Home > BLOG 5, Crisis Communication > Blog 5: Increasing Community Resilience

Blog 5: Increasing Community Resilience

Community resilience is a term used to describe how a community can “bend, but not break.” In discussing crisis communication, the term is used to describe how a community can recover after a disaster. After any major disaster it is common for people from all over the nation to come into and help the community, look to hurricane Katrina for an example. Community resilience is how the community survives and adapts in order to recover from the disaster. One way to get a sense of understanding strengthening of community resilience is to reference this figure:

While confusing at first, the chart shows how four primary sets of network resources interact in community resilience. Norris et al state about the figure:

…the network of adaptive capacities that yields community resilience is not a singular condition that can be measured or monitored simply. It is a set of sets with many dynamic attributes and transactional linkages and relationships…

This helps to show that community resilience is not quite as simple as it first appears. When looking at strategies to help increase community resilience, there are five that can help:

  • The communities must develop economic resources and attend to their areas of greatest social vulnerability. The communities must make sure that everyone is taken care of. Resource distribution will be key, and it is often those who need help the most that cannot get it.
  • Local people must be a part of the mitigation process. This ties into the fact that every community is unique. Because of this, people from the community must recognize their areas of greatest vulnerability and plan accordingly.
  • Pre-existing organizational networks and relationships are key to achieving the quickest response to any disaster. Different organizations must understand and trust each other, which is why networks must be set up in advance.
  • Social support is very important. The ability of community members to help each other simply by providing emotional support can help knit the community together to form a cohesive unit.
  • Finally, communities must always have some type of plan, even if that includes not having a plan. They must be flexible enough to adapt to any situation, but in order to do this the other four strategies must be present. By having a plan for not having a plan, community resilience after a disaster can be greatly strengthened.

Of course there are many other strategies that can be used to increase community resilience. Some of these are strategies we have discussed regarding a variety of different crisis communication formats, such as

  • Keep the message short, simple, and concise.
  • The message must be delivered from a trusted source.
  • Repeat the message often using different mediums so that it is thoroughly communicated.

As Norris and company make clear, community resilience is not only extremely important in a time of crisis, but also quite complicated. Communities must work together in a variety of ways in order to make sure they will be able to bounce back when disaster strikes. One thing we have learned about crisis communication is that while a crisis should always be expected, positive communication during a crisis can help save lives, stop further threats, and help a community bounce back from the brink of destruction.

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