The present reality is an era of compounding and cascading disasters. In multiple locations across America today, individuals, families, and communities are struggling to move forward from one disaster before the next disaster hits. The time to heal, regroup, and resettle between disasters is limited, and in some cases nonexistent, because of choices society has made; natural systems that society’s actions have stressed; and the institutions and bureaucracies that maintain a status quo that perpetuates suffering among individuals, families, and communities, as extreme events and the disasters they produce are becoming the norm.
While the public may marvel at and take satisfaction from the way the nation, communities, families, and individuals respond in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, we as a nation frequently fail to consider the circumstances and prior decisions that made necessary these acts of heroism, altruism, and giving that are so admirable. More important, as it pertains to resilience in the face of compounding and cascading extreme events, we frequently fail to consider what comes after that immediate response to disaster, both in terms of providing continued support for an affected community and its members and taking the needed forward-thinking actions that would increase resilience and mitigate the disastrous effects of future extreme events.
Clearly, urgent and transformative action is required. This report challenges the applied research community and disaster response professionals to apply their analytical skills to begin to address the challenges that perpetuate the status quo. Now is the time to step back, take in the whole picture, and focus on details for analysis while continuing to embody empathy for those who suffer. Given this era of compounding and cascading disasters, there is no time to waste to create new choices, new tools, new collaborations, and new rules and regulations. The question is simple: Will we choose to move forward on a path toward resilience, or will we chose to maintain the status quo and continues to put our communities at ever-increasing risk?