Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Community resilience has emerged as a way to reduce the direct and indirect costs due to natural, technological, and human-caused hazard events.  There continues to be  a need for additional guidance on how to plan for and implement measures to improve community resilience as well as science-based tools to measure resilience and support evaluation of alternative strategies to achieve resilience.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) program is (1) developing science based tools and metrics to support and measure resilience at the community-scale and support economic evaluation of alternative solutions to improve resilience and (2) engaging community resilience stakeholders for input and feedback to products, such as guidance, tools, and metrics, for planning and implementing resilience measures.



To develop science-based tools for communities, professionals, and researchers to assess resilience and to support informed planning and decision making at the community scale for improving resilience in communities of all sizes.

To conduct a multi-faceted outreach effort to inform the development of community resilience guidance documents and tools.

To conduct disaster and failure studies (DFS) and to develop DFS expertise and metrology that support validation of community resilience tools.

What is the problem?

Despite significant progress in science and technology guidance and tools related to disaster-mitigation, natural,  technological, and human-caused hazard events in the United States result in significant direct and indirect costs in terms of lives lost, disruption of commerce and financial networks, properties destroyed, and the cost of mobilizing emergency response personnel and equipment.  Hazards are a continuing and significant threat to U.S. communities.  Major catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina (2005) and future earthquakes like the ones that struck Tohoku and Kobe, Japan in 2011 and 1995, respectively, can cause mega-losses ($80B-$300B) in a single event.  Human activities that are accidental, criminal, or terrorist can also lead to significant losses.  The risk for substantial damage and losses across large regions of the nation is substantially greater now than ever before due to urban development and population growth in parts of the country that are susceptible to natural hazards (e.g., along coastlines, in the wildland-urban interface, and in earthquake-prone regions). Additionally, the nation’s physical infrastructure is aging, diminishing its capacity to resist hazards.  

Community resilience, the ability to withstand the impacts of natural, technological, or human-caused hazards and recover community functions quickly, is a local and a national issue.  Just as the effects of a disruptive hazard event cascade locally through impacted infrastructure and society, they can also cascade across entire regions, or even nationally.  Preventing hazards events (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, and community-scale fires) from becoming disasters depends upon the resilience of buildings and infrastructure systems.  
While tools exist to assess risks and vulnerabilities of individual assets, science-based tools do not exist to assess the resilience of a community, including the dependencies among buildings and infrastructure systems as well as dependencies with social systems.  Further, no tools currently exist to assist communities with investment decisions to enhance resilience. 

What is the new technical idea?

Community resilience requires understanding of the community social and economic needs to determine when its buildings and infrastructure systems need to recover their functions to support community recovery without major disruption.  The notion of “time to recovery of function” requires consideration of building systems (structural frame, envelope, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems), infrastructure systems (electric power, water, wastewater, communications, transportation systems), and the connections and dependencies among and between social, economic systems, and physical systems.  Currently, buildings and infrastructure systems are designed and operated as independent systems.  As a result, there is sometimes a mismatch between design objectives, performance between systems for the same hazard event, and public expectations.  Since buildings and infrastructure systems are essential to the functioning of modern society,  establishing common or compatible performance goals for their recovery would improve and support the recovery of dependent social and economic systems (government, business, industry and individual citizens) following a disruptive event.

To transform the way buildings and infrastructure are designed, built, operated, and maintained, NIST will develop  science-based guidance, tools, and metrics that measure resilience at the community scale and support decision-making on alternative actions to improve community resilience, taking into account the connections and dependencies between the built environment and social and economic systems present in the community.  Collaboration with the NIST-funded CoE will increase the rate of research and development of science-based guidance, tools, and metrics. In addition, NIST will engage a diverse body of stakeholders to provide input and feedback on community resilience plans, guidance, tools, and metrics that enhance community resilience and address gaps in standards, codes, and practices.   

What is the research plan?

There are two major components in the NIST Community Resilience program: (1) developing science based tools and metrics to support and measure resilience at the community-scale and support economic evaluation of alternative solutions to improve resilience and (2) engaging community resilience stakeholders for input and feedback to products, such as guidance, tools, and metrics, for planning and implementing resilience measures.

Developing Science-Based Tools and Metrics

This component of the program has three thrusts: developing community-scale systems methods and models, measuring and assessing community resilience, and developing an economic methodology to support decision making.

Systems methods and models 
Systems-based modeling methods will be developed to (1) simulate the effects of disruptions to the community (both social and physical), (2) analyze the response and recovery of physical, social, and economic systems, taking into account the dependencies, and (3) establish a science basis for a community resilience assessment and decision-support methodologies, tools, and metrics.  Community goals will be used to identify performance and recovery criteria, and data from communities and past events will be used for validation and sensitivity studies.   This research will be conducted collaboratively with the NIST-funded Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, led by Colorado State University.

Measuring and assessing community resilience
Science-based methodology, tools, and metrics will be developed for measuring and assessing resilience at the community scale includes:

  • Identification of performance goals for the built environment based on the social systems and needs in the community, and
  • Development of tools and metrics to assess resilience at the community scale that account for the individual elements (buildings, infrastructure systems, social organizations) and their dependencies.
  • The tools and metrics will be applicable to communities of varying sizes without requiring extensive technical resources to implement.

This research component will be supported by analytical models and by disaster and failure studies of past events and current events. These studies will include data collection on the condition of the built environment, the hazard event, damage and losses immediately after the event, and recovery stages of the physical, social, and economic systems over time.

Economic methodology to support decision making 
Economic methodology and tools will be developed to support community decision-making for resilience planning and implementation. Decision support tools will account for social needs before, during, and after a disruptive event, community performance goals for physical and social systems, and evaluation of alternative resilience options to enhance community resilience.

Engaging Community Resilience Stakeholders

This component of the program has three thrusts: developing guidance for community resilience planning, gathering input and feedback on the use of the Guide by communities, and supporting a Community Resilience Panel.

Community Resilience Planning Guidance
Community resilience planning guidance documents will be developed to support improved resilience planning methods, tools, and metrics. The guidance documents will be developed with input and feedback from stakeholders during the development process.

The NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems (Planning Guide) provides a practical and flexible 6-step approach to help communities improve their resilience by setting priorities and allocating resources to manage risks for their prevailing hazards. The first version of the Planning Guide was released on October 29, 2015, and may be updated periodically as new best practices and research results become available and as communities gain experience using the Guide and recommend improvements. Using the Planning Guide, communities will be able to integrate resilience plans into their economic development, zoning, mitigation, and other local planning activities that impact buildings, public utilities and other infrastructure systems.

The Planning Guide will be supplemented by a series of Guide Briefs that provide more detailed information on implementing the 6-steps of the Planning Guide, including references to existing tools and examples or case studies of resilience planning decisions about the built environment, social systems, and dependencies between systems.

The Economic Decision Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems (EDG) provides a standard economic methodology for evaluating alternative resilience options for improving community resilience. The EDG is designed for use in conjunction with the Planning Guide. The economic methodology frames the economic decision process by identifying and comparing the relevant present and future streams of costs and benefits—the latter realized through cost savings and damage loss avoidance—associated with new capital investment into resilience to those future streams generated by the status-quo.

Guide Use by Communities
NIST will maintain a relationship with communities that use the NIST community resilience guidance documents to identify opportunities to improve or develop new guidance and tools, and develop success stories that can be shared with other communities. Success stories for early adopters can illustrate how the resilience guidance can be implemented, identify strengths and weaknesses in the process, and its benefits.

Community Resilience Panel
The Community Resilience Panel will be established through support by NIST to provide a neutral convening body that includes a broad spectrum of stakeholders (e.g., planners, designers, owners and operators; local, state, and federal governments; standards and model code development organizations; insurers and re-insurers; industry and professional organizations; disaster response and recovery organizations; and academic experts). The mission of the Panel is to reduce barriers to achieving community resilience by promoting collaboration among stakeholders to strengthen the resilience of buildings, infrastructure, and social systems upon which communities rely. The Panel will consider the adequacy of standards, guidelines, best practices and other tools and recommend, develop, and work with others to make improvements in community resilience. Over time, as the Panel matures and develops useful products and support for community resilience, it is anticipated that the Panel may become an independent entity.

Created May 11, 2016, Updated October 11, 2019