Designing Resilience

Designing Resilience: Preparing for Extreme Events

Louise K. Comfort
Arjen Boin
Chris C. Demchak
Copyright Date: 2010
DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5hjq0c
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  • Book Info
    Designing Resilience
    Book Description:

    In the wake of severe climatic events and terrorist acts, and the emergence of dangerous technologies, communities, nations, and global organizations have diligently sought to create strategies to prepare for such events.Designing Resiliencepresents case studies of extreme events and analyzes the ability of affected individuals, institutions, governments, and technological systems to cope with disaster.This volume defines resilience as it relates to disaster management at specific stages: mitigation, prevention, preparation, and response and recovery. The book illustrates models by which to evaluate resilience at levels ranging from individuals to NGOs to governmental jurisdictions and examines how resilience can be developed and sustained. A group or nation's ability to withstand events and emerge from them with their central institutions intact is at the core of resilience. Quality of response, capacity to improvise, coordination, flexibility, and endurance are also determinants. Individual case studies, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States, the London bombings, and French preparedness for the Avian flu, demonstrate effective and ineffective strategies.The contributors reveal how the complexity and global interconnectivity of modern systems-whether they are governments, mobile populations, power grids, financial systems, or the Internet-have transcended borders and created a new level of exposure that has made them especially vulnerable to extreme events. Yet these far-reaching global systems also possess the ability to alert and respond at greater speeds than ever before.The authors analyze specific characteristics of resilient systems-the qualities they possess and how they become resilient-to determine if there are ways to build a system of resilience from the ground up. As such,Designing Resiliencewill inform a broad range of students and scholars in areas of public administration, public policy, and the social sciences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7370-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.1
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.2
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.3
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.4
  5. 1 THE RISE OF RESILIENCE
    (pp. 1-12)
    Arjen Boin, Louise K. Comfort and Chris C. Demchak
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.5

    Resilience has become a fashionable buzzword in recent years. The term is frequently found in many different discourses, ranging from the sports pages (resilient teams overcoming late-game deficits) to the international news (the war in Iraq), from reports of natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina) to policy papers on the protection of critical infrastructures (the 2001 California blackout). It appears that everything (organizations, cities, nations) and everybody (from schoolteachers to the U.S. president) can and should be resilient.

    This advent of the resilience concept in popular and professional discourse can be viewed as a function of a rising need for resilience. If...

  6. 2 RESILIENCE: EXPLORING THE CONCEPT AND ITS MEANINGS
    (pp. 13-32)
    Mark de Bruijne, Arjen Boin and Michel van Eeten
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.6

    The termresiliencehas many meanings in academic discourse. It is derived from the Latin wordresilio, meaning “to jump back” (Klein, Nicholls, and Thomalla 2003, 35; Manyena 2006, 433). In physics and engineering, resilience refers to “the ability of a material to return to its former shape after a deformation” (Arsenault and Sood 2007, 90; O’Rourke 2007, 25; Sheffi 2007, 33) and is considered more or less synonymous with adaptability or flexibility (e.g., Redman and Kinzig 2003; Woods 2006, 21).

    When applied to social entities such as societies or organizations, resilience refers to “the ability to resist disorder” (Fiksel...

  7. 3 DESIGNING ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS FOR DISASTER MITIGATION AND RESPONSE: THE ROLE OF STRUCTURE
    (pp. 33-61)
    Louise K. Comfort, Namkyung Oh, Gunes Ertan and Steve Scheinert
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.7

    The concept of resilience, defined here as the “capacity for collective action in the face of unexpected extreme events that shatter infrastructure and disrupt normal operating conditions,” is characterized by experienced researchers as involving the mental processes of sense-making (Weick 1995), improvisation (Mendonça, Beroggi, and Wallace 2001), innovation (see Demchak‘s chapter in this volume), and problem solving (Comfort 1994b). Each of these processes involves the exercise of mental skills that depend upon keen observation and access to real-time information in changing conditions. Together, they represent the wider interpretation of resilience that is discussed earlier, in chapters 1 and 2.

    This...

  8. 4 LESSONS FROM THE MILITARY: SURPRISE, RESILIENCE, AND THE ATRIUM MODEL
    (pp. 62-83)
    Chris C. Demchak
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.8

    Nations run as effectively as their underlying critical systems. Deleterious surprises can trigger breakdowns as unexpectedly linked events cascade into catastrophes. The continuous operation of these critical infrastructures in the face of surprise and disruption depends on collective knowledge systems and the willingness to act in concert.

    Critical infrastructures are best defined in terms of complex sociotechnical systems. Their complexity imposes an inherent “knowledge burden” on the operators of critical infrastructures. It is hard to provide knowledge in the form and frequency operators need to employ a single complex system or an array of such systems.

    This chapter investigates lessons...

  9. 5 BUILDING RESILIENCE: MACRODYNAMIC CONSTRAINTS ON GOVERNMENTAL RESPONSE TO CRISES
    (pp. 84-105)
    Alasdair Roberts
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.9

    When societies suffer substantial losses as the result of some calamity, it is natural to wonder whether the harm might have been avoided and how similar harms can be avoided in the future. In this volume, the problem is expressed in terms of societal resilience—that is, the capacity of communities to rebound after unanticipated shocks or at least to “fail gracefully,” with a slow degradation of essential functions (Wildavsky 1988, 77; Boin and Smith 2006, 301). The question, then, is how communities acquire the quality of resilience.

    There is a strong temptation to regard the improvement of resilience as...

  10. 6 FEDERAL DISASTER POLICY: LEARNING, PRIORITIES, AND PROSPECTS FOR RESILIENCE
    (pp. 106-128)
    Thomas A. Birkland
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.10

    This chapter considers the extent to which federal-level “learning” from disaster experience yields policy changes that enhance disaster resilience at the local level. There is evidence of learning from experience at the state and federal levels after major natural disasters (Birkland 2006); that is, disaster policy changes and in some ways improves based on disaster experience. However, certain conditions must be in place for successful policy learning, which do not always exist (Gerber 2007). While learning and the capacity for learning might be considered essential aspects of effective disaster policy, I argue that the lessons that are generally learned are...

  11. 7 DESIGNING RESILIENCE: LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES IN COMPLEX ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEMS
    (pp. 129-142)
    Arjen Boin
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.11

    It is widely perceived, in both academic and practitioner circles, that large-scale systems have become increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic breakdowns (Clarke 1999; Rosenthal, Boin, and Comfort 2001b; Quarantelli, Lagadec, and Boin 2006; Perrow 2007). New threats with destructive potential—think of climate change, technological revolutions, and evolving forms of terrorism—have emerged on the horizon (OECD 2003; Clarke 2006; Flynn 2007). As critical infrastructure systems have become increasingly complex and integrated, relatively small disturbances can rapidly escalate into compound crises (Turner 1978; Perrow 1984). In addition, modern societies facetransboundary threats and crises, which play out at large scales and...

  12. 8 RAPID ADAPTATION TO THREAT: THE LONDON BOMBINGS OF JULY 7, 2005
    (pp. 143-157)
    David Alexander
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.12

    On a damp and unseasonably cool Thursday in July 2005, bombs set off by suicide terrorists exploded at four locations in the center of London. Exactly two weeks later, technical faults in bomb-making were the only factor that stopped a second wave of outrages from convulsing the city. If the bombs destined to be exploded on July 21 had gone off, London’s emergency services would have been stretched beyond their limits by exhaustion after fourteen days of coping with crisis. London is a well-prepared city, but neither its intelligence service nor its civil-protection system is infallible. The metropolis is too...

  13. 9 THE PRICE OF RESILIENCE: CONTRASTING THE THEORETICAL IDEAL-TYPE WITH ORGANIZATIONAL REALITY
    (pp. 158-179)
    Michel van Eeten, Arjen Boin and Mark de Bruijne
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.13

    When asked how he had maintained performance in the face of overwhelming adversity, a control room shift manager of the California electricity grid answered: “I have six words: By. The. Seat. Of. Our. Pants.” According to most definitions, the shift manager’s organization had demonstrated remarkable resilience. Yet his experience of resilience differed dramatically from the theoretical descriptions of the resilience process found in this book.

    When surveying the literature on resilient organizations, one cannot help but notice strong overtones of admiration and praise. Weick and Sutcliffe (2001, 14) claim that resilient organizations have “capabilities to detect, contain, and bounce back...

  14. 10 PLANNING FOR CATASTROPHE: HOW FRANCE IS PREPARING FOR THE AVIAN FLU AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR RESILIENCE
    (pp. 180-195)
    Claude Gilbert
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.14

    We are witnessing the emergence of new threats with fairly specific characteristics. The scale on which they unfold is wide and increasingly global. Their effects can be ascribed to specific agents or events as much as to vulnerabilities peculiar to today’s societies. Health threats top the list of these future threats. Epidemics and pandemics are once again provoking concern, especially the possibility of an avian flu–related pandemic on a global scale. This is not simply a matter of a revival of old threat agents; it is the emergence of a new type of threat whose characteristics demand new forms...

  15. 11 THE LIMITS OF SELF-RELIANCE: INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AS A SOURCE OF RESILIENCE
    (pp. 196-219)
    Mark Rhinard and Bengt Sundelius
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.15

    In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Katrina caused severe and catastrophic damage. In addition to ripping homes open and destroying power lines in Mississippi and Louisiana, the storm breached two levees in the city of New Orleans (Seed et al. 2005). Water flooded 80 percent of the city, adding to the destruction and contributing to the deaths of over thirteen hundred residents (Cooper and Block 2006).

    Equally troubling was the way U.S. authorities handled the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. A slow and uncoordinated response compounded infrastructure damage and added to...

  16. 12 INTERNATIONAL DISASTER RESILIENCE: PREPARING FOR TRANSNATIONAL DISASTER
    (pp. 220-243)
    Thomas W. Haase
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.16

    On Monday, April 6, 2009, at approximately 3:30 in the morning, the Abruzzo mountain region of Central Italy was shaken by an earthquake that measured 6.3 on the Richter scale (U.S. Geological Survey 2009). Nestled within a lush valley, and surrounded by the Apennine Mountains, is L’Aquila, the capital city of the Abruzzo region and home to more than seventy thousand Italian citizens. Officially established in the thirteenth century, L’Aquila has a historical lineage that can be traced back to early Roman times. The movement along the highly active Celano-L’Aquila fault system not only flattened large sections of residential and...

  17. 13 DESIGNING RESILIENT SYSTEMS: INTEGRATING SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND POLICY IN INTERNATIONAL RISK REDUCTION
    (pp. 244-271)
    Hui Ling, Taieb Znati and Louise K. Comfort
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.17

    When a massive earthquake, measuring 9.3 moment magnitude on the Richter scale of earthquake intensity, occurred on December 26, 2004, at 7:58 a.m. (local time) off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, it triggered not only a devastating tsunami wave that struck coastal communities in twelve nations around the Indian Ocean basin but also a wave of concern, interest, and commitment in the global scientific community, focused on discovering new methods of detecting tsunamis and protecting coastal communities from their catastrophic consequences. Geophysicists have long considered earthquakes nearly impossible to predict (Field, Milner, et al. 2007), but tsunamis offer a...

  18. 14 RESILIENCE REVISITED: AN ACTION AGENDA FOR MANAGING EXTREME EVENTS
    (pp. 272-284)
    Louise K. Comfort, Arjen Boin and Chris C. Demchak
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.18

    In the early spring of 2009, the city of Fargo, North Dakota, came under threat of the rapidly rising Red River. Flood threats occur periodically as the snow melts up north and spring rains are heavier than usual. The citizens of Fargo thus know what a flooding Red River can do. As the river rose higher than ever before, the people of Fargo sprang into action. In a remarkable display of perseverance, determination, and collective action, they prepared for the worst. In driving sleet and icy cold, young and old filled sandbags and worked to strengthen the levees. Watching around-the-clock...

  19. NOTES
    (pp. 285-294)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.19
  20. REFERENCES
    (pp. 295-328)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.20
  21. List of Contributors
    (pp. 329-334)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.21
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 335-349)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.22
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 350-350)
    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt5hjq0c.23