USP 410/510: Community Resilience Planning

Spring Term 2017 registration now open:
Community Resilience Planning USP 410/510
Thursdays, 1:00 to 3:40 pm

CRN: 65625 for 410 and 65626 for 510

Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and extreme weather have all increased the discussion of disasters both in the US and internationally. The traditional response to disasters has been to armor up or fortify against the threat. This history has in many cases exacerbated problems – and focused on engineering solutions to a problem that is more complex. Disasters are as much a product of social and economic systems as they are of the natural event. Resilience theory and thinking have emerged as response to better understand the relationship between society, the economy and the environment when facing natural hazards. This framing of disasters requires us to ask hard questions: Who is impacted more by these events and why? And how do societies respond to these events? We hear more about efforts to plan resilient communities: what is resilience and for whom? Maybe even more basic is the question: How does one actually implement or make resilience work!? How do you measure it?

1950's Emergency Preparedness Kit

1950’s Emergency Preparedness Kit

Course Overview Disasters and resilience are approached from a sociological perspective in this course. We will examine how cities and society have developed with disasters and the research and politics of our preparation and responses to disaster. We will explore how various models of disasters and resilience to both to understand the theory, and to make it work. This is a seminar course that will culminate in a community oriented research project. The course will have a strong hands-on component centered on a series of integrated workshops developed by the

National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) and certified by FEMA. The workshops will overlap with class meetings and include practitioners from the community. Students can become certified by FEMA for participating in the trainings (requires extra course time, but free to students.) Students will also learn about practical planning tools and models for use in community hazard planning.

Japanese Tsunami Debris on the Oregon Coast

Japanese Tsunami Debris on the Oregon Coast

Course Format This course is an undergraduate and graduate seminar. We will be reading from a number of sociological, disaster studies, policy science and planning sources. I will make many of these available on D2L. There are the main texts we will use to organize ideas in the class:


  • Birkland, Thomas. 2006. Lessons of Disaster: Policy change after catastrophic events. Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC.*
  • Solnit, Rebecca. 2010. A Paradise Built in Hell. Penguin Books: New York.*
  • Wisner, Ben, Piers Blaikie, Terry Cannon, and Ian Davis. 2003. At Risk: Natural Hazards, People’s Vulnerability and Disasters. 2nd ed. Routledge.


The texts that are noted with an asterisk (*) are required to be purchased or acquired through library loan. They are easy to find via used book dealers at a decent price. There are a number of other journal articles that explore different dimensions. Depending on interest in the course we can also explore particular disaster case studies such as Hurricane Katrina and Super-Storm Sandy. The course is structured where you will work on an assessment plan for a community. For undergraduate students this will be a team effort and result in a set of recommendations and a presentation. For graduate students it will be a final paper and presentation as an individual effort with an expectation of deeper exploration of resilience concepts. These projects allow you to dive into a community, review the existing planning and get a hands on sense of what needs to be done to improve resilience. View a sample syllabus for the course here:

Community Resilience Planning But note: the syllabus and assignments are subject to change!

FEMA Courses and Certification Details The course includes three FEMA certified courses. Tentatively planned are:

They are optional for students enrolled in the course. Additionally we will be working with material that is being developed with FEMA for a new Building Community Resilience course that is for local planners and focuses on mapping and assessment tools.

Registration and Meeting Time This course will meet Thursdays from 1:00 pm to 3:30 this Spring at PSU. The course can be registered for using the CRN: 64723 If you are interested in receiving an email about the next time this course is offered, please complete the form below:

Analysis Tools: The in class exercises use a number of available data sources. Here are links to the data, and guides that will help with the class projects.

US Census Bureau Tools

Other Data Sources

Related Links and Resources: The following are resources that will be referenced in class:

Mapping the inundation scenarios for a local and distant tsunami on the Oregon coast is critical for understanding hazard exposure. This CartoDB map below overlays an older version of the DOGAMI mapping with the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) to explore risks.

 Other Links and Tools USGS

Text Messaging Service for Earthquake Events Feel free to contact me with any questions: