A resilience engineering approach to integrating human and socio-technical system capacities and processes for national infrastructure resilience

John E. Thomas, Daniel A. Eisenberg, Thomas Seager, Erik Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Despite Federal directives calling for an integrated approach to strengthening the resilience of critical infrastructure systems, little is known about the relationship between human behavior and infrastructure resilience. While it is well recognized that human response can either amplify or mitigate catastrophe, the role of human or psychological resilience when infrastructure systems are confronted with surprise remains an oversight in policy documents and resilience research. Existing research treats human resilience and technological resilience as separate capacities that may create stress conditions that act upon one another. There remains a knowledge gap regarding study of those attributes in each that build infrastructure resilience as an integrated system of humans and technologies. This work draws on concepts found in the resilience engineering and psychology literature to examine the dynamic relationships between human resilience and the resilience of complex, socio-technical critical infrastructure systems. We identify and organize 18 system capacities and 23 human capacities that influence infrastructure resilience. We then correlate individual human and system resilience capacities to determine how each influences four socio-technical processes for resilience: sensing, anticipating, adapting, and learning. Our analysis shows that the human and technical resilience capacities reviewed are interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. Further, we find current literature is focused more on cognitive and behavioral dimensions of human resilience and we offer ways to better incorporate affective capacities. Together, we present a simple way to link the resilience of technological systems to the cognitive, behavioral, and affective dimensions of humans responsible for the system design, operation, and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20170019
JournalJournal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • critical infrastructure
  • human resilience
  • resilience
  • resilience engineering
  • socio-technical systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Safety Research


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