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
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
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.