Disaster Resilience Monitoring

It is difficult to measure the success of hazard mitigation efforts. Why? Because for an valid measurement to occur, a community would have to compare damage incurred with and without the hazard mitigation actions. And the events being compared would have to be of the same strength, duration, and location. This seldom occurs.

Disaster Resilience MonitoringDisaster Resilience Monitoring Indicators

Other indicators are available, however, to estimate the effectiveness of the hazard mitigation strategy and disaster resilience monitoring—that is, whether the community has increased or decreased its vulnerability to natural hazards. In addition to measuring a community’s progress toward achieving its mitigation goals, the indicators also can be used to set performance goals for a community, e.g., reducing the percentage of homes in the floodplain by 10% per year. Finally, the indicators can help build support for mitigation programs by showing tangible benefits. Several indicators for improving the resilience of homes, businesses, critical facilities, and the natural environment are shown in the disaster resilience monitoring list below.

Communities vary in their vulnerability to natural hazards and in their capacity to mitigate their impacts. Some face risks from several types of natural hazards, such as earthquakes, landslides, and wildfires, while others suffer primarily from a single type of hazard, such as flooding. Some are subject to seasonal hazards that occur in relatively predictable areas, such as wildfires in the west or Nor’easters along the Atlantic coast, while in other communities, disasters can strike anytime. Also, communities vary in the amount of  development that has occurred in hazard prone locations and in their approach to mitigation, e.g., structural or nonstructural. Thus, each community is unique, and its approach to addressing the threat of natural disaster varies considerably based on disaster strategy. This means each disaster resilience monitoring plan will be different.

Checklist for Measuring Community Resilience to Natural Disasters


  • Fewer households living in unsafe areas
  • Fewer repetitively damaged structures
  • Increase in number of households with insurance against natural hazards


  • Fewer businesses in unsafe areas
  • Fewer repetitively damaged structures
  • Increase in number of businesses with insurance against natural hazards

Infrastructure and critical facilities

  • Critical facilities (hospitals, police and fire stations, schools, etc.) relocated to safe areas or protected against damage from natural hazards
  • Fewer repetitively damaged facilities
  • Infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewage treatment plants, water treatment plants) relocated to safe areas or protected against damage from natural hazards

Natural Environment

  • Unsafe land use activities (junkyards or chemical storage facilities) relocated from areas prone to natural hazards. New unsafe uses prohibited in such areas
  • Commercial or industrial facilities in hazard-prone, environmentally-sensitive areas have undertaken mitigation measures to reduce the likelihood of the release of hazardous materials
  • Wetlands, floodplains, dunes, and coastal zones protected from development or damage

(North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, 2000)
Most communities will remain vulnerable to one type of natural hazard or another. Natural disasters provide an opportunity for communities to become more sustainable—to rebuild and redevelop homes, businesses, critical facilities and infrastructure in a manner that they will be less vulnerable to future disasters. To do so requires communities to implement policies and programs that (1) make structures in hazard-prone areas more damage-resistant, (2) avoid development in hazardous areas, and (3) protect natural areas that can reduce the impacts of natural disasters. This is the essence of hazard mitigation.

Disaster Resilience Monitoring: Mitigation

Disaster resilience monitoring and mitigation is an ongoing process, and few communities can claim that they are completely free from the risk of natural disasters. Some small communities, such as Pattonsburg, Missouri; Grafton, Illinois; and Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin have come close, because they have relocated themselves to higher ground, out of the path of floodwaters. In most other places, however, particularly in large cities that were settled along rivers or ports or in earthquake-prone areas, relocation of all vulnerable properties is not feasible. It is possible, however, to reduce a community’s vulnerability.

When disaster strikes, a mitigation plan can help guide the recovery effort toward increased resilience to future disasters. The plan can help forge a common vision on how to make the community, including its businesses, more resilient and sustainable. And the plan can help ensure that community decisions about the type and location of future growth consider the impacts of natural hazards.

By integrating mitigation concepts into governmental activities today, a community can reduce its vulnerability to natural hazards and avoid much more costly losses from tomorrow’s disasters. The time, energy, and resources invested in mitigation could significantly reduce the demand for future dollars by reducing the amount needed for emergency recovery, repair, and reconstruction after a disaster. That is, it could make a community more sustainable, by safeguarding the environment, protecting the local economy, and promoting greater equity. See more on disaster recovery planning process.