Whether constructing a home, creating community programs, or developing multijurisdictional plans and procedures, it is not enough to just construct, create, or develop. A home that collapses, a program that is not sustainable, and plans and procedures that lack continuity are examples that should motivate emergency preparedness professionals to build resilience into every planning process.
Resilience does not prevent bad things from happening, but it does lessen the cost, burden, and recovery time when these events do occur. Any community could face natural and human-caused disasters at any time. Preparedness is key, since it is not possible to know exactly what will happen or when it will occur. However, disaster planning with a focus on resilience is not a simple process.
Hurricanes and wildfires are just two types of natural disasters that regularly occur, but no two are identical. There are, though, certain standards that could mitigate the effects of these types of events. For example, building codes can be implemented for structures to withstand certain wind speeds or to be constructed using fire retardant materials. By collecting and utilizing reliable data, decision makers can identify potential risks and threats, then develop strategies and take actions toward reducing their impacts, which can vary significantly depending on the location of the event and the demographics of the affected area (e.g., children vs. adults).
Human-caused events with law enforcement or military engagement require another layer of planning. Unlike natural disasters, circumstances such as civil unrest or violent extremism involve motivation to do harm. Resilience for these threats involves a greater amount of situational awareness among all community stakeholders and interagency coordination at all levels within the intelligence community.
One potential consequence of any disaster that has been particularly noticeable during the COVID-19 response is scarcity of resources. Early in the pandemic, products such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer disappeared from store shelves. In the middle of the pandemic, mutual aid was not always available to manage hospital surge. Later in the pandemic, as businesses strive to return to pre-pandemic service levels, many “help wanted” advertisements still go unanswered. Despite experiencing firsthand how basic common expectations may no longer be realistic under certain circumstances, communities’ demands for goods and services continue to outpace the resources necessary to meet these demands.
This October edition of the DomPrep Journal focuses on the need for resilience to be an integral part of the disaster planning process. Investing in resilience early will help minimize the number of lives lost and properties damaged, facilitate more effective responses, lessen the amount of time needed to restore normal daily operations, and reduce the overall effect of any disaster.
Catherine L. Feinman
Catherine L. Feinman, M.A., joined Domestic Preparedness in January 2010. She has more than 30 years of publishing experience and currently serves as editor of the Domestic Preparedness Journal, DomesticPreparedness.com, and the DPJ Weekly Brief, and 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.