Indian Ocean Tsunami Early Warning System

Coastal Community Resilience

The Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 raised global awareness of the potentially devastating impacts of tsunamis. Extreme hazard events—such as tsunamis and storms— as well as many other coastal hazards pose increasing threats to coastal communities worldwide that result from poorly planned development, environmental degradation and poor and unequal economies. These events also highlight the fact that single sector development planning cannot sufficiently address the risks (or solutions) to coastal populations. Similarly, response, recovery and redevelopment must be integrated with the fabric and vision of the community.

Over the last two years, the U.S. Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System Program (US-IOTWS), funded by the United States Agency for International Development, worked with partner agencies and organizations throughout the Indian Ocean region to identify essential elements of resilient coastal communities.  This provided a foundation to cooperatively develop an assessment tool to evaluate the capacity of coastal communities to reduce risk, accelerate recovery to disasters, and adapt to changes resulting from coastal hazards from both chronic and episodic events. These elements of coastal community resilience serve as an integrated framework for coastal management, disaster management, and community development. Working with practitioners throughout the region, the US-IOTWS Program developed and tested this tool to evaluate resilience and identify best practices to increase coastal community resilience. The publication How Resilient is Your Coastal Community? A Guide for Evaluating Coastal Community Resilience to Tsunamis and Other Coastal Hazards was recently unveiled in Bangkok.  The Guide was prepared as a collaborative effort between members of the US-IOTWS Program including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, IRG-Tetra Tech, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center, the University of Rhode Island, Coastal Resources Center, and partner agencies and organizations throughout the region.

Framework for Coastal Community Resilience (CCR)

The CCR Guide was built around lessons learned and experience gained in the Indian Ocean region during the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami—lessons about how to address coastal hazards, reduce future risks, increase the effectiveness of recovery, and adapt to changes within the community and the environment. A key lesson that emerged is that single-sector development planning cannot solve the complexity of problems posed by natural hazards nor build resilience to them. Solutions require working across sectors and with a wide array of groups and organizations. Resilience requires spreading the risk and developing integrated and holistic prevention and management programs. In this manner, unexpected changes can be absorbed more easily, so that disaster scenarios can be avoided whenever possible. The Guide encourages looking across three key domains—disaster management, coastal management and community development—to assess resilience in a holistic fashion.

The CCR framework was developed through a series of workshops and discussions with practitioners and specialists from government agencies and NGOs addressing various aspects of resilience throughout the Indian Ocean region. Through this participatory process, eight elements of resilience were identified as essential for CCR. Long-term planning and implementation issues are incorporated into the elements of society and economy, coastal management, land use and structural design. Hazard event-oriented resilience elements focus on contingency planning and preparedness for warning and evacuation, emergency response, and disaster recovery. Governance as a resilience element provides the enabling framework for resilience in all other elements. Risk knowledge is a crosscutting requirement within each resilience element. Enhancing resilience in all of these elements is considered essential to reduce risk from coastal hazards, accelerate recovery from disaster events, and adapt to changing conditions in manner that is consistent with community goals.