The PEOPLES framework dimensions are:

Brief descriptions of the above research topics follow:


Population and demographic data that describe and differentiate a focal community provide a context for understanding the remaining PEOPLES dimensions. Knowing, for example, the median income and age distribution for a community is critical to understanding its economic health and potential resilience. Communities tend to differ on key demographics; to the extent that two or more communities may be similar, Community A and Community B, we can predict Community B’s hypothetical response to a disaster based on Community A’s actual response to a disaster.


a)      Distribution/Density

i)        Urban

ii)      Suburban

iii)    Rural

iv)    Wildland

b)      Composition

i)        Age

ii)      Gender

iii)    Immigrant Status

iv)    Race/Ethnicity

c)      Socio-Economic Status

i)        Educational Attainment

ii)      Income

iii)    Poverty

iv)    Home Ownership

v)      Housing Vacancies

vi)   Occupation

One measure of functionality of population and demographics (Qp) within a given community can be quantified by using the social vulnerability index (SoVI) proposed by Cutter (1996). Social vulnerability (a counterpart of social resilience) is defined as the inability of people, organizations, and societies to withstand adverse impacts from multiple stressors to which they are exposed. These impacts are due in part to characteristics inherent in social interactions, institutions, and systems of cultural values. Social vulnerability is a pre-existing condition of the community that affects the society’s ability to prepare for and recover from a disruptive event.
Resilience focuses on the quality of life of the people at risk and develops opportunities to enhance a better outcome, while vulnerability places stress on the production of nature (Smith and O’Keefe, 1996) to resist the natural hazard.  Manyena (2006) evaluates all the possible definitions provided from the 90’s up until the present, and compares the concept of resilience as the opposite of vulnerability. This dimension of vulnerability can be measured using a social index that describes the socioeconomic status, the composition of the population (elderly and children), development density, rural agriculture, race, gender, ethnicity, infrastructure employment, and county debt/revenue. The social index described is based on Cutter’s Hazards-of-Place Model of Vulnerability framework that integrates exposure to hazards with the social conditions that make people vulnerable to them (Cutter, 1996; Cutter et al., 2000).  

Research Leader: Prof Lucy Arendt (

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While resilience is a critical element of resource management and is necessary to sustain desirable ecosystem states in the face of unknown futures and variable environments (Elmqvist et al., 2003), it is not easily assessed (Adger, 2000).  Resilience of a system depends on various factors such as time scale, the actual disturbance, the structure of the system, and control measures or polices that are available to be implemented (Ludwig et al., 2002).  Ecological or ecosystem resilience is typically measured by the amount of disturbance an ecosystem can absorb without drastically altering its functions, processes, and structures (Gunderson, 2000), or by the ability of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance.



a)      Water Quality/Quantity

b)      Air Quality

c)      Soil Quality

d)     Biodiversity

e)      Biomass (Vegetation)

f)       Other Natural Resources

In the context of the PEOPLES Resilience Framework, environmental and ecosystem resources serve as indicators for measuring the ability of the ecological system to return to or near its pre-event state (Table 4).  One such indicator is the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is calculated from satellite-derived remote sensing imagery that analyzes the density of green vegetation across a region. NDVI can be used in the framework as a proxy for ecosystem productivity and is calculated using the red (Red) and near infrared (NIR) absorption bands.

Research Leader: Prof Chris Renschler (

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In contrast to the more or less spontaneous individual and neighborhood responses to extreme events, organized governmental services are designed to allow an orderly response.


a)      Executive/Administrative

i)        Emergency Response and Rescue

ii)      Health and Hygiene

b)      Judicial

c)      Legal/Security

        Organized governmental services include traditional legal and security services such as police, emergency, and fire departments and increasingly, the military. In this dimension, we also include the services provided by public health and hygiene departments as well as cultural heritage departments. Each of these organized government services plays a key role in sustaining communities both before and after extreme events. A good example of the necessity of a well-functioning government may be seen in the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In the aftermath, the news media reported a lack of government services and orderly control, and a general perception that the government is not in a position to help its people (Schwartz, 2010). In contrast, the Darfield earthquake in New Zealand was followed by quick response on the part of local, territorial, and national government services.

Spontaneous helping behavior, convergence, mass volunteering, and emergent groups are sources of resilience, in that they infuse resources and creativity into disaster response activities (Stallings and Quarantelli, 1985; Drabek and McEntire, 2002). At the level of organizations and networks, organizational responses during crisis are most likely to be effective—and resilient—when they successfully blend discipline and agility (Harrald, 2006). Pre-existing plans, training, exercises, mutual aid agreements, and other concepts of operations help ensure disciplined and appropriate responses, but they do so not because they encourage the playing out of pre-determined scripts but rather because they facilitate collective sense-making and inspire action toward shared goals (Weick, 1995; Weick et al., 2005).  Flexibility, adaptability, and improvisation among responding entities make their own distinctive contributions to resilience. Organizational expansion, extension, and emergence are key bases of resilient disaster responses (Sutton and Tierney, 2006).

The concept of collaborative emergency management seeks to engage all critical community sectors in preparing for and responding to disasters, including local elected and appointed officials; subject matter experts; community-based, faith based and other non-governmental organizations, the general public, including both community members that belong to groups such as community emergency response teams and volunteers; the private sector and business networks; and the mass media (Patton, 2007).  Collaborative management, as opposed to top-down direction, is another characteristic of resilient systems. Hierarchies tend to stand in the way of upward information flow, the form of communication that is most essential during disasters. Less hierarchical forms of organization work best in all types of turbulent environments, including disasters, in part because they encourage a free flow of ideas, but also because flatter organizations and decentralized networks are more nimble in responding to those environments (Burns and Stalker, 1961; Waugh and Streib, 2006).

Key indicators for this dimension include the number of available response units and their capacity. Population and demographic numbers would be used to normalize the number and capacity of these services. In addition to assessing the availability of government services in terms of personnel and equipment, this dimension also includes an evaluation of emergency preparedness planning. For example, surveys may reveal the extent to which organized government services have developed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) and other types of mutual aid agreements, and the extent to which various organized government services participate in emergency and evacuation drills and table-top exercises (Tierney, 2009).

Research Leader: Prof Lucy Arendt (

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The physical infrastructure dimension focuses on a community’s built environment. It incorporates both facilities and lifelines.

Within the category of facilities, we include housing, commercial facilities, and cultural facilities. Within the category of lifelines, we include food supply, health care, utilities, transportation, and communication networks. Lifelines are those essential utility and transportation systems that serve communities across all jurisdictions and locales. Lifelines are thus components of the nation’s critical infrastructure, which also includes medical, financial, and other infrastructure systems that create the fabric of modern society. For clarity, lifeline infrastructures are simply called in short lifelines in this report. Lifelines include: (a) energy utilities and companies (electric power and natural gas and liquid fuel pipelines); (b) transportation systems (roads and highways, railroads, airports, and seaports); (c) water, storm-water, and sewerage; (d) communication systems; and (e) health care facilities (hospitals, cliniques, emergency facilities, etc), most distributed in well linked networks.

Next to impacts on people, the physical infrastructure is often the most compelling “story” in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, as organized government services work to restore needed utilities and clear roadways of structural and other debris. After people had been evacuated from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, people focused on the physical infrastructure. Everywhere one looked, one saw destroyed houses, commercial buildings, and cultural and other critical facilities such as churches, schools, and hospitals. Photographs of destruction are used to communicate the devastating effects of the hurricane and subsequent flooding to the world outside New Orleans.

Without water and electricity, critical facilities such as hospitals cannot perform effectively their primary functions. Inaccessible roads make surface transportation impossible, creating an obstacle for supply chain management and efficient movement. When streets and buildings are cordoned off because of damage, businesses may be open, but will not be “in business.” Even when businesses relocate for the short-term due to damage to facilities, customers may not find the businesses. Damaged schools shake a community’s confidence in itself to overcome disasters and recover.


a)       Facilities

i)         Residential

(1)     Housing Units

(2)     Shelters

ii)       Commercial

(1)     Distribution Facilities

(2)     Hotels - Accommodations

(3)     Manufacturing Facilities

(4)     Office Buildings

iii)      Cultural

(1)     Entertainment Venues

(2)     Museums

(3)     Religious Institutions

(4)     Schools

(5)     Sports/Recreation Venues

b)       Lifelines

i)         Communications

(1)     Internet

(2)     Phones

(3)     TV

(4)     Radio

(5)     Postal

ii)       Health Care

(1)     Acute Care

(2)     Long-Term Acute Care

(3)     Primary Care

(4)     Psychiatric

(5)     Specialty

iii)      Food Supply

iv)     Utilities

(1)     Electrical

(2)     Fuel/Gas/Energy

(3)     Waste

(4)     Water

v)       Transportation

(1)     Aviation

(2)     Bridges

(3)     Highways

(4)     Railways

(5)     Transit

(6)     Vehicles

(7)   Waterways

In terms of housing, key indicators may include proportion of housing stock not rated as substandard or hazardous and vacancy rates for rental housing (Tierney, 2009). In terms of communication networks, key indicators may include adequacy (or sufficiency) of procedures for communicating with the public and addressing the public’s need for accurate information following disasters, adequacy of linkages between official and unofficial information sources, and adequacy of ties between emergency management entities and mass media serving diverse populations (Tierney, 2009).

In the aftermath of a disaster, the restoration and recovery of physical infrastructure remain by-and-large technical issues, however those are tightly related and often driven by organizations, economics and socio-political events. The resilience must consider these interactive dimensions in order to be relevant to the system.

Research Leader: Prof Gian Paolo Cimellaro (

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As suggested by Harrald (cited in Micale, 2010, para. 5), "Resilience … requires the building of collaborative relationships that will enable communities and businesses to better absorb, adapt, survive, and thrive when confronted with extreme events.”   Norris et al. (2008) describe community resilience as “a metaphor, theory, set of capabilities and strategy for disaster readiness” (p. 127). One of the capabilities they discuss is community competence. Community competence is essential to community resilience in the same way that individual competence is essential to personal hardiness. Community competence deals with community action, critical reflection and problem solving skills, flexibility and creativity, collective efficacy, empowerment, and political partnerships (Norris et al., 2008).


a)      Collective Action and Decision Making

i)        Conflict Resolution

ii)      Self-Organization

b.)    Collective Efficacy and Empowerment

c.)    Quality of Life

This dimension reflects the reality that community resilience is not simply a passive “bouncing back” to pre-disaster conditions (Brown and Kulig, 1996/97) but rather a concerted and active effort that relies on peoples’ ability to creatively imagine a new future and then take the requisite steps to achieve that desired future. It captures both the raw abilities of the community (e.g., ability to develop multifaceted solutions to complex problems, ability to engage in meaningful political networks) and the community’s perceptions of its ability to effect positive change. Communities that collectively believe that they can rebuild, restructure, and revive themselves are more likely to be persistent in the face of environmental, governmental, and other obstacles.

Quality of life surveys often reveal whether members of a given community are committed to that community and willing to engage in the activities necessary to sustain the community, regardless of whether a disaster strikes. Less soft general indicators of community competence may include measures of migration, measures of citizen involvement in politics, and others. Disaster-specific indicators may include the comprehensiveness of community warning plans and procedures, and the extensiveness of citizen and organizational disaster training programs (Tierney, 2009).

Research Leader: Prof Lucy Arendt (

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According to Radloff (2006), “A community needs to have access to resources to grow and react to changes. The difference between resilient and non-resilient resources is that the former focus on addressing local needs and are often locally based sources of employment, skills, and finances” (p. 16). There are six points to this dimension of resilience:
1.    Employment in the community is diversified beyond a single employer or employment sector;
2.    Major employers in the community are locally owned;
3.    The community has a strategy for increasing independent local ownership;
4.    There is openness to alternative ways of earning a living and economic activity.
5.    The community looks outside itself to seek and secure resources (skills, expertise, finance) to address areas of identified weakness;
6.    The community is aware of its competitive position in the broader economy (The Centre for Community Enterprise, 2000: 15-16).

Economic development includes both the static assessment of a community’s current economy (economic activity) and the dynamic assessment of a community’s ability to continuously sustain economic growth (economic development) (see Table 8).

As described in the RICSA Poverty Project (2010), economic activity takes into account the supply of labor for the production of economic goods and services, which includes:

 “All production and processing of primary products whether for market, for barter or for own consumption, the production of all other goods for the market and, in the case of households which produce such goods and services for the market, the corresponding production for own consumption.”

Economic development addresses the future and growth. It addresses a community’s efforts to increase its:

“productive capacities ..., in terms of technologies (more efficient tools and machines), technical cultures (knowledge of nature, research and capacity to develop improved technologies), and the physical, technical and organizational capacities and skills of those engaged in production.” 


a)      Financial Services

i)        Asset Base of Financial Institutions

ii)      Checking Account Balances (Personal and Commercial)

iii)    Consumer Price Index

iv)    Insurance

v)      Number and Average Amount of Loans

vi)    Number of Bank and Credit Union Members

vii)  Number of Banks and Credit Unions

viii)            Savings Account Balances (Personal and Commercial)

ix)    Stock Market

b)      Industry – Employment - Services

i)        Agriculture

ii)      Construction

iii)    Education and Health Services

iv)    Finance, Insurance and Real Estate

v)      Fortune 1000

vi)    Fortune 500

vii)  Information, Professional Business, Other

viii)            Leisure and Hospitality

ix)    Manufacturing

x)      Number of Corporate Headquarters

xi)    Other Business Services

xii)  Professional and Business Services

(1)   Employment Services

(a)    Flexibilities

(b)   Opportunities

(c)    Placement

(2)   Transport and Utilities

(3)   Wholesale and Retail

c)      Industry – Production

i)        Food Supply

ii)      Manufacturing

.Resilient communities are characterized by their involvement in a diverse array of products and services that are both produced in and available to the community. Diversity in production and employment is linked to a community’s ability to substitute goods and services and shift employment patterns as the situation demands. The PEOPLES Resilience Framework incorporates three illustrative subcategories within this dimension: Industry – Production, Industry – Employment Distribution, and Financial Services. Primary indicators of this dimension include the proportion of the population that is employed within the various industries, and the variability that might characterize a community’s industrial employment distribution.

This dimension is closely interconnected with the Population and Demographics dimension. For example, key indicators of economic development beyond employment and industry distribution include literacy rates, life expectancy, and poverty rates. Disaster-specific indicators related to economic development include extent of evacuation plans and drills for high-occupancy structures, adequacy of plans for inspecting damaged buildings following disasters, and adequacy of plans for post-disaster commercial reconstruction (Tierney, 2009).

Research Leader: Prof Gian Paolo Cimellaro (

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Similar to the Norris et al. (2008) conceptualization of social support, the Community Resilience Model’s first dimension is “Resilient People,” which consists of nine points:
1.    Leadership is diversified and representative of age, gender, and community cultural composition;
2.    Elected community leadership is visionary, shares power, and builds consensus;
3.    Community members are involved in significant community decisions;
4.    The community feels a sense of pride;
5.    People feel optimistic about their community’s future;
6.    There is a spirit of mutual assistance and co-operation in the community;
7.    People feel a sense of attachment to their community;
8.    The community is self-reliant and looks to itself and its own resources to address major issues; and
9.    There is a strong belief in and support for education at all levels (The Centre for Community Enterprise, 2000: 13-15).

According to Norris and her colleagues (2008), “individuals invest, access, and use resources embedded in social networks to gain returns” (p. 137). For our purposes, social/cultural capital incorporates several subcategories, including education service, child and elderly services, cultural and heritage services, and community participation (see Table 9). Social/cultural capital is prerequisite to community competence (Norris et al., 2008) in that it incorporates the array of services that the community has chosen to provide for itself, understanding that community health requires more than good jobs and infrastructure. It also includes several intangible “goods,” such as social support, sense of community, place attachment, and citizen participation (Norris et al. 2008).


a)      Child and Elderly Services

b)      Commercial Centers

c)      Community Participation

d)     Cultural and Heritage Services

e)      Education Services

f)       Non-Profit Organizations

g)      Place Attachment

For example, social support underlies many of the services associated with social/cultural capital. It includes both the “helping behaviors within family and friendship networks” and the “relationships between individuals and their larger neighborhoods and communities” (Norris et al., 2008, p. 139). People choose to provide social and cultural services that manifest and extend their sense of community, defined as an attitude of bonding with other members of one’s group or locale (Perkins et al., 2002, cited in Norris et al., 2008). They may feel an emotional connection to their neighborhood or city, which may or may not relate to the people who inhabit those places (Manzo and Perkins, 2006). For example, after Hurricane Katrina, many displaced residents of New Orleans expressed a strong desire to return home, irrespective of the people they knew or the jobs they once had. It seems likely that people with a strong “place attachment” would be more willing to act in order to help their community bounce back after a disaster, assuming that other essential factors such as employment and housing were available. Citizen participation takes into account the “engagement of community members in formal organizations, including religious congregations, school and resident associations, neighborhood watches, and self-help groups” (Norris et al., 2008, p. 139). Participation in community organizations is a means of demonstrating one’s care for one’s community. Pragmatically, participation in community organizations is a means for meeting and understanding one’s fellow citizens. It increases individuals’ circle of influence and perception of control.

Measuring social/cultural capital requires acquisition of tallies, such as the number of members belonging to various civil and community organizations. It also requires surveys of community leaders and their perceptions (e.g., quality of life surveys). Disaster-specific indicators include existence of community plans targeting transportation-disadvantaged populations, adequacy of post-disaster sheltering plans, adequacy of plans for incorporating volunteers and others into official response activities, adequacy of donations management plans, and the community’s plans to coordinate across diverse community networks (Tierney, 2009).

Research Leader: Prof Lucy Arendt (

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