Managing Disaster Risk and Resilience at the Community Scale
Laurie A. Johnson, PhD AICP Principal
In Against the Odds: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter Bernstein (1996, 1) proposes that the mastery of risk is the revolutionary idea that defines the boundary between modern times and the past—when humans viewed themselves as passive before nature and the future was merely a “mirror of the past,” the “murky domain of oracles and soothsayers.” Over the past century, there have been extraordinary scientific and societal advances in the fields of hazard-related risk assessment, engineering, and preparedness which have led to dramatic reductions in both mortality and economic losses in certain circumstances—for certain countries and cities and for certain hazards (United Nations, 2015).
In the last decade, the concept of disaster resilience has gained increasing attention and, in some instances, is replacing the more traditional policy and programmatic emphases on disaster preparedness, risk reduction, and mitigation. In some respects, resilience is inversely related to risk. As the resilience of a structure or system increases, the risks it faces tends to decrease. But, does such a notion really scale-up to the community-level? Looking across 25 years of research and practice, in dozens of communities, for a multitude of hazards, both pre- and post-disaster, this presentation will consider the benefits and challenges of managing disaster risk and resilience at a community-scale.
Laurie Johnson is an internationally-recognized urban planner specializing in disaster recovery and catastrophe risk management. She began her planning career working with San Francisco Bay Area communities that would soon be struck by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Since that time, she has developed an extensive portfolio of disaster resilience and recovery expertise for a range of hazards both in the U.S. and around the world, and she has researched or helped to manage recovery following many of the world’s major urban disasters, including the 2011 Tohoku Japan earthquake and tsunami, 2010 and 2011 Christchurch NZ earthquakes, and 2005 Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, she was a lead author of the recovery plan for the City of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and then coauthored the book, Clear as Mud: Planning for the Rebuilding of New Orleans.
She was formerly a Vice-President with Risk Management Solutions (RMS), where she led the business planning and product management of the global suite of natural catastrophe peril models used by the re/insurance industry to price and manage risk, and also developed and led a 24/7 reporting service on global disasters. Prior to RMS, she was a consulting planner with EQE International (now ABS Consulting) and Spangle Associates, Urban Planning and Research.
She currently serves as Chair of ACEHR – the Advisory Committee for the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, and is a member of the Steering Committee for GEER –Geotechnical Extreme Event Reconnaissance and the Board of Directors of SPUR –a member-supported nonprofit organization promoting good planning and good government in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a Doctor of Informatics from Kyoto University, Japan as well as a Master of Urban Planning and B.S. in Geophysics, both from Texas A&M University.