Building Community Resilience by Disaster Recovery Planning

Ken Walker

weather short course

 

 

Natural disasters are common in Australia. Drought, for instance, occurs in every three out of ten years and the consequent heatwaves have killed more than any other kind of natural disaster in the twentieth century. Thus, recovering from such events requires emergency planners to establish an extensive disaster recovery plan.

Furthermore, flooding ranks among the most expensive disaster with average losses calculated at 400 million dollars every year on average.

It is imperative to note that the flood of 1990 might have covered an area bigger than Germany. Luckily, Australia is quite resilient with all three levels of government. As well as community and business based Non-Government Organisations playing a big role in the development of safer societies.

Local and federal governance and the disaster recovery plan

Natural hazard governance varies across the nation for two important reasons: the country’s federal government structure, and its large size. Besides, the nation’s expansive longitudinal and latitudinal spread results in numerous climatic zones.

Spanning from the tropical northern side through the sub-tropics to the more temperate southern areas and arid deserts in the central parts.

For this reason, local and state governments ought to respond to natural calamities differently. Flooding is the most frequent natural calamity and also the most extensive in terms of scope. Even though, heat waves cause the largest number of human fatalities. Resulting in a need for workable and effective solutions within the disaster recovery plan.

 

Disasters are more than just floods!

During the summer, cyclones occur frequently in the northern side while severe bushfires occur often in the southwest and southeast. Therefore, governance structures and disaster recovery plans across the country, in spite of their many similarities, vary in accordance to hazard type in the different geographical locations.

The disaster recovery plan can save lives and property damage

However, more often than not, recovery from serious disasters can be a lengthy and complex process with different societies recovering at different rates. The recovery element of the disaster management approach – prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery – might be the most complicated and protracted.

Next, the best results can only be achieved by making sure that the recovery strategies are aligned with community needs and are led by the affected society.

To achieve this, disaster recovery bodies need to put in place a coordinated, collaborative, scalable, and adaptable approach where the responsibility to recover from disasters is shared among all sectors of the society including families, the individual, community groups, businesses and all other levels of government.

A community-driven approach can surely support the rapid restoration of services important to the well-being of mankind and extends an opportunity to establish resilience and improve community preparedness beyond their status before the disaster.

 

disaster-flooding-city

 

The Principles of Disaster Recovery

Next, the following principles indicate all recovery operations and planning in Australia.

1. Understanding the disaster recovery context

  • Firstly, Acknowledge existing capacity and strengths as noted from past experience
  • Appreciate the stress and risks faced by the affected society
  • Be sensitive and respectful to the diversity and culture of the community
  • Support the affected individuals
  • Understand the importance of the immediate environment to the affected persons
  • Lastly, Recognize that the impact upon the community might extend further beyond the geographical boundaries of the area affected by the disaster

2. Recognizing the complexity of disaster recovery

  • Disasters can lead to a wide range of effects that need a variety of different approaches; they might also have living legacies in the long-term
  • Information of the general effects is limited at first and it might change with time
  • Affected members of the community and individuals have diverse needs, expectations and wants, which might vary rapidly
  • Flexible and responsive actions are crucial to sort out the immediate needs
  • Existing community values and knowledge might challenge the assumptions of the people living outside the affected community
  • Conflicting values, knowledge, and priorities among different individuals in the community might create tension

 

3. Using a community-led approach promotes community resilience (long term)

  • Enable and assist individuals, families, and the entire society to participate actively in their recovery
  • Understand that the community and different individuals might require different levels of support
  • Be guided by the affected community’s priorities
  • Channel more effort through existing and pre-identified community assets such as local knowledge, and existing community resilience and strengths
  • Establish collaborative partnerships between those involved and the community in the recovery process
  • Appreciate that different communities might choose different paths to recovery

4. Promote the coordination of all activities

  • Have shared and clearly articulated goals based on the desired results
  • Be flexible and take into account changes in the needs of the community or stakeholder expectation
  • Be guided by people with expertise and experience by using skilled, capable, and authentic community leadership

5. Employing good communication

  • Communication must be two-way and that feedback and input should be encouraged
  • Ensure that all communication made is relevant. Also, clear, timely, accurate, credible, targeted, and consistent
  • Identify credible sources of information and frequently repeat important recovery messages to ensure greater community receptivity and confidence

Recovery is an important part of emergency management programs, which include prevention, preparedness, and response. Recovery includes established environmental and economic elements, and societal well-being.

It provides an opportunity to improve the other aspects of disaster management by improving natural and social environments, economies and infrastructure. Which in turn,  contributes to a stronger and more resilient community.

 

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