National Academies committee releases report on disaster resilience

A new report has been released examining what it would take for the nation to improve its resilience to biological attacks, natural disasters, infectious disease outbreaks and other emergencies by 2030.

The study acknowledges the difficulty of making effective improvements, though a national vision centered on measurable short-term goals could make a big difference, CIDRAP News reports.

A National Academies committee released the report on August 1 amidst headlines of a power outage in India that left 670 million people without electricity for up to two days.

The emergency in India resulted in a preparedness reminder from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stating that it doesn't take much to cause a power outage, and that, "having things like flashlights, extra batteries, a first aid kit, battery-powered radio and additional food and water will come in handy for these situations," CIDRAP News reports.

Nine government agencies sponsored the resilience report, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oak Ridge Nataional Laboratory's Community and Regional Resilience Institute. A group of 13 experts convened by the National Academies' Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy took on the task.

Susan Cutter, the director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, chaired the group.

The panel compiled a 217-page report appearing on the National Academies' website. A press release from the National Academies said the financial cost and burden to society that disasters cause will continue to rise without innovations to improve resilience, adding that resilience to disasters is imperative for the stability and well-being of the country, according to CIDRAP News.

Open meetings regarding the issue were held in the Gulf Coast, Iowa and Southern California. Members of the committee also collected information from local communities on their experiences with disasters.

National Disasters in 2011 cost the United States more than $55 billion, with 14 events alone causing more than $1 billion in damages, CIDRAP News reports.

The committee encouraged all government levels to work together to push the concept of resilience forward. Their analysis found gaps within federal agencies, including ineffective coordination of roles and responsibilities. The report encourages the executive branch to develop a clear national vision and framework.

The report includes in-depth analysis of risk management, resilience investments, measuring progress, building local capacity, policy issues, and linking communities and government.

The panel urged the Department of Homeland Security to develop a national resilience scorecard to help communities assess their infrastructure's ability to withstand and recover from disasters. The report also states that a more consistent hazard assessment is needed and that a disaster-loss data report should be centrally available to help jurisdictions make better-informed decisions about investments.

The National Academies committee is planning an October event in Washington, DC, to open up a dialogue about implementing recommendations. Regional events will be held in 2013 as a means of coordinating all levels of government, the private sector and the public, CIDRAP News reports.