Disaster losses continue to increase in the United States, yet we lack a fundamental understanding of the pattern of disaster losses for the nation and their impacts on rural and non-rural places. If a policy goal is to improve community resilience to disasters, empirically defined baselines are a necessary starting point. This project integrates physical and social datasets through a suite of statistical and geospatial techniques in the construction of theoretically based and methodologically sound indicators of resilience for the nation at the county level. The goal is to provide a set of quantitative baseline indicators for measuring disaster resilience. Once the indicators are developed, the composite index will be validated (using uncertainty and sensitivity analyses). Exploration of the statistical and spatial variability in the composition of indicators identifies and analyzes the relationship between resilience, vulnerability, and the relative impact of disasters on rural and non-rural places. In addition to spatial analyses of resilience, the project identifies differences in the drivers of resilience among counties. This work helps identify opportunities for intervention strategies to improve resilience, opportunities that may be dramatically different between rural and non-rural counties and within rural counties as well.

The importance of this project is twofold. First, there is considerable local, state, and federal programmatic interest in community disaster resilience. At present, there is little agreement on what to measure, how to measure it, and in determining which metrics are the most useful. Second, in order to judge the effectiveness of any policy or program, there needs to be a starting point for assessments. This project provides just such a starting point with the development of baseline indicators for tracking changes in resilience over time. Monitoring changes in the indicators provides the evidentiary basis for programs to gauge their success in enhancing the nation?s resilience. The research team will disseminate results to stakeholders at county, state, and national levels.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Robert E. O'Connor
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University South Carolina Research Foundation
United States
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