University of Oklahoma Resilience Development Institute First Session Only 3 Months Away–Join Us!

The University of Oklahoma Resilience Development Institute is a little more than 3 months away.  I am honored to serve as Chairman of its Advisory Board, serving alongside national and global leaders in disaster resilience and recovery. Come join us in making history as the first leader-taught, applied learning certification program in the field is launched.  Be a member of CLASS NUMBER ONE and make a difference in your community, your state, your country, and your world! See for more and to register.

In This Issue
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OU ReDI Newsletter

Solutions for the Inevitable!

Resilient Cities - pathway to a more sustainable future
Resilient Cities – pathway to a more sustainable future

Meet ReDI Board Members:

Alex Kaplan

Vice President, Global Partnerships

Senior Client Manager
Alex Kaplan is Vice President of Global Partnerships for Swiss Re developing and executing innovative risk transfer solutions to help governments, international financial institutions and NGOs at all levels manage their financial risks.

Kaplan joined Swiss Re in 2008 as Vice President of Regulatory Affairs representing Swiss Re’s commercial interests before governors, state insurance regulators and legislators as well as members of Congress and appointed members of the Federal government.

Chris Poland

Consulting Engineer
A world renowned authority on earthquake engineering and champion of disaster resilience, Chris Poland’s passion for vibrant, sustainable, and healthy communities drives his consulting practice. He focuses on community resilience and the buildings and systems that contribute to it.

He is the past Chair of the Advisory Committee to the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program, and current Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Structural Safety of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Facilities.


Managing Climate and Natural Disaster Risk
Re/insurance plays an important role in managing climate and natural disaster risk, and that’s why it’s part of Swiss Re’s core business. Natural disasters cost the global insurance industry around USD 45 billion in 2013, but the human toll was higher: according to the Swiss Re sigma publication “Natural catastrophes and man-made disasters in 2013,” 26,000 lives were lost.Read More…
Our certification courses provide tools and training that can be immediately applied on the job. Training your leaders in resilience makes your community or organization stronger, more stable, and more ready to respond and recover from a disaster.
Heather Reichert,

Executive Director

Center for Energy & Economic Development
University of Oklahoma


OU Resilience Development Institute
University of Oklahoma Outreach – College of Continuing Education
1700 Asp Avenue #209, Norman, OK 73072 – Phone: (405) 325-3136   Fax: (405) 325-7044
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Getting a Head Start on 2015–The Future of the Tropics and the Future of Resilience–A Few Observations

As I was inspired by the response to yesterday’s post (if you haven’t, please take a look), and as I have set a goal for 2015 to post at least four blogs a month, thought I’d get a head start with this observation from my recent trip to Australia.  The Center for International Tropical Resilience Education and Implementation (CITREI) was born of this event, and encouraged by my longtime Aussie friends Tracy Scott-Remington and Rod Brown.  Subsequent meetings with my mate Mark Matthews at Advance Cairns, who is a true visionary, provided further context and support. Watch for further posts as we work to move this vision into reality.

In September, I did what some would consider suicidal—flew from the middle of the U.S. to the northeast coast of Australia, and back, in five days.  Why on God’s earth would even a simpleton like “Preacher” (nickname given by my dear friend Rod Brown that is better known in international speaking circles than my given name—have no idea why a southern-speaking, high emotion presenter would acquire that moniker)  Dodd do that?  Turns out, to learn about the future of perhaps the most important region of the planet-not a region in the traditional sense, but a linear region, that circles the globe-the Tropics.

The Future of Tropical Economies Conference, at James Cook University in Cairns, sponsored by the Advance Cairns regional economic development organization and the Cairns Regional Council, and held in conjunction with the G-20 summit there, was very impressive.  Speakers included the G-20 President, Australia Treasurer Paul Hockey, and   a slate of international experts on all facets of tropical environmental, political, social, and economic issues. Learning about the region that will have 2/3 of the new children born in the next 30 years, has 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and is home to several dynamic economic powers was fascinating. See for more.

Coming from a semi-tropical climate in New Orleans, I could identify with both the opportunities and challenges presented.  One area that presents both, that was not explicitly discussed during most of the proceedings, was resilience to disasters and adverse events. The tropics are particularly vulnerable because the warmth of the climate lends itself to more severe weather activity than more temperate zones.  And, the nature of urbanization in warm climates, to head toward the seacoasts, along with low-or-no-standard building codes in many developing nations, and one can see why some estimates say that as much as 2/3 of loss in terms of lives, property, and economic output comes from the globe’s tropical and semi-tropical regions.

Resilience, while at times seeming nebulous, is gaining traction as a legitimate global activity to reduce economic, societal, and human costs of disasters.  It has been documented to produce a 4:1 return on investment when disasters strike.  It just makes sense.  Yet protecting this fast-growing, productive, and increasingly important region from disaster and disruption did not seem to be top-of-mind to most speakers.  Oh well, a yank in a white linen suit from 5,000 miles away did explicitly discuss it, and it did seem to strike a chord with some.  In fact, most, including some influential guests with G-20 ties, seemed interested in how resilience could have a positive influence on the future of not only the tropics, but in raising global GDP by reducing disaster-related losses.  Stay tuned…….

And again, have a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year!




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From Arkansas to Australia–And that’s just the A’s! An Amazing 2014….

My blog posts to date have been, by and large, about others.  As this year comes to a close, I am going to be a bit selfish and talk about the journey I’ve had over the past year, weaving in information that hopefully you will all find valuable.  It is incredible to think of all that has happened to me in 12 very short months.  At this time last year, I was wondering what I would do in 2014.  Coming off my first three task order assignments under my partner firm Novaces, LLC’s master services agreement with the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, and seeing nothing on the horizon, I admit I was a bit worried.

It’s strange to have the majority of your business become that of recovery from disasters, something you would never wish to happen to anyone, but also something that has become your primary source of revenue.  All that I had in process was the ongoing discussions I was having with the University of Oklahoma (OU) about standing up a new institute dedicated to applied learning in resilience and recovery.  My concerns were needless, of course, as most are in life.  In January, I received word that OU wanted to move forward in creating the Resilience Development Institute (OU ReDI), and offered to pay for a trip to Geneva in February to engage the international community, including the UN and World Bank.

This was the beginning of a shift in the nature of my work–one that is playing out nationally and internationally.  As I sit writing this in my home, Judith Rodin, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation, is being interviewed on national television on her new book, “The Resilience Dividend”, which I highly recommend.  The foundation she runs is putting its money where its mouth is via the $100 million + “100 Resilient Cities”  campaign, and is joining other private, public, and non-governmental organizations in recognizing that it is better to invest in being prepared, and reducing not only in economic damage, but more importantly, lives adversely affected and lost. Resilience may be in danger of becoming a buzzword, but the meaning behind it is anything but irrelevant.  The year began, and ended, with this theme.  My guess is that resilience will be a critical part of my career, and life, for years to come.

That observation was validated in mid-February. when a task order request for proposals came out for a resilience strategy for the disaster-declared area in central Oklahoma that I had assisted the EDA in developing a recovery strategy for in mid-2013.  Beginning in late February, I supported efforts of a committed group of stakeholders in the region who dedicated countless hours to create a best-practices set of initiatives to make central Oklahoma the most resilient region in the nation.

That task was completed and a comprehensive resilience strategy was presented to their stakeholder steering committee in late June. Portions of this strategy continue to be implemented, including an effort to combine principles of resilience with neighborhood-based relationship building and a business emergency communications network especially hold promise.  More to come on both of these along with updates on the “Oklahoma Strong” resilience strategy.

Meanwhile, an f-4 tornado stuck two communities in central Arkansas, and again Novaces was selected, so I literally drove straight from ending my assignment in Oklahoma to beginning my assignment in Arkansas.  The devastation a tornado brings is simply unmatched.  But the brave, committed leaders and citizens of both Vilonia and Mayflower were determined not only to rebuild, but to rebuild better. I was proud to return to help the state of my birth, and where my family had resided for generations, to assist them in realizing their vision.

Working with them was a true honor and pleasure, and together with our colleagues in the Community Planning and Capacity Building recovery support function, we supported their development of a best-practices recovery action agenda (not a plan–plans are stagnant–these people wanted actions, not words) that was presented in mid-December, and is already being implemented.  This work was codified in a recovery “binder” that will soon be available for review and download at their newly-built long term recovery website. I will provide the site address in my next post, so stay tuned.

During this time, the OU Resilience Development Institute began to take shape.  A world-class advisory board accepted the challenge of working with us to build ReDI, and just prior to Christmas, registration went live.  Check out our website at I am very proud to serve as the Chairman of the Advisory Board, and believe in the concept of applied learning taught by leaders in the field.

In August, a dream of several years came true with the recording of the pilot for my new internet television show. The RED (Resilience and Economic Development) Show will focus on the intersection of those two disciplines, and the broader issues surrounding them.  The show will officially launch in February, with on-location productions in areas I’ve worked both here and abroad, that hopefully will inform, educate, and entertain viewers. Watch for it at, home of the Bizperity internet TV network.

I was again given a gift–to reconnect with several colleagues and friends in Australia, and make new ones in the place where my international career had begun almost 18 years ago. Though several discussions, the idea of a center for tropical resilience began to take shape.  To be headquartered in Cairns, the major city in the northeast coast of the state of Queensland, the center would focus on the tropical belt, where 80% of the earth’s biodiversity, many developing nations, and 65% of the world’s major disasters occur.

In September, I was honored to be invited to participate in the Summit on the Future of the Tropics in Cairns, associated with the G-20 meeting there, and learned how critical this area of our globe is to us all.  The concept for the Center for International Tropical Resilience Education, and Implementation (CITREI) continues to gain momentum, including the idea of utilizing resilience as a way to increase global GDP via reduction in GDP loss due to disasters.

The year ended with yet another honor, to be invited to lead an effort under the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Team of Specialists in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in developing standards and processes for PPP in disaster resilience and recovery.  I’ll be working with esteemed colleagues from several countries to codify processes and protocol to help PPP resilience and recovery projects increase their chances of success.

Finally, just yesterday I was asked by my business partner in Mexico to meet with officials in Mexico City, who are interested in a proposal we developed for a bi-lateral summit on resilience in recovery, to be held in my home town of New Orleans next fall. This idea came as the result of interest generated during our development of a recovery strategy for the Colorado river delta in Baja California Mexico during 2012.

To say it’s been a whirlwind year is an understatement, to say the least.  As I observed 20 years, on December 14th, since a horrible accident almost took my life, and prepare to celebrate the beginning of a new year, I cannot help but feel blessed to be able to do something for a living that has so much meaning, with so great a purpose.

Along the way, I’ve met amazing, dedicated, committed, and gifted people who have become both dear friends and trusted colleagues.  Some of you reading this are included in those ranks, and although it’s never enough, please know you have my eternal gratitude.  The classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” ends with the newly-minted angel Clarence leaving a note to his beneficiary, George Bailey, with eight simple words: “No man is a failure who has friends”.  By that measure, I am indeed a very successful man.

The next post will get back to the issues and focus on the latest innovations in recovery financing and the role of risk reduction in reducing the costs of those transactions.  Until then, may 2015 bring each of you health, happiness, and prosperity.

All the best,                                                                                                                                             David

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Same Theme, Different Context–and a Reminder How Far Back I Really Go in Disaster Recovery

Funny, life sometimes takes us full circle, even without our realization–until something puts us in a “deja-vu” moment. Then we realize we’ve been there before, and though under different circumstances, we know there is a reason why we are in that place at that specific time. My last post was entitled “Back to My Roots”–maybe this one should be called “Back to The Future”.  My next disaster recovery work is in the rural area north of Little Rock, Arkansas. Severe storms and a half-mile wide tornado ravaged this area, missing Little Rock proper, but causing widespread damage in the communities of Mayflower and Vilonia.  Fourteen people were killed, and the entire downtown of Vilonia was destroyed.. 

The first “back to the future” connection may come as a surprise to some who know me.  Although I spend the vast majority of my life in Louisiana, I was born in Arkansas.  My family has deep history there, and my siblings (who are all older) spent their formative years in the Natural State. Yes, I can, and do, call the Hogs (a robust cheer for the University of Arkansas mascot Razorback swine to non-southerners) and am very familiar with the history of the home state of Bill Clinton and Don Tyson (who was a friend of my dad’s).  

The second “aha” moment was much more revealing. In discussing the recovery effort with colleagues last night, to help rebuild a relatively small town that had been rocked by a disaster, it hit me. I had been there before.  Not in Vilonia, or its neighbor Mayflower that also suffered heavy damages, but in my own hometown of Logansport, LA (pop 1,600).  Not far into my first career, as a banker there, downtown Logansport was damaged by fire. Several buildings suffered heavy damage, and the town drug store (this was well pre-Walgreens or CVS on every corner) was destroyed.  I was just beginning to serve my first term as President of the Chamber of Commerce (membership +/- 100) when it occurred.  Determined to rebuild, and keep businesses from jumping the Sabine river to neighboring Texas, where sales tax was then non-existent, we rallied around a fundraising dinner to thank first responders and help affected businesses.  We succeeded in helping those businesses recover, and in part due to that success my future as an active volunteer, leading to my second and longest career, was solidified.  

Remembering that brought a flood of memories, and a realization that the trials we endure serve to prepare us for the future.  That event led me to pursue a career in economic development, that has taken many turns–from Chamber-based professional, to strategic planner, to international speaker and consultant, to economic disaster resilience and recovery expert, to my second home of Oklahoma that defines resilience, to a couple of small towns in Arkansas, not unlike the small town that I saw rebound and rebuild 30 years ago, with the same spirit that I already know will exist when I arrive in Arkansas on Monday.  

Led Zepplin lead singer Robert Plant, when hopping on their jet after a sold out concert at the height of their fame, looked up to see a Little Richard performance on the video monitor in the jet’s main area.  He sighed and said, “no matter how big we get, we’ll never escape our roots.”  Thank God for that, Robert.  Thank God for that.  See you next time around. 

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Back to My Roots: Towns, Farms/Agribusinesses–the Folks Who Feed Us–Must be Included in Resilience

I am the son of a farmer.  Although I did not grow up on a farm, my dad had three, and owned a commercial hatchery–a factory that produced living things–baby chicks–literally by the millions, which is incredible for me to think about now. We lived in a town of 1,500, where my family were both farmers and agribusiness owners, a vocation that went back at least three generations.  So you would think the needs of rural towns, farms, and agribusinesses would be top of mind by nature. But, alas, those days were a long time ago, and I now live in a large city, moving a year ago from a mid-sized city where I had lived for almost 25 years.  

So, I must confess, when we began work in Oklahoma after the tornadoes last July, farms and agribusinesses were not on my radar.  Until, that is, a visit to El Reno.  El Reno, about 20 miles west of Oklahoma City proper, is a farming community.  And when my colleague and I visited, they were put on our radar, like a huge Aircraft Carrier, right in the middle of the (very small) Canadian River that flows near there.  A well-known advocate for farmers was at our meeting, and without malice or anger, but with plenty of emotion, told us of their plight.  

The HUGE, as in the widest tornado in recorded history, twister that struck a year ago today not only leveled the largest livestock sale facility in the area, but strewn millions of pieces of debris across the farmland of Canadian County.  Our farm champion pulled other farmers, and those sympathetic to their cause, to literally walk tens of thousands of acres in an effort known as “Field of TEAMS”. In a voluntary effort to rid farms of dangerous crop and livestock injuring/killing debris, picking up literally millions of pieces of anything and everything.  We were struck by the scope of the effort, and her resolve to keep farmers and agriculture-based businesses in the forefront of recovery efforts.  

Their plight was mentioned in our report, and our sister recovery function, Community Planning and Capacity Building, performed a survey of rural businesses, but there was little more.  As with all efforts in the recovery process, we cannot lead, we are there to support.  Upon returning, however, an unlikely champion had emerged.  Sadly I cannot divulge this person’s name due to their position.  But they were absolute and insistent that the rural and agriculture businesses still needed help. Thanks to this person’s persistence, and to the prior-expressed willingness of Oklahoma State University (OSU) to help, a meeting was set with them to see if they would help.  OSU runs the state agriculture extension service, and is known as a leading university nationally in the ag sector, so they were a natural.  

So, a new initiative was born, one that has been heartily endorsed by the Oklahoma Resilience Strategy Steering Committee, to address rural recovery and resilience, not just in Canadian County, but in all counties (including Oklahoma county-home to Oklahoma City-of which a large part remains rural).  OSU is already discussing ways it can help bring rural and agribusiness stakeholders together to better respond when disaster strikes, and to work with others to establish a web-based portal for information and communication among and between farms, rural communities, agribusinesses, and those that can assist them in time of crisis.

Going back to my roots, to helping those that literally feed us, especially the family-owned local producers like my Dad, is pretty cool. Prior to his passing, Dad resigned himself to the fact that none of us would, or really could in the rapidly consolidating poultry industry, take over his business, his farms, his life.  That had to be a disappointment to him, although he never mentioned it. So, it’s back to my roots–in a different way, I’m still connected to the livelihood that fed me, and that now feeds all of us. Dad, if you’re looking down tonight, I haven’t forgotten. I am still, and will always proudly be, the son of a farmer.  

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Why EVERYONE Needs “Extreme Weather”…The Book, That Is!

Growing up in the southern U.S., I have encountered my share of extreme weather events.  But never an earthquake.  Last year, in a town less than 25 miles from my childhood home, a series of earthquakes damaged homes and businesses, marking a new era–the era of no “safe” place. In fact, that has always been the case, as many know a huge earthquake rocked the Midwest in 1811, causing the mighty Mississippi to flow backwards.  

The reason relatively few people know about the New Madrid quake is simple–almost no one was living there in that  era.  Of course, 202 years later, things are much different.  Geologists say that if the same quake hit today, up to 2 million people would be killed.  Bottom line–no place is safe.  Extreme weather is now the norm–everywhere. How do we deal with this reality?  The only choice we have is to be prepared.

That’s where “Extreme Weather”…the book, that is….comes in.  Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider of CNN and now Bloomberg fame, has crafted a masterpiece.  Although the book is full of practical advice that can literally save your life, this is far from a boring “reference guide”.  Bonnie brilliantly utilizes riveting first-hand accounts and captivating stories of courage and resilience lead you in, then provides easy-to-use information that can literally save your life. Full of checklists, references, and useful narratives, the book is in my humble opinion the best guide to individual and family preparedness ever written.  

We are now entering the “heavy lifting” phase of my work with the EDA/FEMA Economic Recovery Support Function in Oklahoma, in which we are supporting the increase in capacity for both businesses and communities to withstand and recover from disasters. You can bet I will be using this, along with other great sources of information, to help support further building of resilience in a state that already takes pride in being the most prepared in the nation. That statement speaks volumes about the quality and usefulness of Bonnie’s book.  The bonus is the stories–of real people, in real disaster situations, who define the oft-misused word “resilient”–the ability to endure the adversity at hand.  Even without the invaluable information, these stories of courage are well worth the read.   

So, do yourself, your family, friends, and community a favor.  Experience “Extreme Weather”….the book, that is….and be prepared!!  

P.S.–Just to set the record straight, I receive no compensation for this endorsement–it is based purely on my belief in Bonnie’s book.

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Resilience: A Definition

After a whirlwind trip to Geneva to promote the University of Oklahoma’s International Resilience Institute, of which I am honored to be Board Chairman, I settled back into familiar territory in Oklahoma City, which over the years has become a second home, for a final disaster recovery mission assignment. One of my major tasks is to clearly define “Resilience”, as an industry and a practice.  Unfortunately, resilience has very quickly taken on the definition of a “buzzword”–a word that is used very frequently by people who really do not understand what it means. I certainly do.  It means Oklahoma.

Ironically, it was 20 years ago, almost to the day, that I reported here for my very first consulting gig with my new boss, and later partner, the gifted Ed Morrison. Those were heady days, with the now legendary Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) initiative just getting underway.  Ed and I remain proud of what I feel is still our very best work together, the Forward Oklahoma City strategic initiative.  A little more than a year later, however, as we (actually Ed, as I was recovering from a serious accident) were wrapping up that important work, tragedy struck, the worst act of domestic terrorism this nation ever had, or still has ever seen, occurred.

The Murrah Building bombing changed Oklahoma City, and the nation, forever.  In the aftermath, Ed was thrust into a field neither of us had dreamed of working in–disaster recovery. And though my involvement was tangential, at best, I was struck by the way that city, and those people, abjectly refused to quit.  The city was still recovering from another, though painful far less catastrophic event–the collapse of the oil industry in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  The economic consequences were dire–downtown Oklahoma City looked like a ghost town the first time I arrived in March of 1994–but again, rather than give up and give in, Mayor Ron Norick, along with elected/appointed officials, and business/community leaders, instead set out on a bold mission–to change the landscape of the city, beginning with downtown.

The MAPS program was just beginning to show progress when the bombing happened. The city would have been justified in shutting down or delaying it.  None of them would hear a word of that–instead they doubled down and passed an expansion of the program.  They also resolved to build a permanent tribute to the people whose lives were lost in the bombing, to show that their sacrifice was not in vain. The results are nothing short of amazing.  MAPS has generated over $5 billion in new investment, and revitalized not only downtown but the spirit and energy of an entire city. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, a place visited by people from around the world, is a tranquil tribute to not only those lost, but to the spirit of resilience of those left behind.

So here I am–in Oklahoma again–this time in a different capacity as subcontractor to the Economic Development Administration, under FEMA, to provide support for regional and state stakeholders in implementing long-term recovery strategies. I am working with some of the same wonderful people who were there back in 1994, who believed in a vision and worked hard to achieve it, even in the face of unimaginable hardship.  I don’t just hope they will succeed in once again setting this place apart as a shining example for the world.  I know they will.

Someone I admire recently gave me a definition for resilience–“The Ability to Endure the Adversity at Hand”. Couldn’t have said it better myself.  The Ability to Endure. The Ability to Come Back, Stronger than Ever. Turning Adversity into Opportunity.  Standing Strong. Don’t tell the folks I work for, but this assignment is easy. You see, I already know the definition of Resilience.  It’s Oklahoma.

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Risks….and Opportunities…at the intersection of Resilience and Economic Development

As I proudly stated in my last post, I had the distinct honor of meeting with two officials of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in New York before the holidays.  Elina Palm and Maria Hasan were both gracious and receptive to hearing about the planned University of Oklahoma International Resilience Institute.  Elina gave me a copy of the UN’s 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, and encouraged me to read it in preparation for meetings I hope to have with their head office in Geneva next month.  I had seen the report, and scanned portions of it, but the holidays gave me the rare opportunity to actually read it.  What I learned was both troubling and encouraging.

Troubling was their assertion that, although reported estimates of economic impact of disasters worldwide have topped $100 billion in each of the past three years, which has never before happened, there is evidence that actual losses are up to 50% more than those reported. So, instead of $300 billion in losses in 2010, 2011, and 2012 combined, the economic losses are closer to $450 billion. Think of it–three years, almost a half-trillion dollars.  Those that do not see disasters as a significant economic development issue need to wake up!  In fact, the most surprising aspect of the 2013 GAR is how much of it has a direct relationship to economic issues. Of course, as always, there is no economic measure equal to human life, but the impacts of these events can, in fact, render many lives forever lessened, even if not lost.  

Consider these economic issues, taken directly from the 2013 GAR Report:

1.  Disasters directly effect long-term regional competitiveness and sustainability.  Prior to the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, the Port of Kobe was the world’s sixth-busiest.  Despite massive investment in reconstruction and efforts to improve competitiveness, by 2010 it had fallen to 47th place.  Of course, some may say that is due to the rise of China and stagnation of Japan’s economy.  However, no one can deny that there was at least some negative impact.

2.  Globalized supply chains create new vulnerabilities:  Toyota lost $1.2 BILLION in product revenue from the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.  

3.  Small and medium-sized businesses are particularly at risk. Yet, less than 15% of companies with less than 100 employees in disaster-prone cities in the Americas have a business continuity or crisis management plan in place.

4.  Disaster risk is a new multi-trillion dollar asset class. Globally, $71 trillion dollars of assets would be exposed to one-in-250 year earthquakes alone.  

But, believe it or not, there ARE positives to the new risk paradigm. For example:

1.  Business attitudes are changing–one business survey now ranks disaster risk as the 16th most important out of the top 50 risks, and as the 6th most important driver strengthening risk management. 

2. Businesses are increasingly factoring risk information into investment decision making.  Leading site location consultants, who are tasked with finding optimum locations for new corporate investment, increasingly cite disaster resilience as an important location factor.

3. Disaster risk management is a business opportunity:  The development of crop-insurance products or more disaster resilient infrastructure expands existing, and opens new, markets. 

4.  As the expiration of the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action in disaster risk reduction approaches in 2015, international efforts are strengthening to create a new framework for disaster risk reduction, one that increases the role of businesses and Public-Private Partnerships in creating a more resilient planet.

As the 2013 GAR states “Disaster risk, reduction, therefore, is a compelling shared value proposition for business”. The wall between economic development and disaster risk reduction is falling as quickly as the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.  This time, the beneficiaries will be people from around the world, who will hopefully live in a more secure, more resilient, more economically sound planet. However, hope is useless without action.  So, act.  Give me your thoughts–good or bad.  Are investments, such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s $100 million+ investment in resilient cities, a waste?  Are the risks too low to be concerned about?  Stay tuned–a survey of site location consultants is underway.  Is the intersection of disaster resilience and economic development is simply a speed-bump, or something more–much more?  We shall see.  


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Resilience–A Buzzword, Yes–But Also So Much More

re·sil·ience (noun)  the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after an adverse and/or disruptive event–Merriam Webster Dictionary. Please hang on to that definition.  We’ll need it soon.

But first, and a first for me, a personal note.  Apologies all around, for it has been almost six months since my last post. A lot has happened in that relatively brief–in the annals of history, anyway–time, both personally and professionally.  Personally, after 51 years, I am for the first time since I was 9 months old no longer a resident of northwest Louisiana.  Although I’ve traveled the world, and “lived” on the west coast for almost three years, I never moved my permanent address from that little corner of the globe.  All that changed in May, when due to an unfortunate change in my life, I decided to make a change of residence as well, and moved 300 miles south to New Orleans.  

The move made sense, as my work in disaster recovery began with Katrina, and New Orleans is known worldwide for that series of horrific events–the hurricane, the resulting flood, the much-criticized response, and the long recovery that was initially vilified, then in recent years, praised.  There is no doubt in my mind that New Orleans is a different city.  There is a new energy there, a new spirit.  It is still New Orleans (I live a half-block behind the French Quarter), but it has a new sense of purpose.  New Orleanians were always proud of their unique, non-conformist city. But now they also take great pride in their resilience–their ability to come back, to rebuild, and the measures taken to ensure that the multiple tragedies that occurred never happen again.  

Hurricane Isaac tested that claim, and although it was not as powerful as Katrina, it’s persistence would have resulted in much worse damage before New Orleans, and all of us through the U.S. Government, invested in flood protection measures.  Add to that my friend Belinda Little-Wood’s relentless pursuit of a large project to establish THE International Resilience Center at the massive former Naval Support Administration facility near the Bywater area, a bold and attainable quest, and resilience takes on the persona of an economic development initiative.  

Resilience–a theme not only of business commercials on local television, but a central theme of my friend Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s bid for reelection (guess I’m plowing two new rows of ground by saying I’m politically Independent but think Mitch has done a terrific job and I am absolutely supporting him).  Yes, resilience, or as some  say, resiliency, is a very popular word, and not just in New Orleans.  In fact, it is in danger-danger of quickly moving into the purgatory of any word denoting a great idea that suffers from overuse and, worse, misuse–BUZZWORD.

That fact was made clear in a meeting I recently attended with an executive of one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world in Washington, who cautioned of its overuse and frequent misrepresentation.  His words stung, for the meeting I had requested was to ask for input into the University of Oklahoma’s new International Resilience Institute, which I am honored to be co-developing and implementing.  The Institute will provide practical, hands-on graduate-level certificate training in both resisting to and recovering from adverse events of all types.  

I had met the previous day with representatives of the United Nations and a global foundation, who had given positive feedback and tentative support.  Feeling emboldened and confident, going into the meeting, I was a bit shaken thinking that my client and I had chosen a “buzzword” for such an important initiative.  Later, I realized that was exactly the point of the Institute–to impart knowledge and deepen understanding of exactly what resilience is, and (as importantly) what it is not, in fact, to prevent the word from misuse.  The Institute, working in collaboration with efforts of the UN, other Non-Governmental Organizations, major foundations, and the private sector, should greatly lessen the danger of resilience becoming yet another “B” word.  

Many may not realize that the University of Oklahoma is the home of both the National Severe Storms Research Center (NSSRC) and the National Storm Prediction Center (NSPC). While not under the University’s control, there is a close relationship between these centers, and the University does control the Center for Terrorism and Disaster at the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, which deals with emotional damage from these acts. 

As the host of the NSSRC and NSPC, and overseer of the CTD, the University of Oklahoma is ideally suited to launch a comprehensive teaching, research, and development initiative like the International Resilience Institute. The University, commonly known as OU, runs one of the largest continuing education effort in the nation, and reportedly is involved over 70 international continuing education partnerships. OU also owns and administers the Economic Development Institute, widely regarded as the premier economic development graduate education program.

The University of Oklahoma International Resilience institute, abbreviated to OU/IRI, would focus on the major components of disaster and/or disruption resilience, providing classroom instruction, interactive, real-life learning through scenarios and case studies, and applied research & development through the NSSRC and CTD.  The Institute would be funded through a combination of student tuition fees, grants, and corporate support.  A curriculum is now being developed by a prominent national leader in disaster recovery, and a website is under development.  Watch for more to come on this very exciting initiative, which has an ambitious agenda to hold its first session in the fall of 2014.  

Hopefully, OU/IRI and other efforts by colleagues throughout the disaster and disruption universe will ensure that this tremendously important word–Resilience–that can mean so much to so many, does not become relegated to the wasteland of the buzzword.  Economies, physical assets, and indeed lives. are at stake.  Stay tuned for more on OU/IRI, economic and social recovery, and, yes, RESILIENCE.   


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From the Tragedy of Sandy to a Better Tomorrow for the East Coast

Like most Americans, and many around the world, I have been glued to my television, laptop, and phone as the tragic events of the past seven days have unfolded.  As with Katrina, Sandy wrought unprecedented destruction to an area not as accustomed to such events as we on the Gulf Coast.  Our hearts, and prayers, go out to the victims and everyone who has suffered.  We understand, more than most, the helplessness and hopelessness that comes over even the most resilient people when faced with such devastation.  

However, there IS hope, and our friends in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and surrounding states can take comfort that fellow citizens in other regions of the U.S. are coming back from the abyss and are rebuilding stronger and wiser.  Hurricane Issac was not as powerful as Katrina, but it took almost the same path and directly hit New Orleans, with one big difference:  this was not the same relatively unprotected New Orleans as in 2005.  The storm surge protection system, as costly as it was, proved to be a good investment.  

Less visible was the investment in business continuity and resiliency planning that greatly shortened recovery time for both businesses and people.  No doubt, the damage was still significant, particularly to the power grid, and recovery is still occurring.  But, it was a far cry from the utter catastrophe of seven years ago.  Business resiliency efforts, from business continuity and resiliency strategies offered by my colleague Bonnie Canal, to a unified master plan that included resiliency efforts across many disciplines, helped greatly to reduce the amount of both losses and heartache.  

My long-time acquaintance Richard Florida, famous for touting the benefits of dynamic cities, has written an excellent article in The Atlantic Cities on why NOW is the time for extensive resiliency efforts on coastal cities worldwide (see   Of particular interest are the maps, provided by OECD, showing the exposure of both people and business activity to future climate events.  In short, the numbers are massive.  

Certainly, cities not recently affected should plan for both response and recovery BEFORE the next storm hits.  However, those along the U.S. eastern coast have no reason not to begin NOW to begin recovery strategies that maximize the pace of reinvestment AND build initiatives to greatly increase resiliency.

Our experience on the Gulf Coast, particularly the Gulf Coast Business Reinvestment forum, can serve as a useful framework for recovery and resiliency efforts.  Bringing together economic development, civic, business, and political/policy leadership from all affected states, with participation by cabinet-level department and agency heads, resulted in a concise framework for action.  This effort began not two weeks after Katrina struck.  By the time it was held, efforts were already underway, leaders were seeing what worked and what didn’t, and visions of the extent of damage to both property and business activity were clear.  

The Forum addressed six issues of common concern, and was conducted in a Charrette format, with working groups for each issue and facilitation by experts familiar with each.  Each group operated in a framework trademarked as “Strategic Doing” by my former partner Ed Morrison, with three simple questions as guideposts:  1.  What could we do together (clearly defining the issue and possible solutions); 2. What should we do together (prioritizing and testing potential solutions); 3. What will we do together (developing concise, clear action steps to implement solutions); and 4. When will we get back together (how do we follow up and continue progress)?  The groups then came back together and reported their results to the entire forum for feedback and adoption.  

This framework could be used successfully by New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina to develop recovery and resiliency initiatives.  Lessons learned from other coastal major population centers hit by hurricanes could also be inserted into recovery and resiliency efforts.  Whatever the structure, the timing is critical–and these efforts need to begin RIGHT NOW.  Hopefully, with strong, built-in initiatives for resiliency, this opportunity to Recover a Better Future from this level of devastation in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania and neighboring states will indeed be a “Once in a Lifetime” event. 

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