Improving Resilience

“Resilient communities and regions are those that are able to anticipate their vulnerability to natural, economic, and other potential threats.  They take action to limit their exposure to these threats, and they have plans, processes, and resources in place to help them recover quickly should disaster strike. At the core of resilience is the willingness and ability to adapt to change to ensure positive outcomes for all residents and businesses.” [1]

Over the past year, the Institute of Public Policy (IPP) has been working on the project, Integrating Responses to Climate Variability within a Regional Resilience Frameworkwith a four-year goal of helping the communities of Missouri be more resilient to the impacts of major weather and climate-related events. This first year’s work has had two main strands:

  • The construction of resilience and vulnerability indexes that will enable counties to compare their relative status with other counties nationwide;
  • A review of the emergency preparedness system in Missouri.

The project is part of the Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Communityinitiative. This is a statewide collaborative research effort to understand how climate variability impacts plants and communities in Missouri[1]. The project’s overall aims are to model and predict (1) short and long term trends in temperature and precipitation at the regional and local levels; (2) the effects of these trends on the productivity of Missouri’s native flora and agricultural crops; and (3) how different stakeholder communities are likely to respond to these changes. This knowledge will be used to improve the state’s overall capacity to respond to climate change by enriching its climate modeling abilities and by enhancing the resilience of plants and communities to potential changes.

Indexes of Resilience and Vulnerability

The Indexes comprise a range of indicators which measure social, infrastructure, economic, and environmental resilience and vulnerability at the county level.  The following table provides some examples of the many measures used.  The working paper Resilience and Vulnerability Indexes for the U.S. Counties prepared by Kathleen Miller, Angela Johnson, and Brian Dabson in August 2015 describes the progress made and sets out the work planned to complete the indexes during 2015-2016.  This is a joint project between IPP and the MU Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES).

The intention is that every county will be classified into one of four categories based on whether it has high or low resilience and high or low vulnerability as shown in Figure 1.

Emergency Preparedness in Missouri

The second strand of work entailed conducting an analysis of the Missouri Emergency Management structure, the results of which were presented in the working paper Missouri Emergency Management Preliminary Analysis by Sonja Erickson in January 2015.  This described the complex relationships between federal funding and statutory requirements, the State Emergency Management Agency, the regional and local partnerships with first responders, community, voluntary, and faith-based organizations, and the business community.  This was followed up by a second working paper by Sonja Erickson, Emergency Management in Six Disaster-Prone Missouri Countiescompleted in July 2015, which looked at the realities of emergency management in Andrew, Cape Girardeau, Miller, Newton, Sullivan and Webster counties, each of which has been included in at least eight Presidential Disaster Declarations since 2006. These analyses will be used to inform the next phases of the project as the focus moves to field work across the state. Maps 1 and 2 show the distribution of these categories for social resilience and vulnerability of counties in Missouri and nationwide.

Next Steps

During the project’s second year, the Resilience and Vulnerability Indexes will be completed.  Among other things, the indexes will be used to identify a number of high vulnerability, low resilience counties in Missouri, which will be invited to participate in a community development process designed to improve their long-term resilience.

[1] Dabson, Brian (2015 forthcoming) Regional Resilience: Research and Policy Brief. NADO Research Foundation.

[2] The Missouri Transect: Climate, Plants and Community project is funded by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program over five years and comprises interdisciplinary teams drawn from the University of Missouri, Missouri University of Science and Technology, University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri State University. Lincoln University, Danforth Plant Science Center, Washington University at St. Louis. Saint Louis University, and the Saint Louis Science Center. Information on the overall project can be found at