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Community and Regional Resilience Institute

In the wake of the United States’ costliest hurricane, researchers, government officials, and community leaders came together to define community resilience and create tools to assess and build it.

When powerful Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in August 2005, it devastated homes, businesses, and ecosystems. In the aftermath, elected leaders from the region asked how to ensure that future storms would not wreak such catastrophic havoc. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supported the establishment of the Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to catalyze a critical national conversation: what is community resilience, and how do we build it?

Working in partnership with Meridian, CARRI sponsored new research to define community resilience. Through a series of facilitated work groups, we engaged community leaders in Gulfport, Mississippi; Charleston, South Carolina; and Memphis, Tennessee to identify core characteristics of resilience based on those cities’ experiences preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters.

Building on those insights, Meridian convened and facilitated a national initiative involving over 150 subject matter experts and community leaders. The initiative developed a user-friendly decision support tool – the Community Resilience System (CRS)—which helped communities assess and improve their resilience. Meridian began serving as CARRI’s secretariat in 2011 and helped adapt the CRS for colleges campuses. The Campus Resilience Enhancement System (CaRES) was designed to help campuses anticipate and respond to unique threats.

The knowledge and tools generated through CARRI’s work continue to influence how researchers and practitioners approach resilience-building. Today, CARRI’s legacy is most evident in the premise of the Alliance for National and Community Resilience (ANCR) and the research activities of the Global Resilience Institute at Northeastern University.

CARRI Research Reports

At the time that CARRI was founded, most existing research around disasters focused on emergency response. Although communities across the U.S. increasingly recognized the need to shift to a proactive approach to disaster planning, research on the challenges and benefits of building resilience were scarce. To further understanding in this emerging field, CARRI commissioned 10 research reports to survey the existing state of knowledge and explore a more holistic approach to the topic. We engaged leading scholars from multiple disciplines, including behavioral science, ecology, and economics, to explore community resilience from novel angles. A subset of the studies explored how existing approaches to disaster response and emergency management can inform resilience measures. Others captured experiences and lessons learned from communities in the U.S. heavily affected by natural disasters, particularly along the Gulf Coast.

CARRI’s research reports shed new light on the importance of a whole community approach to community and regional resilience. The studies informed efforts to assess and strengthen resilience in local communities across the country and bolstered the emerging field of research and practice around community resilience.

Project Team

Learn more about the team that led the Community and Regional Resilience Institute project.