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Blog 5: Communication and Resilience

November 8, 2011 1 comment

There is no doubt that disaster will occur, and people will be involved with a crisis somehow or another.  The thing that is important to think about though is whether you will be permanently damaged by this crisis, whether you will be resistant to the crisis, or whether you will be resilient.

Resilience is a process linking a set of adaptive capacities to a positive trajectory of functioning and adaptation after a disturbance.  What this means is that after a crisis occurs, whether it be as catastrophic as an earthquake or hurricane, or simply breaking up with your significant other, you are able to bounce back.  There are usually three options for a response to a crisis:

1. Permanent damage – you never recover from a crisis, with it usually settling in depression and haunting you for the rest of your life.
2 . Resistance – shrugging off a crisis as though you never cared and it does not affect you.  This can end in mounting hidden resentment or simply you becoming a stoic, unemotional person.
3. Resilience –  being affected by a crisis, but being able to come to terms with it and move on from it in a good way.

Option 3 is obviously the best of the three, however it is also very difficult to do. There are many factors that play into this.  Four main factors of this are:

1. Economic Development
2. Social Capital
3. Community Competence
4. Information and communication

If you make all 4 of these your top priority then you will be well on your way to recovering from any crisis.

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Blog #5: Communication and Community Resilience

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

While Norris et al. was able to compile a list of over 20 difference definitions for the term ‘resilience’, they conclude that the word basically means the ability to succeed despite facing difficulties, or in essence, to be able to adapt. Community resilience, then, can be called a collective group’s (a community’s) ability to push through and adapt to difficult situations or stressors.

Not this kind of stress. Although stressors may make one feel like this.

A stressor can differ in their strength, duration, and how unexpected they were. These stressors also present danger, of which there are two kinds:

  • Known unknowns: These are the dangers that you know are possible, but it can’t be predicted when they will occur.
  • Unknown unknowns: These are the dangers that are new to you and are both unfamiliar and unpredictable.

According to Comfort (2005),

Information may be the primary resource in technical and organizational systems that enables adaptive performance

Resilience

Good communication makes for strong community resilience.

This means having good communication strategies is essential for community resilience, as well as a community’s ability to recover after a crisis. Some such strategies may include:

  • Correctly transmitting correct information from a trusted, reliable source: During a crisis, citizens won’t have a whole lot of spare time on their hands, so it’s imperative they know where they can go to quickly find useful, reliable information about the circumstances.
  • The presence of communal narratives: These are narratives composed by individuals who were directly affected by the crisis and can give in-depth detail of what occurred and how it affected them. These narratives are important to community resilience because they create a shared experience and purpose amongst community members which can make the community feel more connected and, in turn, resilient.
  • The media must be careful how they frame a crisis situation: The media is obviously going to play a large role in how the public perceives what is going on and how others are reacting to a crisis situation. Tierney et al. suggests that if the media exaggerates instances of criminal behavior taking place in a crisis, then police who would otherwise be helping survivors would instead be pursuing criminals, leaving less help for survivors. This would undoubtedly put a damper on community resilience, as the citizens would feel as though the community as a whole isn’t putting the proper effort into adapting and conquering the situation.

These examples are just a few communication strategies which play a huge role in community resilience. As Norris et al., said,

Community resilience has extraordinary value as a strategy for disaster readiness,

Thanks to good communication and strong community resilience, yes, yes we are.

That means it is imperative that proper communication strategies are used to ensure that communities are as prepared as possible for any disaster or crisis that heads their way.

Blog 5: Community Resilience

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Though originally used in physics to describe the capacity of material to return to equilibrium after displacement, resilience is also associated with a community’s ability to quickly return to homeostasis, or to “bounce back” from a collective traumatic experience (disaster) through specific communication strategies, it is called community resilience.

It is essential to understand two things before exploring the communication strategies used to increase community resilience.

1. Know how to interpret community resilience because the meaning of “community” has vast variations. Communities have four interdependent environments (built, natural, social, and economic) and it is through their interdependence they influence one another in complex ways. Norris explains that there are two (somewhat integrated) for community resilience; first, it prevents disaster-related or mental health problems of community members; second, it describes effective organizational behavior and disaster management.

2. Understand resilience as a theory. Resilience is the capacity for successful adaptation in the face of disturbance, stress, or adversity. Resilience is not an outcome or stability, but a process and focused on adaptability.

In his article Norris explains resilience as a strategy by giving five different strategies that relate to the interdependent environments of a community.  I found the most important strategies to increase resilience to be the following:

1. Communities must develop economic resources, reduce risk and resource inequities, and survey areas of greatest social vulnerability. During this needs must be identified and an appropriate approach must be decided upon. The key idea of this strategy is on of equity across areas of a community, it is economic diversity, which increases a community’s ability to withstand unexpected crises.

2. Social capital must be accessible because it is one of the primary resources of any community as it is vital for local members of a community to be engaged in every step of the mitigation process. The focus of this strategy is to build trust. This trust is achieved via interactions that provide individuals with actual assistance in the form of a narrative. This narrative occurs when professionals send out accurate and important information to individuals. This information must be accurate and honest about the dangers/risks and the actions the public must take. As Longstaff said,

“A trusted source of information is the most important resilience asset that any individual or group can have.”

The public is then to assess and address their own individual vulnerabilities to hazards by identifying and investing in their own networks. These professional interventions are meant to emphasize empowerment and procure mobilization for the community’s capabilities. There are parts to social capital:

  • Sense of community: bonding and trust built through shared understandings and connections
  • Placement attachment: an emotional connection to the location
  • Citizen participation: the fundamental element of community resilience where individuals participate in formal organizations because there is structure, organization, and well defined roles

3.  Communities must plan, but also plan for not having a plan. Though it sounds confusing this strategy is simply focused on understanding the inevitable uncertainty that comes along during the aftermath of any disaster. Communities must be flexible and focus on being effective by having trusted information and communication resources that function even when faced with uncertainty. In order to be effective the complexity and uncertainty of the disaster must be acknowledged and there must be rapid decision-making instead of rigid plans.

Further understanding of community resilience as applied to a public health emergency can be seen here in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIaqZsqaCkE 

Blog 5: Community Resilience and Communication

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment
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.

Blog #5: Increasing Community Resilience

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The word resilience is defined as a process linking a set of adaptive capacities to a positive trajectory of functioning and adaptation after a disturbance.  Since reading that gives me a minor headache, it can be more simply defined as the power or ability to return to an original form after being altered.  So, this is to say, how quickly can a community recuperate after a devastating tornado? Or how much success can an airline have after a plane crashes do to a preventable technicality?  Therefore increasing resilience would increase stability.  According to  the assigned article,

  resilience can be described as a set of networked adaptive capacities.

This involves information and communication, community competency, social capital, and economic development. These include details such as responsible media, skills of infrastructure, community action, flexibility and creativity, perceived social support, sense of community, and fairness of risk and vulnerability to hazards.

Many of the action steps that we have discussed in class are viewed in the reading as ways to increase community resilience. All in all, preventing, reacting, and planning must be taken into consideration in a hazardous situation in order to increase the likelihood of resilience.  Without planning for possible events of crisis, proper techniques and resources will not be at the hands of organization, cities, etc.  Reacting efficiently and activating clear and relative communication immediately after a crisis and in the aftermath of a crisis allows the public and members directly effected to feel that normalcy can once again be achieved.  Finally, taking learned lessons from the hazardous events and acting upon them will help to instill a since of preparedness that will ultimately complete the cycle of resilience.

Applying an example to a situation from the statements above, we can look at the crisis of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Many felt that the

 planning by the government was insufficient and had much to do with the ease in which the terrorists were able to enact their plans. Whether or not this is actually true, the media portrayed it to be so in many situations, and therefore the idea was put in the mind of the public eye. The immediate aftermath of the attacks included a vast amount of reactions to the situation.  The government started to make plans of war, acts of security, public apologies etc. Organizations and media began to spread messages and feelings of community via radio and TV ads, as well as donations and aid to the relief.  In the later aftermath, prevention tactics were enabled throughout the United States, many of which we use still use today.  Airport security was heightened immensely after the attacks, and is still at a much higher level today then it was previously to the attacks.  We are still involved in war a decade later, which has the overall goal to keep us safe and prevent the ability for any other attacks.

From this example as well as all other examples of resilience, it is apparent that a lot of work often must go into creating normalcy after a hazardous event.  While this can be achieved by planning, reactions, and preventative steps, it is important to remember that though resilience is strived for, the community, organization, etc. effected by the event must gain knowledge and grow from it, or the point of resilience would not exist.


 


Blog 5: Communication Strategies for Resilience

November 7, 2011 1 comment

Resilience occurs when a community or organization “bounces back” from a crisis or disaster.

The 4 major aspects of community resilience are:

  • Economic Development
  • Social Capital
  • Community Competence
  • Information and Communication

Economic Development strategies include fairness and risk of vulnerability to hazards, level and diversity of economic resources, and equity of resource distribution.

Social Capital strategies include received social support, perceived social support, informal ties, organizational linkages and cooperation, citizen participation, and sense of community

Community Competence strategies include community action, flexibility and creativity, and critical reflexion and problem solving.

Information and Communication strategies include narratives, trusted sources of info, skills and infrastructure, and responsible media.

The above strategies are recommended in preparing for and recovering from a crisis. 

Why is resilience so important? 

Communities and organizations need to be able to recover in the aftermath of a crisis.

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There are several ways in which resilience can be accomplished.  Resilience can be prepared for before disaster strikes by:

  • Develop economic resources
  • Reduce risk and resource inequities
  • Focus on areas with greatest social vulnerability
  • Create organizational networks and relationships ahead of time
  • Social support interventions

There are many other ways in which communication can occur in order for resilience.  After a crisis, the organization or society should come together.  The more that the entire organization comes together as a whole, the easier it will be for them to bounce back to life before the crisis.

Take the city of Joplin for an example.  They are using several communication efforts in order to return the city to normal.  The Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery Facebook page is used to communicate to people what is being done and what they can do to help in the recovery.  Here is a list of some of the communication strategies for recovering after the Joplin tornado:

  • Communicate with other organizations/businesses to bring in relief efforts
  • Give the community hope by announcing progress in the community
  • Hold community gatherings in which the members can get together
  • Make it clear to the community what can be done in preparation for another tornado

In this video, US Senator Claire McCaskill talks about resilience in Joplin.

These same strategies can be applied in any community recovering from any kind of disaster.  Preparing for a resilient community is so necessary that places even hold events that help people better understand the importance of a resilient community.

Community-resilience-flyer1.jpg

Blog 5: Community Resilience

When disaster strikes, communities receive attention and support. Response to these events can provide much needed assistance, but what about when the spotlight leaves the victims? Communities still remain affected, and just because an event fades from the news cycle, does not mean it has not permanently affected a community.

When an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011, the national media swarmed in to cover the response. Long after these satellite trucks left, the community showed signs of resilience.

An argument is made that resilience doesn’t come without hiccups.

Lasting as long as several weeks…some distress is a normal reaction to an abnormal event.

The distress of an event leads a community to adapt — a central point in establishing resilience. A community, in order to move on from a disaster, must be able to absorb the shock, redirect the energy in a positive way, and then adapt. It must use the situation in a way that will allow the community to build on what has happened.

Communities that have strong social capital are most likely to adapt. In the case of Joplin, a town that had a closely knit community fabric was able to bond together, respond to the disaster, and quickly find enough help to clear the disaster zone. Joplin had social capital in the sense that the town had no seams tearing it apart before its fabric had to withstand the winds of a terrible tornado.

To access social capital, one of the primary resources of any community, local people must be engaged meaningfully in every step of the mitigation process.

Harnessing social capital bleeds into other areas of resilience in disaster response. With a strong social capital, communities can develop the support needed for everything else: economic resources, organizational networks, interventions, and action plans.