The Resilient Nation Roundup | May 2021

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OUR Next Generation. The inaugural “Next Generation of Resilience" Students Showcase proved we have more work to do, AND that we have some very capable young people to help us “get there” and make things happen!

Resilience students from across the country competed in the inaugural Student Showcase by first submitting their proposed projects. The top four we selected were presented to a national audience on April 28. ALL applicants are winners, as are we! The students stepped up and shared great insights and potential solutions for furthering the mission and goals of FEMA’s Resilient Nation Partnership Network—our network.

Our diverse and newly acquainted expert evaluation team brought unique perspectives to the process. For us, it was a pleasure but not an easy task to choose only four from among the quality student submissions.

To ensure a nonbiased evaluation process, the student project submissions were evaluated “blind.” The only information about the students provided to the five reviewers was the FEMA region for which the author submitted their abstract. The evaluation criteria we developed accounted for quality of writing, accuracy of thesis, methodology and timeliness of the subject as related to current practice and needs. We reviewed closely for a high ability to execute the thesis. We also measured against the following objectives of the Network:

  • Promoting natural hazard mitigation actions.
  • Advancing equitable resilience initiatives.
  • Expanding capacity through partnerships.

We were pleased at the diversity, inclusiveness and action-oriented nature of the projects the four selected students presented.

This was an interesting and exciting opportunity. The reviewers were impressed to see contributions spanning economic forecasting for disaster planning; cities’ adaptation to climate change; disruption management for small businesses; and community resilience programming.

AND…the student presentations were even more impressive!

We strongly encourage the continuation and growth of the Student Showcase, and we strongly encourage and support the work of this new generation of talented forward-thinkers for resilience building. These students are the future leaders, critical thinkers and decisions makers for the equitable community resilience we all seek.

We are all mentors. Let’s continue to do our part to keep young people actively engaged in resilience – in ideation and creation, and in practice.


William “Bill” Anderson 
Senior Program Officer
Transportation Research Board, NAS  

Elira Karaja, Ph.D.
Economist, Fellow Columbia University/Sustainability Specialist
United Nations System 

Suzanna Perea
EPA, Region 6, Water Division (Environmental Scientist)

Annie Vest 
Meshek and Associates 
Board of Directors, Natural Hazard Mitigation Association

Lee Ann Woods
Community Consultant (Sustainability & Resilience)
Walnut Ridge Group


Upcoming Events

Funding Opportunities

“Next Generation of Resilience” Student Showcase Abstract Submissions

The abstracts below are all the entries received for the "Next Generation of Resilience" Student Showcase. While we could only feature four as part of the event, the Network wanted to highlight all of the incredible work and research that was submitted by students nationwide. Please take a look and reach out to them if you have questions or want to learn more. The future of resilience is looking very bright!

Environmental Justice-informed Flood Buyout Prioritization in Atlantic City

By: Alvin Chin, Rutgers University, 

Floodplain buyouts enhance resiliency by encouraging residents in at-risk areas to relocate. Such programs usually rely on a cost-benefit analysis that 1) prioritizes monetary loss avoidance for risk reduction, and 2) focuses on single-family homeowners. Prioritizing avoided losses and homeowners can exacerbate social inequities in adaptation efforts by excluding at-risk owners of low-value homes and renters. Moreover, many who would benefit from such assistance may be reluctant to participate due to factors including language barriers, disabilities and historical exclusion/displacement policies that have disparately impacted minority communities.

For this project, we explore how embracing a broader set of risk reduction measures, in addition to avoided losses, might enhance the likelihood for equitable outcomes from buyout programs. Students of the New Jersey Climate Resilience Corps, coordinating with NJDEP Blue Acres, are studying options to identify more robust equity measures for residential flood buyouts. The location we examine is Atlantic City, a barrier island city with 31% Hispanic and 35% Black residents. We use local property tax data to identify at-risk housing to target eligible residents—renters or homeowners—with appropriate information on opportunities for buyouts/relocation assistance. We identify least-risk relocation areas within neighborhoods to minimize disrupting existing social ties. We also identify historically Redlined neighborhoods and socially vulnerable neighborhoods, which have depressed property values and thus lower buyout payments; comparable housing elsewhere is costlier.

Thus, our upcoming efforts will focus on 1) local outreach partnerships, and 2) developing a system to provide equitable relocation assistance to redress historical disparities in property values.

Resilience Youth Network

By: Robert Fetell, University of Pennsylvania,

Although today’s youth are passionate about environmental stewardship and reducing emissions, disaster resilience seldom receives the attention it deserves from decision-makers, the popular media or universities. Consequently, most people are unaware that the built environment is primarily to blame for widespread damages and losses from disaster events. Misaligned incentives, low risk perceptions and lacking transparency lead to adoption of weak building codes, uses of cheap/weak materials and construction in high risk areas. We should be asking: Why are our assets so weak, what can we do to protect them and how can we better plan for future events?

Resilience Youth Network is a community of students and young professionals committed to advancing resilience by: 1) Raising awareness of built environment disasters; 2) Promoting action to plan for natural risks; and 3) Facilitating networking across disciplines and sectors. We empower our members to explore emerging solutions for making the built environment more disaster resilient and career opportunities that span the engineering, disaster planning and policy realms. Our focus is immediate and pointed at tackling the consequences of climate change – how to proactively adapt buildings and infrastructure – across all related disciplines. RYN members participate for free, and benefit from programming on various resilience-related projects and networking events with industry mentors. Joining is easy: familiarize yourself with our goals and mentor backgrounds, and then sign our pledge to demonstrate your commitment to our shared mission. For more information, please reach out to

A Human-Centric Approach to Economic Forecasting and Disaster Planning

By: Laura Kozuszek, Northeastern University/College of Professional Studies
For more information, please reach out to

The Zipper Philosophy allows economists and disaster professionals at all levels to work together strategically. On one side of the Zipper is disaster management and on the other side are the economists. The idea would be to improve the working relationship to close the gap of missed storms and/or economic shocks that take society by surprise. This framework focuses onThe Four Ps; policy reform, preparedness actions, proactive measures and partnerships. Stronger policies at all levels would allow for policy writers to pass policies that support and encourage economists and disaster management personnel to work side by side to accomplish a common goal of protecting the community they live and serve in. Proactive measures need to be taken seriously as a benchmark to increase the readiness of communities on each level; individual, community, national and spilling over into the international community. Focusing on preparedness efforts instead of always reacting and responding to a crisis allows communities to plan so they may have the supplies they need before the incident occurs. This will allow resilience to work and thrive. Lastly, partnerships that increase our networks professionally, personally and internationally, will help us rebuild and/or keep building economies that are able to sustain the hard times that are coming. Encouragement of active partnerships between the academic/private sector that economists tend to live in and what truly happens in the real world can allow leaders to interact in a way that is more understood and gives room for the unexpected.

Gender Equality and the Adaptive Capacity of States to Climate Change

By: Reyna L Reyes Nunez, University of Nebraska at Omaha,

Climate Change is a phenomenon that intersects social, economic, political and environmental challenges. Countries and nations must face such challenges that are inherently multifaceted. In this regard, achieving gender equality has a unique role in the global multilateral agenda. Currently, scholars know that vulnerability has a noteworthy gap when it is gendered: women suffer the most when there are natural and human- made disasters. However, less is known about how gender equality influences countries' overall vulnerability and fosters adaptation and resilience. The relevance of studying gender equality and climate change resides in the determination of its role concerning vulnerability and in fostering resilience among societies around the world. The research question that guides this study is: "How gender equality influence countries' adaptive capacity to climate change consequences?" The hypothesis tested suggests that the more gender equality in a state, the more adaptive capacity to the negative consequences of climate change. The study runs a multivariate regression analysis with five variables: adaptive capacity, gender equality, GDP, population and conflict. The study finds that the relationship between the dependent and independent variables is statistically significant, and there is a strong association. On a scale 0 to 1, a 0.1 unit increase in gender inequality predicts a decrease in adaptive capacity by 5.18 units for the year 2000, 5.12 for 2010, and 5.29 for 2017. This research contributes to current knowledge by demonstrating that more equal societies are better adapted and, there- fore, less vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change.

How Could Community-based Approaches Across the Hazard Cycle Help Advance Equity in FEMA’s Programs? A Literature Review of Past Approaches

By: Sonny Patel, University of Sydney and Harvard University (research fellow)
For more information, please reach out to

Community-based approaches offer a major promise for improving equity in disaster management, and have become the usual approach in most countries outside the United States when dealing with a hazard. Yet within the United States this approach is by in large in its infancy. In this article, we examine how Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) might be able to incorporate community-based approaches into its programming to improve equity. We carried out a literature review and systematically synthesized evidence from current FEMA initiatives and their impact on equity. Our findings highlight the directions which FEMA can advance equitable initiatives and improve disaster management by adapting its current processes of involving communities and working with them through improved community- based approaches and engagement. Using a multidimensional framework of assessing equity through distributive, procedural and contextual lenses, we identify several challenges in how FEMA advances equity. Although it may not be a catch-all solution for everything, community- based approaches could improve equity. We conclude with recommendations for how to do this type of community-based engagement and future research priorities for making it happen. 

Increasing Heat Resilience Through Thermal Comfort Assessment in Sun Link Streetcar Stops, Tucson, Arizona

By: Ida Sami, College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture/University of Arizona
For more information, please reach out to

The built environment plays an essential role in outdoor thermal comfort, and it is critical for successful transit systems and transit-oriented development (TOD). One of the drivers in TOD projects is equitable access to public transportation. Tucson, Arizona, is one of the United States cities that developed a streetcar system to promote downtown redevelopment and advance several sustainability goals. Increasing temperature due to both climate change and the urban heat island effect leads to higher instances of heat stress for public transportation users in their journey from leaving home, walking, biking, to waiting for public transit. Since streetcar stations and bus stops are permanent infrastructures where riders temporarily wait, riders' thermal comfort at stops is essential in improving streetcar ride quality. This study focuses on Tucson streetcar stops to assess streetcar users' outdoor thermal comfort by documenting ambient and radiant temperatures at all 23 Sun Link streetcar stations, transit rider surveys and interviews with stakeholders. This research is undertaken as part of a co-produced transdisciplinary research team comprised of the City of Tucson Transportation Planning Department, Sun Link Streetcar, Shade Tucson and Pima Association of Governments (PAG). This study's outcomes will help to fill the gap in knowledge between climate sciences, public health and transportation planning. The findings will also help inform decision-makers' of ongoing climate action planning, hazard mitigation planning, long-range planning, neighborhood planning and streetscape design efforts.

Mobile Phone Data for Evaluating Access to Essential Services Surrounding Disruptive Events

By: Tessa Swanson, University of Michigan, 

Access to essential services determine individuals’ abilities to meet health, safety and social needs that enable them to thrive in their daily lives. But such access is not equitable and inequities can be exacerbated when a community is faced with a disruption, like a natural hazard, recession or pandemic. Furthermore, access is complicated to measure and evaluate because it includes not only proximity, but other dimensions such as availability, affordability and awareness. Survey data and census-tract level evaluations of access are typical methods to correlate the impacts of disruptions on vulnerabilities and access to necessities including nutritious food, healthcare, education and internet connectivity. However, these methods are time and labor intensive, cannot necessarily capture multiple dimensions of access and can miss patterns that may only reveal themselves at household levels. Location based services data (LBS) from mobile phones offer opportunities for evaluating multiple dimensions of access at the household-level and how that access changes during and following disruptive events. In my research, I use LBS to calculate access measures and quantitatively assess the relationship between access and individuals’ resilience using LBS spanning the Southeast United States during the months surrounding Hurricane Irma (August-October 2017). I model access versus recovery times to identify roles of various access measures on individual-level resilience. This research contributes to understanding impacts of inequities in access across different demographic populations and in response to various types of disruptive events. This understanding is critical for designing policy and infrastructure mitigation, adaptation and recovery interventions for more equitable and resilient futures.

Utilizing Community-Driven Engagement Practices to Establish a Toolkit of Equitable Adaptation to Inform the Greater Portland Regional Approach to Municipal Climate Action Planning

By: Jessica Hench, Antioch University New England,

This project, based in Portland, Maine, aims to address the intersection of equity and climate change by engaging in socioecological research to help embed inclusion in local adaptation planning.

The objective of this project uses concepts of environmental justice to help white-led municipalities uncover practices within planning that may unintentionally disadvantage underrepresented communities and discover resources to collectively strive for equitable adaptation in the form of a localized toolkit.

The Maine Climate Council recently produced eight carbon-reducing strategies in its plan: Maine Won’t Wait. Also inspired by two leading municipalities and their plan, One Climate Future, smaller municipalities are ready to welcome climate change in their planning processes. The Greater Portland Council of Governments is a regional planning organization which serves twenty-five towns in Southern Maine. The agency is beginning to usher a more regionalized approach to climate action planning, but because it functions with the community it serves primarily in terms of elected officials and municipal staff, meaningful engagement of underrepresented folks is essential to climate adaptation planning.

Antioch University is currently coordinating a New England centered Facilitated Community of Practice which aims to collectively create a roadmap for a just transition. Throughout the conference, this project will undergo interviews with the participates to collect storytelling as data and create a Needs Assessment to supplement the resources found in the toolkit.

Building Systemic Resilience: A Guide for Small Cities Adapting to a Changing Climate

By: Hannah Kushner, Lehigh University,

The systemic resilience approach invites cities to look beyond the physical threats posed by climate change and to assess underlying and chronic social, economic and environmental risks. Systemic resilience is a holistic mindset with the potential to go beyond minimizing harm from natural hazards to have a restorative effect on social justice. Focusing on investments in people and institutions can allow even the least-resourced cities to start mitigating their climate risks. Cities can use and share resilience resources more effectively if common vulnerabilities are identified and synergistic solutions are developed. The systemic resilience approach is being tested in real-time by the Biden administration and New York State and these leaders must assess and disseminate best practices from their experiences to small cities that lack the resources to invest in resilience and have the most to benefit from integrating institutional resilience into everyday municipal operations. Often politically neutral towards resilience, smaller cities can drive US climate adaptation if given adequate guidance and leadership. A 14-step guide is proposed for local leaders to follow as they plan for their cities to become systemically resilient. This guide presents a framework of questions in the categories of reflect, identify, assess and do that challenge preconceived mindsets of what resilience looks like to create cities that are documented, efficient, knowledgeable and connected. Achieving systemic resilience lays the groundwork for small cities to take a harder look at their social, economic, environmental and institutional systems and begin addressing their vulnerability to climate change.

Protecting Main Street: Small Business, Community Resilience, and Natural Hazards

By: Eleanor Davis Pierel, University of South Carolina,

Small businesses have experienced significant revenue decreases, employee and customer losses, supply chain disruptions and government-mandated restrictions and closures due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the pandemic, natural hazards, including wildfires, hurricanes and floods, have further disrupted small businesses and communities across the country. As small businesses provide two-thirds of net new jobs and almost 50% of the United States workforce, the growing impact of COVID-19 and hazards amplifies the need for small business resilience building.

This study of small businesses and community assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on existing, underutilized mechanisms to support community resilience and provides insights into factors that increase horizontal support networks. This research explores the role of small businesses in community resilience, focusing on three central questions: 1) How are small businesses connected to vertical and horizontal hazard support networks? 2) What are the factors impacting small businesses' involvement in their communities during disaster impacts and short-term recovery phases? 3) How might the COVID-19 lessons inform small business owners’ community support networks during future natural hazards? We improve upon previous research methodologies by studying small business support networks at both local and national scales.

Our results include insights into support networks of minority- and women-owned businesses, lessons learned about the importance of federal financial assistance and policy implications to enhance the resilience of communities.

Leadership and Environmental Justice: Insights for Equitable Mitigation and Recovery

By: Olivia Vila, North Carolina State University,

Distributional injustices in the way people experience and recover from disasters have been widely documented. Currently however, there is limited knowledge about ways to promote equitable disaster recovery and hazard mitigation across diverse communities. The concept of recognition justice may be a useful frame for exploring factors that can contribute to equity in this context. Recognition justice is the idea that group difference in the distribution of environmental ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ is acknowledged and respected, and has been empirically linked to procedural and distributional equity. This presentation will explore the role of recognition in disaster recovery and hazard mitigation, as well as the role of leadership in prompting recognition. Leadership has been found to help diverse stakeholders come forward, amplify differences that may otherwise be subdued in participatory processes, promote openness and receptivity to stakeholder diversity, identify and connect diverse partners, and champion the disadvantaged, which are all actions that may contribute to greater recognition. To explore how leadership can facilitate recognition of underserved communities, and how that recognition may be associated with the opportunities those communities have to recover from disasters and mitigate against future hazards, this presentation will focus on the preliminary results of two research studies. These studies include (1) a national survey of State Hazard Mitigation Officers (SHMOs), exploring the state’s role in helping underserved communities implement FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grants and (2) semi-structured interviews with community recovery organizations and officials about their engagement with the Latinx community in Wilmington, North Carolina after Hurricane Florence.

Mark Your Calendars! 

Join the Resilient Nation Partnership Network for our first ever “Ideation Hour”! A part of the Resilience Exchange series, this freestyle event is open to everyone and we’re asking you to bring your best resilience ideas, projects, needs and collaboration opportunities to the table. We'll be talking a broad range of topics including but not limited to:

  • Wildfires (wildfire season is here)
  • Social resilience
  • Equity-centered design
  • Hurricane Season 2021

Ask questions, network with others, and engage in creative conversation to help build actionable partnerships.

RNPN June Ideation Hour

Register here.


Phone: +1 646 828 7666
Meeting ID: 160 385 6856
Passcode: 688004

Questions? Reach out to

Visit our website for more information about the RNPN.