Whether you just moved into your neighborhood a week ago or you’ve lived there for 25 years, getting to know your neighbors has always been an important part of a functioning society. It can also be helpful in a crisis, because after a disaster occurs, the people in closest proximity to you – and the people who will be able to help you most immediately – are your neighbors.
They may need your help as well. Research reported by FEMA says that people often are not as prepared for disasters as they think they are. Forty percent of survey respondents said they did not have household plans in the event of an emergency, and nearly 60 percent did not know their community’s evacuation routes.
Almost 20 percent of responders said they had a functional disability that would affect their ability to respond during a disaster, but only 25 percent of those people have made arrangements to or alerted others to their disability in case of an event. In a different survey, 46 percent of people said they expect to rely on people in their neighborhood for assistance in the first 72 hours after a disaster.
What makes a community resilient?
A resilient community is socially connected and has accessible health systems that are able to withstand disaster and foster community recovery. The community can take collective action after an adverse event because it has developed resources that reduce the impact of major disturbances and help protect people’s health. Resilient communities promote individual and community physical, behavioral, and social health to strengthen their communities for daily, as well as extreme, challenges.
Strategies to build resilient communities:
Some considerations, adapted from the National Preparedness and Response Science Board’s Community Health Resilience Recommendations1 are:
- Strengthen—and promote access to—public health, healthcare, and social services: Strong day-to-day systems can be better leveraged to support health resilience during disasters and emergencies. In capable systems people know how to access care and are not limited by real or perceived barriers to services.
- Promote health and wellness alongside disaster preparedness: Information and education that involve public health, behavioral health, emergency preparedness, and community health resilience interventions can help people face everyday challenges as well as major disruptions or disasters. Optimal levels of physical and psychological health and well-being within the population facilitate the community’s rapid recovery.
- Expand communication and collaboration: Build networks that include social services, behavioral health, community organizations, businesses, academia, at-risk individuals, and faith-based stakeholders in addition to traditional public health, healthcare, and emergency management partners.
- Engage at-risk individuals and the programs that serve them: Engaging individuals with potential vulnerabilities to take an active part in protecting their health and aiding their community’s resilience strengthens the community as a whole. Assist programs that serve at-risk individuals to develop robust disaster and continuity of operations plans.
- Build social connectedness: People are more empowered to help one another after a major disturbance in communities in which members are regularly involved in each other’s lives. Building social connectedness can be an important emergency preparedness action.
In what ways can I strengthen my individual health and resilience?
Individual health and resilience is important for community resilience because healthy, socially connected, prepared people make for stronger communities that are better able to withstand, manage, and recover from disasters. People should try to:
- Live a healthy lifestyle and learn skills to manage stress.
- Maintain connections to meaningful groups like families, places of worship and volunteer organizations.
- Be informed, educated, and able to help neighbors, family, and friends.
- Engage in community or neighborhood preparedness activities.
- Create evacuation and family reunification plans.
- Have a disaster kit and be able to shelter in place for 72 hours.
- Take trainings like CPR, first aid, CERT, or psychological first aid.