Disaster Resilience: Definition, Main Principles, and Beyond

In 2021, approximately 1 in 10 homes were affected by natural disasters in the US alone. This amounts to over 14.5 million properties, causing nearly $57 billion in property damage.

Over the coming decades, both the frequency and the intensity of natural disasters are expected to increase due to climate change, population growth, and scarcity of natural resources. That’s why disaster resilience is so critical in building a safe environment for generations to come. Read ahead to find out its definition, main elements, and fundamental principles.

What Is Disaster Resilience?

Earthquake consequences in a city

Disaster resilience is the ability of people, communities, organizations, and states to adapt to and recover from natural hazards without compromising long-term development prospects and is the cornerstone of the Terra Frma system.

The four main steps of disaster resilience are:

  1. Anticipate - thoroughly prepare for emergencies in high-risk areas.
  2. Absorb - gather all the information possible to be ready.
  3. Adapt - during the event, be flexible enough to adapt to the situation.
  4. Recover - know what actions to take to recover after the emergency, both emotionally and physically.

Disaster resilience is usually characterized by the degree to which individuals and entities are capable of organizing themselves to learn from past natural disaster experiences and mitigate their risks to future ones.

A great example of resilience measures can be found in Bangladesh, where houses hit by floods are rebuilt on raised plinths. This protects livestock and vegetable gardens from potential emergencies.

Core Disaster Resilience Framework Elements

Damaged buildings after an earthquake

Disaster resilience planning is never uniform, as it depends on a variety of features. Here are the main elements that determine the framework for dealing with such emergencies:


The first factor a resilience framework is dependent on is the environment for which it’s being built. Aspects such as location, social group, the economic and political system should be taken into account.


It’s equally as critical to determine the shocks (sudden events) and stresses (long-term trends like climate change) the target group needs to develop resilience to.

Capacity to Respond

The social group’s ability to deal with a shock or stress situation consists of the following factors:

  • Exposure - the magnitude of the shock or stress event.
  • Sensitivity - the degree to which a system is affected by the emergency in question.
  • Adaptive capacity - how well a system can adjust to a disturbance caused, determine the opportunities it opens, and cope with the transformation.


Every individual, social group, and system have different potential in responding to natural disasters, namely:

  • Bounce back better - this is the situation in which the capacities of the group in question are enhanced, natural disaster risks and exposures are reduced, and the system develops a solid framework to deal with future shocks and stresses.
  • Bounce back - in this case, the system gradually returns to the pre-existing conditions.
  • Recover - the system recovers to a state that is worse than before, leading to reduced capacities. 
  • Collapse - the worst-case scenario in which the system collapses and results in a significant reduction in capacity to cope with potential dangers.

4 Key Disaster Resilience Principles

The consequences of a tsunami

The Resilience Principles are designed to help tackle every step of natural emergencies from preparation to recovery. These principles result from a wide range of disciplines, such as emergency management, ecology, psychology, sociology, and engineering. 


The factor driving the backup principle is redundancy. This is due to the fact that regardless of how accurate the forecast of the potential disasters is, there is no way to know exactly what you may need until the event actually happens.

Thus, having a backup is vital. One example of this is the water supply. Let’s say you've prepared an emergency supply in your storage. But what happens if you run out of it before the water service is restored? In that case, you’ll need some tools to collect rainwater and the knowledge of the nearest water sources.

In other words, the goal is to be ready for as many scenarios as possible and have the necessary gear at hand.


This principle entails the continuous commitment to acquiring knowledge and skills. Building resilience is a process that implies learning new information all the time. It’s important to stay informed on the natural disasters occurring globally and be aware of the impact they caused. Another crucial task is to educate oneself on survival tactics and develop action plans.


Building community resilience to disasters is equally as important as doing so within your household. After all, creating long/term impact is only possible with a combined effort aimed toward a common goal. Thus, the participation principle is all about building a resilient community by stepping out of your close network and working together with people from your neighborhood, workplace, and other social groups.


One of the biggest factors contributing to resilience is community. Thus, this principle is about having as many connections you can rely on as possible. A truly resilient community consists of members who are willing and ready to cooperate in the event of an emergency.

Get Started with Improving Resilience to Natural Disasters

People wearing shoe coverings to adjust to a flood

The knowledge of the 4 disaster resilience principles alongside understanding how to build a thought-through framework to deal with emergencies before, during, and after they happen is key to success.

Check out the Grab+Go Box - the holistic disaster preparedness kit that contains a detailed Guidebook, Action Plans, an on-the-go informational Disaster Deck, and accessories for evacuating. These are especially important to have on-hand in the event of no power or cell towers going down as information and quick action will be critical.