All levels of government are confronted with a multitude of challenges as the frequency and severity of natural disasters continue to grow. Economic loss from 15 disasters in 2022 amounted to over $1 billion each. As part of a strategy to better address this challenge, at least 16 states have created a position to streamline planning and project oversight for disaster mitigation and climate resilience projects. For many states, the position is known as a chief resilience officer, or CRO.
CROs play a key role in tackling the complex issues involved in resilience planning, risk management and implementation. For example, the Colorado CRO develops a resiliency and community recovery program; examines long-term recovery, including how to rebuild in a resilient way after an event; provides state and local technical assistance; and integrating resilience into state investments and grant programs. States have used both executive orders and legislation to create resilience officer positions.
Five Things to Know About Chief Resilience Officers
They can help develop a regional or statewide resilience plan, or both.
CROs are often charged with developing, implementing and maintaining a statewide (or regional) resilience plan to help states address natural hazards, improve collaboration and coordination across agencies, secure and prioritize federal spending to lessen the impacts from future disasters.
Legislation can provide an important basis for funding CROs.
Where legislatures have crafted bills to create a CRO position, they often create an office of resilience and provide funding for the officer and any additional support staff, realizing that CROs need resources to carry out their work.
Advisory councils or task forces can help support resilience efforts.
Often when states create a CRO, they also form an advisory council, or a task force consisting of representatives of various agencies and designate the CRO as chair or leader.
CROs can secure and prioritize federal pre-disaster and disaster spending.
This funding, originating from different federal agencies, can lessen the impacts of future disasters and ensure resilience is considered in state investments.
CROs can work with and support local jurisdictions.
CROs can identify clear mechanisms for working with and supporting local governments, which are central to mitigating and recovering from disasters. This can include providing access to risk assessment data, funding and research.
Florida lawmakers passed a bill in 2022 that established the Statewide Office of Resilience in the Executive Office of the Governor. The bill also provides for the appointment of a chief resilience officer to coordinate flood resilience and mitigation efforts in the state and identify gaps in mitigation activities (HB 7053).
North Carolina recently appropriated recurring funds to support three positions in the Office of Recovery and Resiliency to coordinate resiliency efforts (SB 105, 2021).
South Carolina established a resiliency office and created a Statewide Resilience Plan Advisory Committee made up of state agency officials and members appointed by the CRO. The bill also established a Resilience Revolving Loan Fund to support implementation (SB 259, 2019).
In 2020, Virginia directed the governor to appoint a chief resilience officer to coordinate climate adaptation initiatives, identify funding opportunities and complete a Coastal Resilience Master Plan, which was finalized in 2021.
The New Mexico House introduced a bill in 2018 to create a Sustainability and Resilience Officer. The bill did not pass the legislature, but in 2019, the governor signed an executive order establishing the position, which is housed within the Energy Conservation and Management Division, and the position was appropriated funding through HB 548 (2019).
States with CROs include California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.