In each disaster, examples of community resilience emerge: neighbors helping neighbors; volunteers filling response gaps; businesses providing unexpected resources; and first responders going above and beyond their call of duty. Many people have an innate urge to respond to disasters by donating their time and money, giving blood, providing transportation, feeding and clothing survivors, and so on. Imagine a disaster response of the future where that natural instinct to help is harnessed and nurtured by emergency preparedness professionals.

In addition to a natural inclination to act, research has shown that society is coming to the realization that they must act. With the frequency and severity of recent disasters, the people in need of rescue can far outnumber the rescuers. The public, who are on the scene before responders even arrive, already play a critical role in disaster response, but they could do more. By empowering them with additional knowledge and training before a disaster, perhaps more consequences could be mitigated, more lives could be saved, and fewer people would suffer.

In order to educate and train community members, first responders and community leaders also need to be informed and trained. These traditional responders and leaders must be able to identify potential natural, manmade, or technological threats and take steps toward mitigating the consequences should one of these threats emerge. This includes legal preparedness efforts, which could enhance cross-jurisdictional collaboration and coordination. Given how rapidly technology is evolving (e.g., autonomous vehicles), the environment is changing, and populations are growing, building community resilience needs to include all members of the community.

Knowledge is power, but the key is to ensure that information shared is information learned. Public service announcements that do not reach the target audience do no good. DomPrep would like to hear about any lessons learned or best practices communities may have for informing and educating community members and nurturing public preparedness. Contact me at cfeinman@domprep.com if you would like to share your knowledge and experience with your counterparts across the emergency preparedness, response, and resilience communities.

 

Catherine L. Feinman

Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 35 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and The Weekly Brief. She works with writers and other contributors to build and create new content that is relevant to the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery communities. She received a bachelor’s degree in International Business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management from American Military University.

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