The Rise of the Chief Resilience Officer
Led by state Senator Katie Fry Hester, almost half the state senate of Maryland just proposed a bill establishing a Chief Resilience Officer and Office of Resilience. If it passes, Maryland will be the twelfth state to do so.
Organizing a state’s capabilities to mitigate and prepare for disasters before they happen is becoming increasingly popular as a tool to combat the spiraling cost of disasters. Chief Resilience Officers have a unique set of competencies that differentiate them from Emergency, Relief and Stabilization, and Recovery Officers. They should be able to:
Catalogue and prioritize threats and vulnerabilities
Understand how systems interact with each other so that interdependencies that can lead to public health shortages, supply chain disruptions, and other failures can be avoided
Work across agencies, systems, and the public and private sectors
Identify and provide tools and assets to low-income, vulnerable, and smaller communities
Prepare “playbooks” for stakeholders to understand and follow depending on the type of the disaster
Support training and exercises to prepare people for potential catastrophic scenarios
Support ongoing critical infrastructure resilience through targeted investment because of the dynamics of changing weather, climate, biological, geological, and human challenges
Raise awareness and educate the general public about the disaster management cycle
Work with economic development leaders to understand the resilience needs of small business
Forbes and other media have also added a number of important attributes that a CRO should have. Chief Resilience Officers must be able to craft effective processes and decision-making frameworks that enable a successful organizational response in the case of disruption – say, a pandemic. Whereas a Chief Risk Officer focuses on systematic risk management and risk mitigation, a Chief Resilience Officer focuses on effective responses when those risks become a reality. More importantly, the two positions complement each other and work hand-in-hand.
Chief Resilience Officers were first launched into the public sphere in 2013 and targeted at metro areas when The Rockefeller Foundation launched the “100 Resilient Cities Initiative.” One of the program’s goals was to provide funding and logistical guidance to establish a Chief Resilience Officer in 100 city governments worldwide. Over 80+ CROs were hired and trained before the program ended in 2019.
States like Virginia and Oregon quickly followed suit, and now eleven states in the U.S. have instituted their own Chief Resilience Officers. Some were created via executive order, and others by legislation. Here are those states and when and how the position was adopted:
SC (2021) – legislation
LA (2020) – executive order
FL (2019) – by appointment
NJ (2019) – executive order
NC (2019) – legislation
CO (2018) – legislation
WV (2017) – legislation
RI (2017) – executive order
OR (2015) – legislation
VA (2014) – by appointment, and then by legislation in 2020
WY – created administratively
In addition to Maryland, New Mexico and Washington state have also introduced CRO legislation this year.
In Florida, Rhode Island, and Virginia, the position of Chief Resilience Officer has been dually-held by another state department lead. However, in a recent episode of the “Disaster Zone” podcast, Oregon State Resilience Officer Mike Harryman mentions that the position is more than simply another title to give someone. Rather, it’s important to have someone dedicated to it full-time who can work on the policy level.
To learn more about Chief Resilience Officers and get help, contact HelpDesk@isdus.org or (833) 473-2020.
By: Stephen Jordan, CEO, and Patty Pelingon, Program Coordinator