No community is completely immune from disasters. Over the last ten years, the world has experienced more natural disasters, acts of terrorism, pandemics, civil unrest, and economic crisis than ever before, resulting in innumerable losses of resources and human lives. Communities all over the world are facing a difficult situation as to determine the best strategies to reduce the impact of disasters. One effective approach is to build community resilience. Building resilience works by strategically preparing a community to take greater leverage out of existing resources while working systematically to improve upon areas of weakness, thus building a stronger more resilient community over time. Working to strengthen community resilience makes fiscal sense, too. According to the Multi-hazard Mitigation Council (2005), every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation will save about four dollars in post-disaster losses and expenditures spent on response and recovery. Just as a person regularly doing physical exercise helps to build a strong immune system, so too can building resilience strengthen a community to better withstand and quickly heal from disaster. FEMA even has placed a greater emphasis on community preparedness with the goal to build “a secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk” (Homeland Security, 2015).

Under this framework the work of preparedness (or resiliency building) is divided into five mission areas:

  • Prevention
  • Protection
  • Mitigation
  • Response
  • Recovery


Community Resilience: The ability of a community to mitigate hazards, contain the effects of hazards, and carry out recovery activities in ways that minimize social disruption and mitigate the effects of future hazards (Miller & Dabson, 2015).
Community Vulnerability: The flip side of resilience. It’s the potential for harm caused by hazards to a community and the sensitivity of a community to hazards and disruptions (National Research Council, 2012).


Mitigation is pre-disaster risk management action to avoid or reduce risks through well-prepared protection, prevention, response, and recovery activities. Or simply put, mitigation is creating resilient communities that can withstand disasters with the least loss (Homeland Security, 2016).

The seven core capabilities of mitigation are:

  • Threats & hazards identification
  • Risk & disaster resilience assessment
  • Community resilience
  • Long-term vulnerability reduction
  • Planning
  • Operational coordination
  • Public information & warning


Efficient recovery starts from pre-disaster preparation for recovery, including coordination of the whole community, risk mitigation, resource identification, developing capacity of recover y management, and a collaborative planning process (Homeland Security, 2016).

The eight core capacities of recovery are:

  • Economic recovery
  • Health & social services
  • Housing
  • Infrastructure systems
  • Natural & cultural resources
  • Planning
  • Operational coordination
  • Public information & warning

Community Resilience Capacity

All over the country, programs and resources that help build community resilience capacity can generally be divided into three categories (MitFLG, 2016):

  1. Build up inherent community functions, such as community coherency, public health, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, natural resources and environment, that help communities function adequately on a daily basis and thus will rebound quickly to the new normal after an emergency.
  2. Risk management through mitigation activities that incorporate risk information into public policy making and implementation, such as reducing the vulnerabilities of at-risk infrastructure, or identifying the major types of disasters the community will likely face.
  3. Disaster recovery through the identification and implementation of high-priority redevelopment projects that could generate the most public benefit in future hazard mitigation.