Innovative Scorecard for Evaluating Resiliency in our Cities

SANDS, Dalea,

a AECOM Technology, Milan, Italy, e-mail:

Abstract — Climate adaptation and building resiliency in our global cities is a matter of increasing importance. The intensity of natural disasters has reminded us of the importance to develop effective planning mechanisms, efficient response efforts and accelerated recovery efforts to return cities to steady state rapidly. By 2050 over 70% of the World’s population will live in cities – a substantial increase from 1913 when 10% of the global population lived in cities. While progress has been made in reducing the loss of life from natural disasters, capital losses have exceeded $2.5 trillion since 2000.

AECOM, working in conjunction with IBM, developed a quantitative tool, known as the “Resiliency Scorecard” modelled after the “Ten Essentials” of the UN ISDR “Making My City Resilient Campaign”, to assist cities in evaluating their preparedness and position relative to the ten essentials. The scorecard is a unique tool to gauge current position relative to the UN “Ten Essentials”, identify gaps, and develop action plans to improve resiliency. It provides some 80+ individual assessment questions, each scored from 5 (best practice) to 0 (worst practice). The design of the scorecard is defined as a “counsel of perfection”: no city today would score a “5” across all dimensions. The intent of the scorecard is to help cities understand all elements of resilience, frame a multi-year plan to optimize CAPEX and track progress.

This article highlights the development of the Resiliency Scorecard, reports on applications of the scorecard, and discusses avenues for building public/private sector engagement to improve city resiliency to natural disasters.

Keywords — Climate Adaptation, Resiliency, City Natural Disaster Risk Assessment.

Are you ready for the next natural disaster? How well you plan will dictate the magnitude of losses and the speed of recovery. Intuitively, planning for natural disasters will improve the efficiency of response and accelerate the recovery from natural disasters; however definitive quantitative information is difficult to come by. Chreve and Kelman (2014) provide an excellent article regarding cost-benefit analysis of disaster risk reduction. Chreve and Kelman reviewed both backward looking and forward looking actions and found a range of cost-benefit outcomes. The general rule of thumb often used, but not necessarily documented, is that each one dollar spent in planning for a natural disaster may mitigate 4 to 7 in recovery costs.

Activities underway with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) “Making My City Resilient Campaign” has attracted over 2200 cities who have pledged to take deliberate steps in improve resilience; these Cities will form a baseline for which the effectiveness of natural disaster planning steps taken can be more fully evaluated. These cities have joined the Campaign in support of the Ten Essentials and committed to improve resilience. In these challenging economic times, it is difficult to justify investment for planning for potential future events, however these cities are making decisions and taking actions to improve resilience.

While other communities may be challenged to maintain current response and recovery plans for natural disasters, the effort to develop resilience plans in response to climate adaptation has never been more important. Munich Re noted the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is creating annual capital losses in excess of $200B per year, and is increasing. In three of the last ten years, capital losses have exceeded $250B/year. Accordingly, the World Economic Forum in 2014 ranked climate change and extreme weather events as the second most significant risk in terms of likelihood and impact (WEF, 2014).

The severity of these events has increased due to the rising density of people living in major metropolitan areas. A hundred years ago only 10% of the world’s population resided in cities, however by 2050 it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will reside in major metropolitan areas. The percentage today living in major metropolitan areas is estimated at 50% of the worlds’ population.

It is with this in mind that AECOM and IBM collaborated to prepare a Disaster Resilience Scorecard (DRS) for cities to assess their degree of preparedness to respond to natural disasters so as to develop a multiyear plan to improve resilience. The DRS was issued to the public domain via a UN press release in February, 2014.

The DRS is a unique quantitative tool that is based upon the UN ISDR “Ten Essentials” as denoted in Figure 1. The Ten Essentials were issued in the UN Making My City Resilient Campaign launched in 2010. In 2011, the UN ISDR formed the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) to provide advice and participation on disaster risk reduction. It was within the UN ISDR PSAG that AECOM and IBM collaborated, pro bono, to produce the DRS.

Figure 1: AECOM & IBM Resilience Scorecard

Additional UN ISDR activities related to the DRS include the biannual publication of “The Global Assessment Report (GAR)”, a comprehensive summary of climate related data and climate adaptation actions. The most recent GAR was published May, 2013; and the next report will be issued in 2015. Another very important initiative launched by the UN ISDR is “Project R!SE”, a campaign to raise awareness and funding for resilient investment. The R!SE Initiative was launched in May, 2014, at the UN Offices in New York City.

The DRS has 81 questions with defined scoring protocol using a “0” to “5” rating scale with “5” as the highest possible score for each question. Each question is rated so that a normalized score is derived which can serve as an objective benchmark for a city to gauge progress year to year. The DRS algorithm defines a point in time state of preparedness and provides the insight to set critical, near term priorities for improving resilience. Clearly, an important outcome of the DRS application is to create a multiyear action plan to set priorities for decision making and investment for regulatory action and for code improvements. Cities are complex, with a multitude of inter-related systems in place to serve their residents. Resilience is a cross cutting activity that brings the city departments together to identify and implement actions to improve resilience. An example of the scorecard is illustrated in Figure 2 for Essential 1.

Table 1: The Disaster Resilience Scorecard


Item Measured Indicative Measurement Indicative Measurement Scale
Organization and Coordination Co-option of physical contributions by both public and private sectors Identification of physical contributions for each major organization 5 - All key contributions fully defined for pre- and post-event, underwritten by MOUs.
4 - Most key contributions defined - some minor gaps in coverage. MOUs may not exist.
3 - Some contributions formally defined but full leverage of private sector yet to be achieved.
2 - One or two contributions defined for specific areas - perhaps via informal agreements.
1 - Plans being developed to seek contributions.
0 - No private sector contribution defined.
Effectiveness of grass roots organization(s) throughout the city Presence of at least one non-government body for pre and post event response for each neighbourhood in the city. 5 - Grass roots organization(s) addressing full spectrum of disaster resilience issues exist(s) for every neighbourhood, irrespective of wealth, demographics, etc.
4 - >75% of neighbourhoods covered
3 - 50-75% of neighbourhoods covered
2 - 25-50% of neighbourhoods covered
1 - Plans to engage in neighbourhoods and maybe one or two initial cases
0 - No engagement
Grass roots organization meeting frequency and attendance. 5 - for >75% of neighbourhoods, one meeting per month, all personnel roles staffed and 10x formal role-holder numbers in regular attendance.
4 - for 50-75% of neighbourhoods, one meeting per quarter - all roles staffed and 5x role-holder numbers in attendance. No meetings in the rest.
3 - for 25-50% of neighbourhoods, semi-annual meetings, but with some gaps in roles and less than 3x role-holders in attendance. No meetings in the rest.
2 - for 25-50% of neighbourhoods, annual meetings, but with significant gaps in roles and less than 3x role-holders in attendance. No meetings in the rest.
1 - Ad hoc meetings in less than 25% of neighbourhoods of a few "enthusiasts".
0 - No meetings
Clear identification and coordination of pre and post-event roles for grass-roots bodies, supported by training. Roles agreed and signed off, preferably via MOU or similar. 5 - for >75% of neighbourhoods, roles are defined and filled, coordination is effective within and between grass-roots bodies, and full training is both provided and attended.
4 - for 50-75% of neighbourhoods, roles are defined and agreed, but some minor deficiencies in these or in training, or incomplete staffing in some cases. Coordination generally good but some lapses. No roles defined in the rest.
3 - for 25-50% of neighbourhoods, most roles defined, but with more significant emissions, some training but with gaps in coverage, coordination adequate but could be improved. No roles defined in the rest.
2 - for 25-50% of neighbourhoods, a few key roles defined, but coordination is absent or poor and training notably incomplete. No roles defined in the rest.
1 - Plans in place to define roles and develop coordination mechanisms.
0 - No roles defined and no coordination

In summary, design engineering is a key element to build resilience for disaster risk reduction. The appropriate building materials (Concrete, metal, mortar, wood, coatings, polymers, etc.) must be selected based upon the type of natural disasters unique to the area. By establishing a benchmark score of natural disaster preparedness, a city may achieve many objectives …vulnerabilities defined, citizen awareness improved, and resilient investments created, coalesce inputs from many stakeholders, all which will lead to build a city that is sustainable. Local citizens and the community in general will benefit by understanding the risks faced, plans to be executed and recovery actions to be taken when a natural disaster occurs. The private sector is an integral member of the community and must participate in disaster risk reduction. The public and private sector working together may evaluate different disaster scenarios to assess their vulnerabilities, leverage best practices to mitigate effects to the extent possible, in adapting to a period of climate change. The public and private sector work best when they work together to define actions to plan for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. Insurers also have a unique role in this as well, bringing keen insight into cities that improve resilience, ultimately leading to lower insurance premiums that are more resilient to natural disasters.

In summary, improving resilience in our cities is an imperative given the change in climate and increasing migration of people to urban areas. Planning, response and recovery are three different but inter-related actions that each requires a set of activities coordinated by public sector leadership. The synergy between the public and private sectors must be further developed. Improving resilience locally must be “custom fit” to the local infrastructure, the exposures and risks. The DRS is one tool to examine preparedness in response to natural disasters and is a valuable tool in developing a multi-year plan to improve resilience and to gauge progress year to year.


C.M. Shreve, I.Kelman “Does Mitigation Save? Reviewing cost-benefit analyses of disaster risk reduction”. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 10 (2014) 213-235

World Economic Forum. “Insight Report Global Risks 2014 Ninth Edition”, ISBN -13:92-95044-60-6. ISBN-10:978-92-95044-60-9.


Sands, D. (2015): Innovative Scorecard for Evaluating Resiliency in our Cities. In: Planet@Risk, 3(1): 154-157, Davos: Global Risk Forum GRF Davos.