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Community Resiliency and Educating the Public to Use Social Networks

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

In the past few years, social scientists have put a name to a new and growing component of emergency management. This concept, community resilience, has become an important aspect in understanding how communities recover after a major emergency.

The RAND Corporation defines community resilience as “a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to respond to, withstand and recover from adverse situations.”

Building community resiliency in towns and cities is a critical emergency preparedness measure that significantly helps the recovery process. How communities foster resilience continues to be a subject of social science research, particularly in regard to understanding how to strengthen the resilience framework.

Social scientists have started to see real benefits from community resiliency efforts. As a result, they constantly recommend that emergency managers work to create networks that people can utilize to aid in recovery and rebuilding.

Emergency managers do not, however, advise teaching how to ask family, friends and neighbors for assistance during a disaster. Those social networks have no real emergency training.

Community Willingness to Help Exists in Communities Nationwide

In many ways, neighbors have always come together during crises and disasters. This willingness to help is particularly true if those neighbors are part of the same church or school group or they have been friends for many years.

Recently, when a tornado struck a small town in Ohio, Amish neighbors helped the non-Amish residents with their recovery efforts. Such acts go a long way in rebuilding a community. They also assuage the fears and concerns a community generally has after an emergency.

Understanding that these networks already exist is an important piece of educating the public. If people are already willing to help each other, it becomes easier to teach them how to ask their friends, family and neighbors for assistance. This training creates more networks that emergency managers can utilize during the rebuilding and recovery effort.

Creating Community Resiliency in Towns and Cities

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) have also become a resource for emergency managers. For example, local citizens come together to train in emergency response efforts.

Similarly, volunteer public safety agencies, such as volunteer fire departments and rescue squads, have significantly contributed to creating community resilience efforts. Since these groups are composed of volunteers, they will already be members of a community network and available to help during a disaster.

Social scientists say it’s important to foster community resiliency by developing networks of individuals who can come together during emergencies. Creating these networks is an important component of emergency management. Educating the community to tap into their own networks is also an important aspect of recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, History, a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard and a Lifeguard Instructor. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.