The scale of a disaster is not necessarily measured by the size of a fire or the category of a hurricane but by how people, business and the environment are affected. We now view disasters by their consequences.
How people are affected by a disaster and how well they recover is strongly linked to a number of social and economic factors – factors that extend well beyond their knowledge of risk and whether they know how to operate a fire hose.
The strength of social networks, physical and mental health, and the diversity of local economies are just some factors that influence the resilience of communities to withstand and recover from a range of shocks and stresses, including those caused by disasters.
Governments and policymakers, therefore, need to look beyond the traditional siloed boundaries of emergency management to truly create more resilient communities. To enable resilience, before, during and after emergencies we need to acknowledge the strengths that exist in communities. Individuals who were once regarded as passive recipients of relief and recovery services must be empowered to become active participants in shaping their own resilience.
At the same time, the emergency management sector must incorporate its skills and knowledge into those of other sectors that influence the resilience of communities before emergencies happen. This includes but is not limited to the health, education, economic development and not-for-profit community development sectors. Such collaboration would allow the emergency management system to leverage existing strengths of government rather than rely on specialist resilience and recovery activities that can often displace or undermine existing efforts and programs designed to support communities and households.
This insight was written in response to the article ‘Understanding the root causes of natural disasters’ by Florian Roth, Dr Christine Eriksen and Tim Prior which first appeared on theconversation.com on 27 June 2017.