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Community Resilience in the Face of Disaster: A Case Study from Boulder, Colorado

Program Locations: Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A
Project Duration: January 2014–April 2014
Project Lead: Karen MacClune, Senior Staff Scientist

Red Cross National Societies; humanitarian aid organizations; and municipal planners.

Project Overview

In September 2013, Boulder County and the Colorado Front Range region of the United States was inundated by an unprecedented rain event, both in terms of amount of rain and the spread over time and area. Parts of the region managed the water with little damage, and responders were able to implement emergency response according to plan. Other areas were overwhelmed, resulting in surprises for planners and residents, and causing considerable damage. Focusing on Boulder County, this study looks at what happened prior to, during, and after the floods, and presents lessons learned about planning and response to extreme events for resilience.


  • To document where and how citizen and municipal action during the September 2013 flooding events in Boulder County, Colorado reflected resilient systems and approaches.

  • To present practical lessons learned for city planners and for disaster management and disaster risk reduction practitioners in the Red Cross network and other humanitarian aid organizations

Core Program Activities

  • We examine the human response to the flood in terms of autonomous response of individuals, civil society groups, emergency responders, utilities, and city staff, and where those responses were supported or undermined by resilient systems and legal and social norms. We specifically examined areas of contrast: Where did planning work, and where did it not work? These areas provided rich lessons for building resilience.Other program activities include:

  • Interviews

  • Flood recovery forums

  • Review of literature

  • News and official reports

Project Publications

Staff Involved

Funded by:

Community Resilience in the Face of Disaster: A Case Study from Boulder, Colorado


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