Disasters are extraordinary and unpredictable events. Once the drama of the response and the initial efforts to restore critical services have faded from the news, the long road to recovery begins. A common observation is that some communities are hit harder and take longer to recover than others. NCDP researchers are intensely interested in what makes a community resilient in the face of a disaster: why are some individuals, households, and places quicker to recover than others. Our research seeks to create a knowledge base that will guide government, foundations, and others as they work to build—or rebuild—resilient communities.

Community resilience is generally defined as the ability to adapt to, withstand, or rapidly recover from a disaster or catastrophic event. Research and experience suggest that communities with greater capacity – as defined by their access to human, social, political, and economic capital – and greater capabilities in developing, acquiring, or exchanging these resources are more likely to be resilient in the face of a disaster. Although a community’s true resilience will only be evident after a disaster strikes, much can be done to prepare a community in advance. Among the actions that may make a difference are the identification and training of community leaders, the development of recovery networks, the use of leaders and their networks to promote individual and organizational preparedness, and, generally speaking, increasing individual preparedness. NCDP is conducting research and pilot projects in all of these areas. Because disasters accelerate the stressors usually experienced by a community, they give us a clear window through which to observe resiliency and its twin, vulnerability. NCDP sees a link between its mission in disaster preparedness and its commitment to protect the well-being of children, the disabled, the frail elderly, and others who are often left behind in disaster planning. Much of NCDP research on community resilience focuses on vulnerable populations and how we can develop the resources to support them in a disaster by increasing their access to healthcare, social services, education, and other resources.