A quick search through articles on DomesticPreparedness.com for the word “resilience” reveals a possible shift in focus for preparedness professionals over the years. In 2005, the Domestic Preparedness Journal published many resilience articles that focused on creating standards and plans in order to more rapidly return to normalcy. By 2010, there seemed to be a greater focus on funding, grants, and other resources needed to be able to sustain operations when disasters occur. By 2015, education, communication, and collaboration were key buzz words in articles on resilience. Then 2020 arrived along with much reflection on what could have been done better to be resilient in the face of an unprecedented event and how to endure the consequences of past decisions.
The authors in this edition of the Domestic Preparedness Journal review past events while looking toward the future. Numerous disasters over the past two decades were book-ended with terrorist attacks on three U.S. cities that caused a nationwide shutdown and a worldwide pandemic with widespread shutdowns in most if not all countries. The 9/11 attacks in 2001 demonstrated a strong unity of effort, with many selfless heroes running into danger rather than away from it. That and other mega-disasters since then – for example, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and the 2021 Dixie fire, just to name a few – have tested the resiliency of communities around the world. By 2021, the unity of effort observed in the wake of 9/11 has waned as the world continues to recover from a worldwide pandemic.
However, with regard to resilience, it is necessary to address unfinished business and the future agenda. The first step is to review and update current plans or create new ones to address risks and threats in an everchanging environment. Then, identify critical resource needs and availability of those resources under adverse conditions. For example, recognize essential assets like global positioning system satelites and signals as high-priority targets for bad actors, and create a plan to protect them from interference or destruction. Transportation is another critical infrastructure that requires a greater awareness of threats and risks that could hinder operations and how to manage them to enhance resilience.
Over the years, the focus when preparing for disasters may have shifted at times between planning and procedures, available resources, and community connectedness. However, the nexus of all three of these is still resilience. In a post-9/11 and post-COVID-19 world, the goal of resilience needs to remain at the center of disaster preparedness efforts. As 2021 ends, the focus should be on the future – plan for the next mega-disaster, assess available resources, and build connections within and between key stakeholder groups. Simultaneously fortifying all three components will make communities much more resilient in 2022.