Building the Business Case for Disaster Resilience: More than 70 Community Disaster Resilience Experts Discuss NIST Economic Guide

May 22, 2015

The Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing an economic guide to help communities build a business case for disaster resilience investment.  The guide will cover anticipated impacts of disasters, the investments required in the recovery phase, the benefits accrued through proper planning, and the decisions that will need to be made to ensure effective implementation.

In April, ASCE’s new Infrastructure Resilience Division (IRD) and the American Society for Mechanical Engineers joined forces with NIST to bring together more than 70 decision makers, community planners, policy-makers, and subject matter experts in economics, engineering, insurance, finance, and risk analysis at a workshop to discuss the economics of community disaster resilience preparedness.

NIST Workshop group




Discussion topics included resilience planning and deployment, dealing with uncertainty, and the economics of recovery. After keynote presentations by Susan Helper, Chief Economist of the Department of Commerce, and Howard Harary, Director of the Engineering Laboratory at NIST, the participants heard a wide variety of presenters discuss cutting-edge thinking about resilience economics. The afternoon featured facilitated breakout sessions in which the participants identified knowledge gaps and research needs, and then brainstormed solutions in each discussion area. These groups reported their findings to the full group, and the day’s proceedings will inform NIST’s economic guide, due to be published this summer. The guide will become part of NIST’s Disaster Resilience Initiative and will inform NIST’s national research program.

5 Team 3IRD Executive Committee member and director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Technology and Systems Management, Bilal M. Ayyub, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE , was the lead organizer of the workshop, and he worked closely with Richard Wright, Ph.D., NAE, DistM.ASCE, and Gerald Galloway, Jr., Ph.D., P.E., Hon.D.WRE, DistM.ASCE, to develop the program with NIST. Ayyub noted, “Our work shows that disaster-related loss estimates should consider direct losses plus down-stream and indirect effects such as business interruption. These impacts can have a significant impact on the sustainability of a local or regional economy, and this guide will help communities deal with that.”

Sponsored by NIST, ASCE, ASME, and BMA Engineering, the workshop was supported by the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, IBM, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, and the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering Center for Technology and Systems Management. The economic guide will form part of NIST’s Disaster Resilience Initiative.

ASCE’s IRD launched in early 2015; its goals are to develop a common approach for advancing the concepts of resilience in the nation’s civil infrastructure and lifeline systems, to foster cross-communication, and to promote collaborations around the impacts of natural hazards on civil infrastructure. The IRD actively coordinates with key stakeholders, including NIST and ASME. The division supports and coordinates the work of five ASCE technical committees.



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