Consensus Report

Building Community Disaster Resilience through Private-Public Collaboration (2010)

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Collaboration between local private and public sector organizations is the key to building resilient communities that can withstand disasters, a new National Research Council report finds. Cooperation could help reduce the impact of a disaster by helping communities anticipate threats, adapt to adversity, and recover after a crisis by engaging community stakeholders to identify risk and leverage available resources. This report suggests a framework for resilience-focused private-public sector collaboration, and provides guidelines for successful private-public sector engagement. Challenges to successful collaboration are discussed, as are gaps in knowledge that could be targeted for research investment.


As part of the meeting of BESR's Committee on Geographical Sciences, the authoring committee presented a summary of the report and its findings via the web. An archive of the session is available for viewing [Adobe Flash Player]. The first few slides of the session are missing due to technical difficulties, but the entire presentation can also be downloaded from the link at right.

Key Messages

  • All elements of the public and private sectors and people from all walks of life including minorities, the disenfranchised, children, and the elderly, should be engaged or represented in decisions related to disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Involving the full fabric of society will help identify the needs of different groups at each stage of a disaster and tailor public education and recovery strategies as needed. Through collaboration, all participants and those they represent will become empowered community members.
  • Although some disasters such as bioterrorism or chemical hazards require specialized expertise, communities prepared for the most common disruptions are those most likely to adapt in the face of more unusual threats. Therefore, the most effective emergency management policies and systems would highlight an all-hazards approach to disaster preparation.
  • Because many community collaboration efforts for disaster resilience are still in their infancy, research could identify ways to make these efforts more successful. Examples of useful research include work to investigate factors most likely to motivate businesses of all sizes to collaborate with the public sector, and work to quantify metrics such as the costs and benefits of investing in resilience-focused collaboration.
  • Building and maintaining disaster resilience depends on the ability of a community to monitor change and appropriately modify plans and activities to accommodate observed changes. Private-public collaboration is a crucial means of building networks and trust vital to creating a sustaining community health
  • Collaboration between the private and public sectors can help develop community resilience because each organization brings its own resources, capacities, and energies to the table for disaster preparation, planning, response, and recovery. This allows communities to fully leverage available resources and capacities.
  • Currently, there is no comprehensive framework to guide private-public collaboration focused on disaster preparedness and response. This is despite the fact that state and federal governments have acknowledged the importance of collaboration between private and public organizations, and several previous National Research Council reports have identified specific areas where the private and public sectors have worked cooperatively to reduce the impacts of a disaster.
  • Public-private collaboration is more likely to be sustainable if it begins as a bottom-up enterprise at the grassroots level. Successful collaboration is more likely if it is instigated by members of the community rather than dictated from above.
  • Successful resilience-focused collaboration encourages communication and training with goals of increasing community readiness, community planning, trust building, reducing risk, and shortening recovery time.
  • Sustainable and effective resilience-focused private-public collaboration is dependent on a few key basic principles including increasing communication between all sectors of the community, incorporating flexibility into collaborative networks, and encouraging regular reassessment of the relevance of collaborative missions, goals, and practices.