Preparing a community’s buildings and infrastructure for a hurricane or earthquake can be an incredibly complicated and costly endeavor. A new online tool from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could streamline this process and help decision makers invest in cost-effective measures to improve their community’s ability to mitigate, adapt to and recover from hazardous events.

With input from local and state government officials, NIST researchers developed the Economic Decision Guide Software (EDGe$) tool, a platform-independent web app, to provide a standard and easy-to-use method of evaluating and comparing different community projects to improve resilience. For community planners weighing options — whether to build a levee or add green space to reduce flooding in a neighborhood, for example — EDGe$ could reveal key economic insights about which choice would be a better fit, notes NIST. The new tool could be beneficial for state, local and private sector planners. 

“We have tried to make EDGe$ as user-friendly and straightforward as possible for economists and non-economists alike,” said Jennifer Helgeson, a NIST research economist and lead developer of the tool. 

"Because myriad factors affect how communities respond to disaster, decision-makers could spend an eternity mulling over which resilience measures would provide the greatest benefits relative to the costs. But EDGe$ users may have an easier time cutting through the noise. The online tool requests user input about variables that are most crucial for determining the value of a resilience action, including often overlooked factors, such as benefits that accrue day to day even if disaster does not strike. It can also include the effects of projects on neighboring communities, Helgeson said," notes NIST.

EDGe$ calculates several important figures that indicate the value of investments, such as benefit-to-cost ratios, internal rates of return and returns on investment (whether a hazardous event occurs or not). The metrics from each potential plan, including one where no action is taken, are then laid out side by side so they can be easily compared. 

EDGe$ is based on the NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems — used by several communities across the county — and the companion Community Resilience Economic Decision Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems. 

For more information, visit NIST.