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College of Arts and Sciences

Resilience in Rural Places

DRRC: Baseline Indicators for Monitoring Disaster Resilience in Rural Places
Lead Investigators: Dr. Susan L. Cutter, Dr. Christopher Emrich, Dr. Jerry T. Mitchell

Project Overview

Disaster losses continue to increase in the United States, yet we lack a fundamental understanding of the pattern of disaster losses for the nation and their impacts on rural and non-rural places. If a policy goal is to improve community resilience to disasters, empirically defined baselines are a necessary starting point. This project integrates physical and social datasets through a suite of statistical and geospatial techniques in the construction of theoretically based and methodologically sound indicators of resilience for the nation at the county level. The goal is to provide a set of quantitative baseline indicators for measuring disaster resilience. Once the indicators are developed, the composite index will be validated (using uncertainty and sensitivity analysis). Exploration of the statistical and spatial variability in the composition of indicators will identify and analyze the relationship between resilience, vulnerability, and the relative impact of disasters on rural and non-rural places. In addition to spatial analysis of resilience, the project will help to identify differences in the drivers of resilience among counties (rural and non-rural). The latter are important as they can help to identify opportunities for intervention strategies to improve resilience, opportunities that may be dramatically different between rural and non-rural counties and within rural counties as well.

The importance of this project is twofold. First, there is considerable local, state, and federal programmatic interest in community disaster resilience. At present, there is little agreement on what to measure, how to measure it, and in determining which metrics are the most useful. Second, in order to judge the effectiveness of any policy or program, there needs to be a starting point for assessments. This project provides just such a starting point with the development of baseline indicators for tracking changes in resilience over time. Monitoring changes in the indicators provides the evidentiary basis for programs to gage their success in enhancing the nation’s resilience. The research team has a distinguished record of working with and for the practitioner community and in translating the science to practice through extensive outreach activities including web-based products. In this way, the results will be available to stakeholders at county, state, and federal levels.


Cutter, S.L. and S. Derakhshan, 2020.  Temporal and spatial change in disaster resilience in US counties, 2010–2015, Environmental Hazards  19(1):10–29. doi: 10.1080/17477891.2018.1511405 (Aug 20, 2018).

Cutter, S.L. and S. Derakhshan, 2019. Implementing disaster policy: exploring scale and measurement schemes for disaster resilience, J. Homeland Security and Emergency Management 16(3):1–14. 

Cutter, S.L., K. D. Ash, and C. T. Emrich, 2016.  Urban-rural differences in disaster resilience, Annals of the American Association of Geographers 106(6):1236–1252. 

Cutter, Susan L., 2016.  The landscape of disaster resilience indicators in the USA, Natural Hazards 80:741–758.

Cutter, Susan L., Kevin D. Ash, and Christopher T. Emrich, 2014.  The geographies of community disaster resilience, Global Environmental Change 29:65–77. 

Nguyen, Khai Hoan, 2015. Institutional Resilience along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the Context of Pre- and Post-Hurricane Katrina. Master's thesis


  • County Composite BRIC Scores [download Excel file]
    (from  Cutter, Susan L., Kevin D. Ash, and Christopher T. Emrich, 2014.  The geographies of community disaster resilience, Global Environmental Change 29:65–77).

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