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COPEWELL: A Conceptual Framework and System Dynamics Model for Predicting Community Functioning and Resilience After Disasters

  • Jonathan M. Links (a1) (a2), Brian S. Schwartz (a1) (a3), Sen Lin (a4), Norma Kanarek (a1), Judith Mitrani-Reiser (a4), Tara Kirk Sell (a1) (a5), Crystal R. Watson (a1) (a5), Doug Ward (a6), Cathy Slemp (a7), Robert Burhans (a7), Kimberly Gill (a8), Tak Igusa (a4), Xilei Zhao (a4), Benigno Aguirre (a8), Joseph Trainor (a8), Joanne Nigg (a8), Thomas Inglesby (a1) (a5), Eric Carbone (a9) and James M. Kendra (a8)...
Abstract Objective

Policy-makers and practitioners have a need to assess community resilience in disasters. Prior efforts conflated resilience with community functioning, combined resistance and recovery (the components of resilience), and relied on a static model for what is inherently a dynamic process. We sought to develop linked conceptual and computational models of community functioning and resilience after a disaster.


We developed a system dynamics computational model that predicts community functioning after a disaster. The computational model outputted the time course of community functioning before, during, and after a disaster, which was used to calculate resistance, recovery, and resilience for all US counties.


The conceptual model explicitly separated resilience from community functioning and identified all key components for each, which were translated into a system dynamics computational model with connections and feedbacks. The components were represented by publicly available measures at the county level. Baseline community functioning, resistance, recovery, and resilience evidenced a range of values and geographic clustering, consistent with hypotheses based on the disaster literature.


The work is transparent, motivates ongoing refinements, and identifies areas for improved measurements. After validation, such a model can be used to identify effective investments to enhance community resilience.(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;page 1 of 11)

Corresponding author
Correspondence and reprint requests to Jonathan M. Links, Johns Hopkins University, 258 Garland Hall, 3400 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218 (e-mail:
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5. RL Pfefferbaum , B Pfefferbaum , RL Van Horn , et al. Building community resilience to disasters through a community-based intervention: CART applications. J Emerg Manag. 2013;11(2):151-159.

7. SL Cutter , L Barnes , M Berry , et al. A place-based model for understanding community resilience to natural disasters. Glob Environ Change. 2008;18(4):598-606.

10. A Plough , JE Fielding , A Chandra , et al. Building community disaster resilience: perspectives from a large urban county department of public health. Am J Public Health. 2013;103(7):1190-1197.

12. KB Wells , J Tang , E Lizaola , et al. Applying community engagement to disaster planning: developing the vision and design for the Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Initiative. Am J Public Health. 2013;103(7):1172-1180.

17. PL Mabry , DH Olster , GD Morgan , et al. Interdisciplinarity and systems science to improve population health: a view from the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. Am J Prev Med. 2008;35(2)(suppl):S211-S224.

20. PS Hovmand . Community Based System Dynamics. Springer; 2014; Accessed May 9, 2017.

23. RM Sakia . The Box-Cox transformation technique - a review. Statistician. 1992;41(2):169-178.

25. FH Norris , SP Stevens , B Pfefferbaum , et al. Community resilience as a metaphor, theory, set of capacities, and strategy for disaster readiness. Am J Community Psychol. 2008;41(1-2):127-150.

26. SB Miles , SE Chang . Modeling community recovery from earthquakes. Earthq Spectra. 2006;22(2):439-458.

28. BE Aguirre , D Wenger , G Vigo . Test of the emergent norm theory of collective behavior. Sociol Forum. 1998;13(2):301-320.

31. JM Kendra , T Wachtendorf . Reconsidering convergence and converger legitimacy in response to the World Trade Center disaster. Research in Social Problems in Public Policy. 2003;11:97-122.

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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
  • URL: /core/journals/disaster-medicine-and-public-health-preparedness
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