Home Opinion Connecticut Tornado Underscores the Importance of Community Resilience

Connecticut Tornado Underscores the Importance of Community Resilience


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Major crises will often bring to light problems and pitfalls of a community’s disaster mitigation policies.  Hurricane Katrina infamously underscored the numerous problems that existed in Louisiana parish governments and the Department of Homeland Security after its creation.

Communications, resources and logistical problems across local, state and federal levels of government became synonymous with the overall government mismanagement of Katrina. However, small-scale emergencies can have the same illuminating effect.

Damage from Macrobursts and Severe Weather

On May 15, 2018 a severe storm struck Connecticut including several tornadoes and macrobursts which are downbursts of strong winds “comparable to a weak tornado.”

Of course, tornadoes can strike any part of the country if the appropriate weather system is present. Some sections of the country, like the Midwest, routinely experience tornadoes simply because of the weather patterns that are common to that area.

Connecticut, on the other hand, isn’t as well prepared for tornadoes simply because the state doesn’t experience many of these damaging storms. Their rarity makes it difficult to adequately prepare for such an occurrence without a frame of reference for that type of destructive weather. Although the severe storm in Connecticut was not a major emergency event, it did provide some insight into systemic flaws, certainly from a state government standpoint.

State Disaster Declaration Is Needed before Federal Funds Can Assist the Cleanup

Recently, a story aired and published by NPR recounted the experience of Ray Murphy, a resident of Brookfield, Connecticut. Murphy’s home was not hit by a tornado. It was destroyed by a macroburst.

As such, Murphy doesn’t expect any help from the federal government because Connecticut has not yet fully assessed the storm to see whether it qualifies as a federal disaster. If the storm does qualify as a major disaster, the state will receive federal funding assistance.

In that case, Connecticut would be able to effectively support any state emergency management endeavors. But until that happens, the burden to manage the effects of the storm fall upon local governments per the policies in place at the local, state and federal levels.

In some cases, however, damage repair and financial assistance fall on the homeowners (i.e. if a tree falls in someone’s yard that homeowner is responsible for the cleanup). Also, renters will have to rely on their landlords and on their insurance companies to help with the required financial assistance.

Small-Scale Incidents and Damage

Murphy described the damage his property sustained and how much assistance he actually needs to rebuild his home. Had the emergency been more widespread and destructive, he might now be receiving assistance to help him rebuild.

More importantly, he needs more community assistance, but likely won’t receive it because the storm is considered a small-scale emergency. Murphy’s dilemma points to the importance of community resilience – a relatively new concept in emergency management literature that has caught the attention of sociologists.

Community Resilience Assist a Community to Bounce Back

Community resilience refers to the idea that a community can bounce back faster from a destructive incident if it has its own support systems in place. Those systems would include local churches, non-profit agencies and other community volunteer groups. For Murphy, community resilience could possibly help him to recover faster.

Small-scale emergencies like that severe storm in Connecticut should behoove emergency managers to rethink how they can quickly return their community to normal after such an incident. Recovery may require additional support systems under the umbrella of community resilience. If a community can successfully bounce back quicker, everyone benefits.

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, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.