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GRI founding director presents keynote on advancing critical infrastructure resilience | Resilience Week

The annual Resilience Week Symposium, which began on Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, showcased promising research in resilient systems to protect critical cyber-physical infrastructures from unexpected and malicious threats.

Though the event goes back a decade, the critical infrastructure track featured throughout the week is now only in its fourth year, according to event organizers. Dr. Stephen Flynn, Founding Director of the Global Resilience Institute (GRI), served as keynote speaker on the conference’s second day and addressed this topic.

Specifically Flynn discussed; “leveraging disasters to advance critical infrastructure resilience.”

Emphasizing the importance of interdisciplinary research, Dr. Flynn presented the five barriers which must be overcome to achieve resilience:

  1. A very limited understanding of how to manage the risk of cascading failures associated with complex interdependent systems at multiple levels;
  2. A limited understanding for how to embed resilience into systems, networks, and infrastructure;
  3. Pervasive economic disincentives for investing in resilience;
  4. Inadequate governance frameworks and policy guidance to foster resilience;
  5. A lack of adequate training and education to support the development and implementation of more comprehensive capabilities for advancing resilience.

A collaborative investment in resilience prior to a disaster, and a swift adaptation afterwards can result in a net gain in infrastructure function, Flynn stressed.

“Building resilience within people and communities requires a collaborative effort that matches the complexity associated with systems and networks that are becoming increasingly interdependent,” Flynn explains. “These shared dependencies fuel the risk of cascading failures that effect societies in often unexpected ways.”

As a global resilience research center integrating expertise in science, healthcare, engineering, public policy, and business, GRI forges multisector connections and interdisciplinary collaborations that are vital to identifying and advancing meaningful solutions. The institute also works with an expanding network of local and regional emergency managers and planners to support rapid recovery and adaptation in the aftermath of major disasters, and to help communities retain and share lessons from these catastrophic events.

Daniel Aldrich, GRI faculty affiliate and director of Northeastern’s Security and Resilience Program, also delivered a keynote presentation at the conference: “How Social Infrastructure Drives Resilience.”

Author of Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery, Aldrich presented research on the recovery efforts in Japan, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Specifically, he highlighted the importance of social ties and community resilience in driving survival rates and recovery efforts.

“The first responders to most incidents are people walking by — a neighbor,” Aldrich told the audience. “Knowing your neighbors, especially in major metro areas, is critical.”

Resilience Week, hosted by Idaho National Laboratory and University of Delaware, runs from September 18 through September 22. For more information on this year’s event and past years, visit