To date, the private and public sectors have lacked a comprehensive framework to guide their efforts as they collaborate for the purpose of enhancing community disaster resilience. Under the sponsorship of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Research Council convened a panel of experts to assess the state of the art of private–public sector collaboration dedicated to strengthening community resilience, to identify gaps in knowledge and practice, and to recommend research to be targeted for investment by the DHS Human Factors Behavioral Sciences Division. The committee comprised researchers and practitioners who had expertise in emergency management, local-government management and administration, community and multistakeholder collaboration, critical-infrastructure protection, disaster management, and on-the-ground experience in establishing and maintaining community-resilience initiatives and public–private partnerships. Appendix A presents brief biographies of the committee members. The committee’s statement of task, as provided by the DHS, is shown in Box 1.1. The committee received useful input during a national workshop that it convened on September 9–10, 2009, and prepared a summary of the major themes discussed in the workshop (NRC, 2010a).

Collaboration between the private and public sectors could improve the ability of a community to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural or human-caused disasters. Past reports from the National Research Council have identified innovative, collaborative organizational structures that could enhance the diverse community interests in matters of national concern (e.g., NRC, 1998, 2006). Others have identified specific efforts where the private and public sectors have worked cooperatively on measures that reduce the effects of disaster—such as implementing building codes, retrofitting buildings, and issuing extreme-weather warnings—and identified candidates for such collaboration, such as risk-based insurance premiums and model land-use practices (e.g., Mason, 2006; Jones Kershaw, 2005). Recognizing that a community’s ability to respond to and recover from disaster depends partly on the strength and effectiveness of its social networks, DHS sponsored a 2009 National Research Council workshop on how social network analysis—the study of complex human systems—can reveal the structure of existing networks so that a community can design or improve its networks for the purpose of building community resilience (Magsino, 2009).

To help the reader understand the concepts deliberated by the committee, this chapter provides working definitions for key terms such as “resilience” and “community.” Examples of disasters that challenge community resilience are provided, beginning with a brief discussion of the financial burden associated with disasters. The committee then briefly examines disaster management policy in the United States and the role of private–public collaboration in building community resilience. A description of the committee’s approach to addressing its charge and a description of the report organization completes this chapter.

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