Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 23, 2013

Resilience: Stop the virus now?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 23, 2013

A resilient person, enterprise, or region anticipates failure – even fundamental failure.

This is not necessarily a fatalistic or cynical disposition (though it can be). At best it is a kind of proactive realism, even a healthy paranoia (ala Only the Paranoid Survive).

The resilience paradox involves enhanced influence through less control.  The tensions between orthodox and paradox can be very real. (Unpack those two sentences and you have a chapter, if not a book, on the future of homeland security.)

As a strategic priority resilience mitigates hubris and promotes humility. It is one way of recognizing and saying-aloud, “Ultimately I am not in control, but I can be prepared to respond and adapt.”

A science of resilience is coalescing around principles derived from physics, biology, and human behavior. These natural principles are increasingly being tested and amended to be purposefully grafted into social systems.

Last week Arnold Bogis pointed us to the Rockefeller Foundation’s new multimillion dollar effort to build urban resilience. A thoughtful, clearly experienced, and apparently innovative emergency manager responded with at least some annoyance.

A.J. Phelps commented (in part, please see full comment):

I see a lot of potential duplication of effort with a CRO (Chief Resilience Officer) position, as opposed to consolidation of effort. Concepts that I associate with resiliency (like recovery and mitigation) fit squarely on my plate as an emergency manager provided the focus is on the manager side of the title, are addressed through a collaborative planning process with SMEs, and should be included in existing planning programs.

I hope many top emergency managers have already begun bringing together the team that will enable their city, region or whatever to apply to the Rockefeller Foundation.  Especially if Mr. Phelps’ critique is correct, emergency managers should be in the vanguard of this effort.

Resilience is a buzzword which is a kind of meme which is a kind of emergence that may or may not find its own resilience.  Such beginnings are precisely when the opportunity for influence is most profound.  Do you want to kill the resilience movement? This is your best chance.  Do you want to refine and nourish the resilience movement?  Now is the right time.  In either case, this is the moment to reflect on your motivations and take action.

Great foundations — like great teachers, executives, and prophets — invite us to work with  them to create new realities.  This is what the Rockefeller Foundation is doing with their 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge.  They do not presume to have defined resilience as some sort of universal constant. They have observed that “vulnerability in one area shakes the stability of others, rippling across borders and continents.”  They are inviting creativity and commitment to ensure “cities are prepared for and can withstand the crises they are certain to face – mitigating local impact and minimizing worldwide reverberations.”

You can learn more and apply at: 100 Resilient Cities

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 23, 2013 @ 1:01 am

Thanks Phil and sorry but have to respectfully disagree with you on your statement that ” Especially if Mr. Phelps’ critique is correct, emergency managers should be in the vanguard of this effort.”!

Why? I view EM as a focus on “management” and the exacting but crucial technical public administration activity of understanding in detail the organization capabilities of the organization you work for and how best they can be applied to any all-hazard crisis in the full regalia of the EM paradigm! Certainly knowledge of “resilience” is a factor in particular in the prevention, protection, mitigation, preparedness phases but resiience means the study and analysis of risk and how best to adapt and conform to that risk and the vulnerabilities it creates.

The EM community is too small to be able to lead on that effort and probably too busy designing capability and mobilization of that capability for any all-hazard crisis or incident/event!

There are fewer than 10,000 competent EM nation-wide out of a Public Safety arena of over 3M!

Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 23, 2013 @ 6:31 am

Resilience by Keith Westwater

Mathematicians have worked out
how to calculate the bounciness of a ball:

(the coefficient of this x the cosine of that)
+ the differential of today’s weather all ÷ by
a piece of string (and the speed of the train)
= the same as dropping different balls together
and seeing which ball has the longest bounce

Measuring how well a person will rebound
after being dropped on is still being worked on:

some believe it has something to do with
the thickness of their skin whether their stretching
reaches a breaking point or results in withstanding
whether they can fight and flee how many times
the person has returned to a vertical position before

Keith Westwater

submitted by:

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
– Open The White House Doors Now – Our Kids Deserve Better –
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645

Comment by Rubin, Claire

May 23, 2013 @ 6:49 am

Reading the first 4 paragraphs, I thought you were going to talk about OK. The people of Moore appear to be resilient,

But what factors in their culture or personalities keep the local and state officials from having building codes and other regulations re construction of structures used by the public is beyond me!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 23, 2013 @ 7:23 am

Two more thoughts. The people in MOORE are stubborn and death defying. Perhaps a pervasive hopelessness that they aer alone? The elephant on the prarie that is wind often causes deep deep psychological disturbance in some.

And yes Chris when the going gets tough the tough get going!

Greek civilization and culture over many centuries demonstrates Greek resilience.

Comment by AJ Phelps

May 23, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

Mr. Cumming,
Thank you for the comments to my post and for continuing the discussion here. The EM community is too small to do most of what we are expected (I am THE office of emergency management for a city of 70k that can swell to twice that during some of our art events and fiestas, and is also the state capital), which elevates the importance of an emergency manager’s ability to facilitate collaborative problem solving. This is true for “resilience” objectives as well and would involve, I think, the pool of subject matter experts currently engaged in existing emergency planning initiatives. I still equate resilience with recovery and continuity planning, and every emergency plan, recovery plan, or mitigation plan I have ever done began with “the study and analysis of risk and how best to adapt and conform to that risk and the vulnerabilities it creates”. My job is to keep risk, vulnerabilities, and hazards from becoming disasters. I think most of my family has finally begun to understand that as an emergency manager I don’t work in a hospital ER. Please don’t make me try to explain what a Resilience Officer does…
I also really appreciate your continued emphasis on the “management” half of emergency management. I think we do the emergency part well. I earn my paycheck, however, on the management side.

Comment by JD

May 23, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

Resilience = Outcome
Resilience is not an activity.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 23, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

Thanks AJP! Most conscientiou EM are vastly overworked and underpaid! If the messenger did not usually get killed when bearing bad news I would recommend that each EM forward every 90 days up and down their chain of command critical analysis of deficiencies and gaps in capabilities where either temporary or permanent at current levels of effort.

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