers examines challenges of addressing resiliency at national and sub-national scales. Velazquez (4) examines national factors affecting disaster resilience in Mexico. Topping (5) provides an overview of the U.S. Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, a nationwide experiment in local resilience capacity building through federal financial incentives encouraging local hazard mitigation planning. Boswell, Siembieda, and Topping (6) describe a new method to evaluate effectiveness of federally funded hazard mitigation projects in the US through California’s State Mitigation Assessment Review Team (SMART) loss reduction tracking system.

The final group of papers explores methods of analysis, information dissemination, and pre-event planning. Siembieda (7) presents a model which can be deployed at any geographic level involving timely access to assets in order to reduce pre- and post-disaster vulnerability, as illustrated by community disaster recovery experiences in Central America. Hayashi (8) outlines a new information dissemination system useable at all levels called “micromedia” which provides individuals with real time disaster information regardless of their location. Finally, Poland (9) concludes with an invited special commentary addressing the challenges of creating more complete earthquake disaster resilience through pre-event evaluation of post-event needs at the community level, using San Francisco as the laboratory.

The Editorial Committee extends its sincere appreciation to both the contributors and the JDR staff for their patience and determination in making this special issue possible. Thanks also to the reviewers for their insightful analytic comments and suggestions.

Finally, the Committee wishes to thank Bayete Henderson for his keen and thorough editorial assistance and copy editing support.

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Last updated on Oct. 20, 2017