Community Resiliency and Educating the Public to Use Social Networks
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.