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New Cosponsor and Liaison Join the Community Resilience Panel

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (Academies) joined as the first non-agency cosponsor of the Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) appointed a liaison to the Panel on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Panel, which first met in November 2015, was an independent organization devoted to reducing barriers to community resilience – the capacity to prepare for anticipated hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions. The Panel had over 350 volunteers, ranging from community and emergency planners to utility managers and insurance industry representatives.

Panel tasks included identifying gaps in policies, standards and codes that impede community resilience, and developing consistent definitions and metrics that enable communication and cooperation across sectors. The Panel also worked to better understand the impact of dependencies and raised awareness of “cascading effects” that result from interacting failures among infrastructure systems, such as when the loss of power interrupts water service.

In becoming a cosponsor, the National Academies joined six federal cosponsors:

  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST);
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Economic Resilience;
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA);
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA);
  • DHS Office of Infrastructure Protection; and
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

NIST provided funding support in the early phases of the Panel.

Cosponsor and liaison organizations conducted activities that assisted communities working to improve their resilience. Through the Office of Special Projects, the Academies formed the ResilientAmerica Roundtable which helps communities and the nation build resilience to extreme events, save lives, and reduce the physical and economic costs of disasters. Pilot projects were conducted by the Academies in four cities: Cedar Rapids, IA, Charleston, SC, Seattle, WA, and Tulsa, OK, bringing together stakeholders to identify resilience issues and develop solutions. Also, an Academies committee conducted a study on effective ways to measure the resilience of a community to natural hazards and other disruptions and will identify knowledge gaps, research directions, and approaches that could be useful to a range of communities.

The USACE has long-incorporated resilience into its water-resource projects and delivers resilient solutions as part of its infrastructure-oriented mission. A current initiative seeks to update USACE standards and criteria to reflect the most current risk-informed decision-making practices for improved project resilience and to provide greater support to community resilience locally and through national policies. This initiative applies across the USACE at the project, system, and community levels.

The EPA is responsible for improving the security and resilience of our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. EPA provides tools, guides, and training to help utilities prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate natural and human-made disasters. At the community level, the EPA maintains an Inventory of EPA’s Tools for Enhancing Community Resilience to Disasters, has held workshops to explore scientific concepts for building an index of indicators for community environmental resilience to natural or human-caused disasters, and collaborates with DHS to help communities hit by disasters rebuild in ways that protect the environment, create long-term economic prosperity, and enhance neighborhoods.