"Community resilience" is one of those things that we all agree is important but can't agree on just what it means, a situation not uncommon in emergency management. In very broad terms it is the ability of a community to survive and recovery from a significant event. But how do we measure resilience?
Jorn Birkmann's book Measuring Vulnerability to Natural Hazards: Towards Disaster Resilient Societies offers a number of perspectives on the difficulty in such measurements and the complexity involved. It also demonstrates that much of the data needed by current assessment models are either hard to obtain or non-existent, requiring the use of proxy data. This makes many of these research tools of limited utility to the emergency manager.
However, we are seeing the emergence of a number of different tools that can be applied at the local level. These tools represent an attempt by researchers to move beyond theoretical models to those with practical applications by practitioners.
The common thread among all these initiatives is the involvement of the local community and a reliance on community leaders to help lead the process. As all of these models are still being piloted, it is still too early to gauge effectiveness but the concepts are sound and results so far are promising. If they perform as expected we may soon have a badly needed tool to help advance community resilience.