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When the next disaster strikes, will our disaster resilience measure up?

photo of car flipped over damaged road

When the 1994 Northridge Earthquake shook Southern California, in just 15 seconds it claimed 57 lives, injured 9000 others, and left an estimated $20 billion in damage.

photo of smoking ground zero rubble

When the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks hit our homeland, in less than two hours, nearly 3,000 perished, as government leaders and first responders came face to face with a new form of disaster.

photo of flattened house and debris on ground

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, in only a matter of days, it claimed perhaps as many as 1,300 lives, wreaked more than $75 billion in damage, and left an estimated economic impact of $200 billion, from which it could take 25 years to recover.

Our resilience against disasters is not only measured by how well we respond, repair and recapture whatís been lost, itís also measured by how well we strengthen, prepare and protect whatís already been put in place, before disaster strikes.

When the next disaster strikes, will our disaster resilience measure up? Only you Ö and time will tell.

Defining and Measuring Disaster Resilience is focus of 2006 MCEER Annual Meeting

MCEER carried its message of making Disaster Resilience measurable, to the nation's Capital, with its 2006 Annual Meeting. The program, which took place June 29-30, in Arlington, Virginia, attracted nearly 120 participants from within and beyond the Capital Beltway.

The meeting kicked off with an all-day program on June 29 that defined the concept of resilience, and explored fundamental resilience metrics - robustness, redundancy, resourcefulness and rapidity - by which disaster resilience can be better measured and improved. The concept and foundational metrics for resilience were developed initially by MCEER researchers for earthquake hazards mitigation. These same metrics are now being applied by MCEER and its industry and government partners, to other hazards and extreme events.

Titled, "Enhancing Resilience against Multiple Hazards," the program drew participation from representatives of federal agencies, congressional staff, policy think tanks, and the practicing community of architects, engineers, owners, other corporate stakeholders, and emergency managers from around the United States.

These included representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Highway Administration, General Services Administration, Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and others.

They were joined by MCEER industry partners in business, industry and government, as well as center researchers and students, in presentations and discussions focused on applying and building upon fundamental resilience properties - robustness, redundancy, resourcefulness and rapidity - as a means to better define, measure and attain desired levels of resilience.

Presentations illustrated how the use of resilience metrics guide MCEER state-of-the-art applied research program, in order to yield practical knowledge, tools and technologies that enhance resilience, not only against earthquakes, but other hazards and extreme events.

Three breakout sessions discussed resilience metrics in greater detail, drawing upon research developments and practitioners' perspectives for applying resilience metrics to:

A luncheon presentation by Gilberto Mosqueda (University at Buffalo) chronicled observations from MCEER's Post-Hurricane Katrina Reconnaissance investigations. Mosqueda was joined by fellow MCEER reconnaissance team member Lucy Arendt (University of Wisconsin, Green Bay), and Ryan Shannon, a Tulane University medical student who lived through the hurricane while on duty at one of New Orleans' larger acute care hospitals.

Shannon also opened the program with a personal account of his experiences during the disaster. He spoke of both personal and professional trials, balancing concerns for his family's safety with helping provide quality care to life support patients in a hospital stranded by floodwaters - a hospital that was also cut off from running water, electricity, and communication with the outside world. Shannon described deteriorating conditions within the hospital that were brought about by the flooding, and efforts to move and evacuate patients under the most extreme conditions.

A banquet presentation on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) was delivered by NEHRP Director, John (Jack) R. Hayes Jr., of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Hayes provided background information on the program, discussing in-depth, the roles and responsibilities of involved federal agencies, and changes to the NEHRP organizational and operational structure.

Presentations made at the program, will soon be available for viewing here online.

MCEER's Annual Meeting continued on Friday, June 30, with a day of updates and planning regarding the center's research, education and outreach activities. This program included presentations by MCEER's partners in business, industry and government, as they discussed challenging issues faced by practitioners. Information conveyed will help shape MCEER's research plan for the coming year.