The Challenge

Disasters now incur annual welfare losses of over $500 billion globally, pushing over 26 million people into poverty each year, according to the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). The COVID-19 pandemic revealed in stark relief the vulnerability of communities from local to global scales and the need for coordinated and science-informed crisis management. As a preeminent public research university known for its mission of public service, the University of California contributes deeply to society through research, translating scientific discoveries into practical knowledge and technological innovations, and through training successive generations. UC DRN provides a needed means for systematically harnessing, and reliably discovering, existing talent across disciplines that can be brought to bear with academic, non-governmental and governmental partners to plan, address and recover from disasters.

With its ten campuses, five medical centers, and three national labs, the University of California is the largest public research university in the United States and can bring the energy and insight of its nearly 230,000 faculty and staff, covering over 160 academic disciplines, to serve society’s critical needs. The University of California Disaster Resilience Network (UC DRN) is a comprehensive program harnessing the University’s breadth and depth of expertise to assist communities to mitigate, prepare for and recover from disasters and crises, both human-induced and natural.

“The potential of a University of California-wide network of students, professors, researchers and administrators focused on solving humanitarian issues side by side with the Red Cross and others is massive. The vision and mission of the Network is both ambitious and timely considering the changing climate, the increasing rate of complex emergencies and evolving political landscape.”

Omar Abou-Samra
Director, American Red Cross Preparedness Services and Global Disaster Preparedness Center

The Response

UC DRN is establishing a multidisciplinary launchpad for faculty, students and staff—from across the UC system—to focus, exactly when and where needed, on disasters, prevention and resilience.  UC DRN provides a platform for collating talent, matching UC resources with external needs, conducting research, training leaders and researchers to contribute to resilience, and thereby assisting communities facing unprecedented challenges. Backed by science and the multiplicative strength of the ten-campus UC system, UC DRN informs action that considers all facets of disaster resilience, including identifying and understanding risk, risk governance and management, investments and risk reduction, and preparedness and resilient recovery.

With its service mission, world-renowned faculty, research and educational capabilities, and tradition of systemwide with its service mission, world-renowned faculty, research and educational capabilities, and tradition of systemwide collaboration, the University of California is uniquely qualified to undertake this effort on behalf of California citizens and global society. UC DRN looks to other longstanding UC programs and resources as potential partners. In addition to the world’s most extensive network of field sites, including the 41-site, 756,000-acre UC Natural Reserve System, there are many other established UC programs, such as UC San Francisco’s Global Disaster Assistance Committee, UC Los Angeles’ Center for Public Health and Disasters, and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute, that offer expertise relevant to resilience.

“The breadth and depth of the University of California system is phenomenal. Given our position on the edge of the Pacific Plate, our changing climate, and our ever-expanding population, pooling the talents and ideas of our faculty and students and improving our understanding of disasters by providing our assistance domestically and overseas will be key to California’s recovery to its own inevitable natural and man-made disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need to harness our collective efforts all the more urgent.”

Dr. George Rutherford
MD, Professor, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UC San Francisco School of Medicine, “Director, Prevention and Public Health Group
UC Disaster Resilience Network Executive Committee

The Approach

UC DRN is delivering activities that are synergistic and achieved through a coalition of researchers, administrators, students, and partners.