All places are vulnerable to disasters, be they relatively mundane occurrences such as ice storms or hazardous materials spills or more exceptional events such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks. It is the truly extreme events of major proportion, however, that capture the attention of policymakers and the public alike.
These sudden, infrequent “focusing events” that cause great harm typically produce policy change—often major policy change (Birkland 1997). A contemporary example would be the comprehensive redesign of the homeland security policy in the United States following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Although an ordinary event that is smaller in scale or episodic may fail to generate widespread attention, it too can have substantial deleterious consequences for the affected community. Ultimately, all communities are at risk, even if the probability of a hazardous event and its severity vary. Vulnerability is ubiquitous, and local governments have the unenviable task of dealing with it. Given the omnipresence of risk and vulnerability, local governments have sought to improve their resilience to extreme events. In this article, the related issues of community vulnerability and resilience are analyzed through case studies of five counties in a southern state. Of particular interest is whether these local governments have established performance regimes to tackle the complex management of extreme events. After the relevant literature is reviewed, the concept of performance regimes is discussed and explored empirically. In the concluding section, the implications of the findings are considered.
Bowman, Ann O'M., and Bryan M. Parsons. 2009. "Vulnerability and Resilience in Local Government: Assessing the Strength of Performance Regimes." State and Local Government Review (September): 13-24. http://slg.sagepub.com/content/41/1/13.full.pdf+html