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Blog 5: Community Resilience and Communication

Most of the time when a disaster occurs it takes a community by surprise and even if they knew it was coming  it still affects them in serious ways. One way to combat disaster effects is by resistance, which is when the community has enough resources before the disaster to block the disastrous effects of a crisis.  Unfortunately, this type of response to a crisis usually only happens to an event that happen quite frequently. What usually happens after a crisis is that a community needs to create resilience.  According to Norris et al. (2007) community resilience is defined as,
A process linking a network of adaptive capacities (resources with dynamic attributes) to adaptation after a disturbance or adversity.
This basically means that the community has the ability to obtain and use their economic, communicative and social resources to bounce back from a disaster as quickly as possible. One important aspect to increase community resilience is the use of communication strategies.
The first important communication aspect needed for community resilience is as Norris et al. (2011) states  a “trusted source of information” During a disaster there is so much information going around that it is hard sometimes to find out which one is the right one or is just an exaggeration. It is important to have a trusted source that can communicate the expected risks and appropriate recommendations in order to bounce back from the disaster as soon as possible.
Also very important  to community resilience is that the community before a crisis, should set up a hotline or some sort of information line that community members can call in so that they can get correct information straight from the source instead of relying on speculation.
Another overlooked component for community resilience that involves communication is the community narrative. This is when the  members of the community discuss their own personal experiences during a disaster. Norris et al (2011). use September 11th as an example of this technique on how members in that large community were able to heal and come together through hearing each other stories from that horrific day.
How well the members work together is also important when trying to maximize community resiliency, this technique is called community competence. According to Norris et al. members need to:
  1. Be able to collaborate effectively in in identifying the problems and needs of the community
  2. Be able to achieve a working consensus on goals and priorities
  3. Be able to agree on ways and means to implement the agreed upon goals
  4. Be able to collaborate effectively in the required actions
All these steps requires effective communication in order to work well within a group. If members can communicate to each other, identify what the problem is and figure out a cohesive goal, it enables them to be have better community resiliency. However, if  there are many different subgroups trying to make decisions and no one can agree because there isn’t enough communication it may draw out the length of recovery due to confusion and anger.
Finally, Norris et al. touches on things that communication does that enhances community resilience that we read and discussed about ICS in class. Both say that in order to get through a crisis the communities must assess what the community members need and involve them in the solving of the crisis, communicate and gather resources needed especially for the most damaged areas, enact professional relationships and networks with organizations prior to the disaster so that they can help you when a crisis occurs, establish a place where members can communicate with each other an example being social networks like twitter, and finally establish a crisis plan that is flexible and can adjust to change.
All in all, communication is an extremely important feature in a communities recovery from a disaster. It may be very difficult to have community resistance after an unexpected disaster but with these proper communication strategies, they can definitely increase their community resilience after a disaster.
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