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Commerce's NIST Leads Nationwide Effort to Provide Tools and Guidance to Help U.S. Communities Become More Disaster Resilient

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Commerce's NIST Leads Nationwide Effort to Provide Tools and Guidance to Help U.S. Communities Become More Disaster Resilient

Guest Blog Post by Stephen Cauffman, NIST Lead for Disaster Resilience

When disaster strikes . . .

No other phrase may be more ominous, conjuring images of powerlessness, destruction, and an aftermath of painful, costly recovery. Think Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; the Oakland firestorm of 1991; the Joplin, Mo., and Moore, Okla., tornadoes; or last year’s floods in Colorado and much of the Midwest.

Although communities cannot dodge hazardous events like these, they can take concrete actions in advance to minimize the toll that natural—and even human-caused—hazards inflict and to speed up the pace of recovery. Communities can make themselves more resilient to disasters.

Providing tools and guidance to help U.S. communities become more disaster resilient is the goal of a collaborative, nationwide effort led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Carried out under the President's Climate Action Plan, this recently launched national initiative will yield a comprehensive, disaster resilience framework that will help communities develop plans to protect people and property before disaster strikes and to recover more rapidly and efficiently.

Focusing on buildings and infrastructure systems, such as communications and electric power, the framework will identify performance goals; document existing standards, codes, and practices that address resilience; and identify gaps that must be addressed to bolster community resilience.

As we prepare the draft framework, NIST is soliciting input from a broad array of stakeholders, including planners, designers, facility owners and users, government officials, utility owners, regulators, standards and model code developers, insurers, trade and professional associations, disaster response and recovery groups, and researchers.

We are convening a series of workshops to gather ideas and perspectives from different regions. The second workshop will be held July 30 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Hoboken. (The workshop’s general sessions will be available via webinar.) The following workshop is scheduled for Oct. 27-28, 2014, in Norman, Okla. The draft framework will be updated after each workshop and we plan to have a formal public comment period on a final draft in the spring of 2015..

Once the first version is finalized, NIST will convene the Disaster Resilience Standards Panel, composed of representatives from a broad spectrum of public and private-sector stakeholders. The panel will further develop and refine the framework and develop model guidelines to assist communities in enhancing their resilience. These efforts will benefit significantly from knowledge and tools that will be developed from a prospective NIST-funded Community Resilience Center of Excellence. There, collaborators from NIST, universities, and industry will develop computational models to assess community infrastructure resilience and guide community-level resilience investment decisions. The work of the Center of Excellence will provide the science-basis for simplified tools that can be broadly applied by communities of all sizes. The ongoing competition for funding of this interdisciplinary research center was announced on July 9. By working with communities through its Disaster Resilience Program, NIST hopes to reduce the uncertainty and dangers they face from disasters and to help them plan for faster recovery.

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