Regional Resilience Toolkit

An approach for large-scale disaster planning and action that can be used for COVID-19 recovery work.

Cities, regions, and states across the country are facing a moment of intense turbulence and uncertainty as we wrestle with decades of social injustice in the midst of a global pandemic. Though many communities have planned for or grappled with natural disasters, these new crises are unprecedented and require not only new solutions but new ways of coming up with those solutions.

This time of turmoil provides an opportunity for novelty and innovation and for new alliances to be built around common goals for our cities and communities.

As so many communities face the future after COVID-19, decision makers and community members need tools and guidance to help them take action that will revive communities. The EPA & FEMA Regional Resilience Toolkit provides a framework to help partners across a region define what resilience in the COVID-19 era looks like and clear ways to act on that vision. The Toolkit offers five steps that consolidate varied planning processes, align goals and actions, and make it easier for communities to obtain funding for projects that cut across different planning areas.

The Toolkit offers:

  • Communication and outreach guidance and resources for engaging a broad coalition of stakeholders across a region.
  • Guidance for project teams who are conducting vulnerability assessments, writing required plans, and implementing projects.
  • Clear information and tools that can be used with an advisory group and to bring in decision makers and community leaders to guide the overall action plan and ensure its successful implementation.
  • Detailed appendices with worksheets to help inform and guide work, as well as additional information and resources for each step.

The Toolkit is intended for any jurisdiction, no matter the size or capacity or hazards they may face now or in the future. The Toolkit is set up to allow multiple jurisdictions and levels of government to work together for regional scale actions. It is also designed for non-governmental partners and community groups to engage in a more inclusive and holistic process so that resilience actions are guided by core community values.

The goal of this Toolkit is to help cities, regions, and other partners integrate various planning processes – including for hazard mitigation, climate adaptation, sustainability, and equity – into a single process to create a common action plan. The need for a single process is even more important as local government budgets are cut and as so many different agencies and organizations are planning for how to emerge from the pandemic.

A region may have many partners working to build resilience, but with slightly different areas of focus and expertise. Resilience partners will include public health officials, emergency managers, elected officials, utilities, businesses, community activists, nonprofits, faith groups, and more. Each individual department or organization may need to write a specific plan in order to adhere to certain regulations or to seek funding from specific state and federal agencies. But all these partners can support one another’s efforts and realize larger success by teaming up and aligning on mutually beneficial projects.

What is The Little Think Tank?

The Little Think Tank is a group of academic and public policy experts focusing on resilient recovery action for American communities. Convened during the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown, TLTT’s seven members review, curate, and develop transformative solutions for today’s public, private and community leaders. Their cumulative, multi-disciplinary experience brings together the best of leading edge research and practice.

Who is The Little Think Tank?

Find out here.

Twelve Tips to Accelerate Community Recovery

Making Sense of Pandemic Recovery

Across the country, people are looking to local leaders to help manage the stress and fear of this new and unknown disease.  Leaders are called on to craft a recovery strategy that not only opens up the economy but protects lives.  As social distancing disrupts our schools, jobs, the economy, and recreation, communities seek information and action from decision makers to better meet these new realities.

Despite deep uncertainty, leaders can use this time to retool conventional thinking and decision-making, opening the door for transformative change to a more resilient future. Local leaders from all sectors can instill a sense of solidarity in their citizens and offer hope for what can be accomplished together despite differences. Leaders can also boost recovery by guiding local enterprises and businesses to make smart and safe choices as society begins to open.  Tapping into the strengths and cultural character of a place enables all members of the community to participate in positive change for their future.

A friend of the Mayors Innovation Project, The Little Think Tank has prepared Twelve Tips to Accelerate Community Recovery, included here. This one-pager distills leading edge research and practice on transformative disaster recovery.

Ground comprehensive community recovery planning in shared values.

In Portland, Oregon, the City Council adopted a Resolution asserting the values that guide and coordinate the City’s COVID-19 response. “The Resolution reaffirms that our hardest-hit community members will continue to be prioritized through both immediate relief work and longer-term recovery actions – with the goal of emerging from this crisis more resilient.”

Define recovery as bigger than government services.

Cedar Rapids and Linn County, Iowa use lessons learned from catastrophic floods in 2008 to embrace a holistic, people-centric approach to recovery. Local leaders and residents meet weekly in a virtual town hall to share information and resources on the many facets of community well-being in the pandemic.

Earn trust through regular, truthful, meaningful and widely broadcast communication.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign set up a dedicated web site to consistently inform students, faculty, and staff about essential information. The university navigated the transition to on-line classes, graduation, and planning for summer and fall. The transition includes an Online Teaching Academy to help instructors prepare for the fall term. 

Give parents and guardians the extra support they need. 

Virginia’s 132 school districts mobilized to offer emergency meal distribution programs for children. Montgomery County teams distribute approximately 9,000 meals per day. In Roanoke City, over 300,000 meals have been prepared since schools closed in March.

Please realize: our next future is emerging, and whatever emerges will be impacted by our next steps. Leaders of all types must recognize the need to act in the face of an unknown future, spurring their communities to create a more resilient, fair, greener, and equitable world. What we do now can set the stage for revitalization guided by bedrock values that we share.

The Little Think Tank consists of academic and public policy experts focused on resilient recovery action for American communities. Convened during the 2020 Covid-19 shutdown, TLTT’s seven members review, curate, and develop transformative solutions for today’s public, private, and community leaders. Their cumulative, multi-disciplinary experience brings together the best of leading edge research and practice.

New Paper: Post Epidemic Recovery

Please see this recent paper of post-epidemic recovery, published in May, 2020 in journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. It was authored by The Little Think Tank co-founder Monica Schoch-Spana, Senior Scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Department of Environmental Health and Engineering.