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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Resilience Can Start With Saying Hello

Author: Darrin Donato, Senior Policy Analyst, Division for At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health, and Community Resilience (ABC),Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 9/30/2013 2:31:00 PM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; Response & Recovery;

Author: Darrin Donato, Senior Policy Analyst, Division for At-Risk Individuals, Behavioral Health, and Community Resilience (ABC),Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

When you think about being prepared for an emergency, you might consider important things like assembling a disaster kit, making sure our homes can weather storms, and having enough food, water, and medicine on hand for three days. But did you also know that simple things like knowing your neighbors can help you get through a disaster or emergency?

There are a wide range of things we can do to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity – things that we can do to make ourselves more resilient in the face of a disaster. Being more connected to each other and to our communities is a great way to build resilience. Social scientists call this belonging and affiliation “social capital.” Some studies are showing that greater social capital may help us recover from disaster faster as well as support us through our day-to-day challenges.

Improving our social capital can start with answering some simple questions. For example, how many people do you know within a 5 or 10 minute walk from your house? Are there vulnerable people, such as older adults living alone in your neighborhood that you could help following a disaster? Are you able to reach out to your neighbors to get support if you need it? Of course, it’s also very important to know how to get help from emergency responders in your community. But in the overwhelming majority of emergencies, immediate assistance is provided by someone other than emergency responders, so knowing your neighbors and checking in on each other can be invaluable. Neighborhoods can also come together and create disaster plans. The combined resources and skills of a group of neighbors will be much more effective than an individual or family trying to weather the adversity alone.

Our involvement in community groups—be they civic, religious, voluntary, or interest-based—expands our range of social capital beyond our families and neighborhoods and may help bolster recovery from disaster. How could the organizations you belong to become more involved in preparedness and resilience? Things like encouraging group members to learn emergency skills such as CPR or First Aid, identifying and planning to assist members who may need help following a disaster, and building ties with community emergency management, fire departments, or other public safety organizations are good ways to start. For more detailed information on building community resilience, see RAND's Building Resilient Communities: An Online Training.

Our face-to-face connections are very important for disaster resilience, but internet and the phone can connect us in daily life and in disaster. Before a disaster strikes, talk to friends and family members and know who you count on – and who is counting on you – in an emergency. Plan on a ways that you will contact one another following a disaster. Phone lines may be jammed and internet access might be down following a disaster, so pick a primary and secondary communication method. Text messages are a great way to communicate when phone lines are jammed. If you are able to, plan to post your status on the social media sites that you frequent and let people know that you are okay. And make sure that you and those you count on are familiar with the Red Cross Safe and Well program.

As you work on your personal preparedness, take sensible precautions like making a disaster kit and planning for what to do if we get separated from our loved ones. But also take time to build your resilience level by thinking about our connections with the people around us and in our community.








Good advice!

With the climate warming faster than expected, preparations are IMPORTANT.
1/4/2016 9:14:20 AM

I believe in community not catastrophe

This article reminded me of, the city of San Francisco's preparedness website that emphasizes the social nature of most preparedness activities. It's a great way to couch emergency discussions in community language that promotes the naturally resilient connections we have to help us during a disaster. Great discussion starter and see what you think of the website!
3/22/2016 11:25:21 AM

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