American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 1–2, pp 127–150 | Cite as

Community Resilience as a Metaphor, Theory, Set of Capacities, and Strategy for Disaster Readiness

  • Fran H. NorrisEmail author
  • Susan P. Stevens
  • Betty Pfefferbaum
  • Karen F. Wyche
  • Rose L. Pfefferbaum
Original Paper


Communities have the potential to function effectively and adapt successfully in the aftermath of disasters. Drawing upon literatures in several disciplines, we present a theory of resilience that encompasses contemporary understandings of stress, adaptation, wellness, and resource dynamics. Community resilience is a process linking a network of adaptive capacities (resources with dynamic attributes) to adaptation after a disturbance or adversity. Community adaptation is manifest in population wellness, defined as high and non-disparate levels of mental and behavioral health, functioning, and quality of life. Community resilience emerges from four primary sets of adaptive capacities—Economic Development, Social Capital, Information and Communication, and Community Competence—that together provide a strategy for disaster readiness. To build collective resilience, communities must reduce risk and resource inequities, engage local people in mitigation, create organizational linkages, boost and protect social supports, and plan for not having a plan, which requires flexibility, decision-making skills, and trusted sources of information that function in the face of unknowns.


Resilience Community resilience Disaster Preparedness 



This research was supported by the United States Department of Homeland Security through the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), Grant number N00140510629. However, any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect views of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fran H. Norris
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Susan P. Stevens
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Betty Pfefferbaum
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Karen F. Wyche
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Rose L. Pfefferbaum
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Dartmouth Medical SchoolHanoverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD)VA Medical Center (116D)White River JunctionUSA
  3. 3.National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism College ParkUSA
  4. 4.University of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  5. 5.Terrorism and Disaster CenterNational Child Traumatic Stress NetworkOklahoma CityUSA
  6. 6.Phoenix CollegePhoenixUSA

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