I was reading this FEMA document about how Emergency Managers are leveraging the community to do work and it occurred to me that these are good, specific examples of our work. Here are 5 success stories.
1. Biloxi, Miss. The Red Cross started the Asian American Network (eventually joined by the Hispanic American Network) to help responders overcome language barriers and cultural differences. Practically, this built trust between the Biloxi Fire Dept and non-English speaking communities so that the Fire dept could reach community members quickly and effectively in an emergency.
2. Monson, Mass. After a 2011 tornado hit this small town, sisters Morgan and Caitria O’Neill realized that the incoming responders couldn’t leverage the spontaneous volunteers or donations. Also, the responders would leave before the community was completely recovered. So, they built Recovers.org–a software platform that organizes volunteers, donations, and information at the local level. Communities around the country have picked it up. Even you could use it, if you wanted. FEMA describes it as:
Used primarily as a preparedness tool, the system helps residents map their neighborhoods and gives emergency management a detailed view of preparedness levels across the area. Multiple organizations can collaborate, volunteers can sign up and release liability remotely, donors can list resources rather than dropping them off, and those with needs can easily and privately request help from all relevant agencies at once. p. 24
3. Eagle, Alaska. An extremely remote town which didn’t have an Emergency Manager nearby experienced terrible flooding. Many different organizations came together to rebuild. It looked like this:
In the immediate aftermath of the flood, individuals and businesses in Fairbanks, AK, donated over 10,000 lbs of relief supplies. Faith-based voluntary organizations including the Mennonite Disaster Service and Samaritan’s Purse provided building materials and labor to ensure residents had safe and secure housing before winter. Nearby tribal councils donated food and supplies. Alaska Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster provided support in locating, organizing and transporting donations to the Eagle communities, and FEMA provided grants to fund building supplies and voluntary agency travel for the recovery effort. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided technical assistance for operations p. 25
4. Border of US & Canada. This region shares critical energy, supply, and transportation networks including refineries, nuclear facilities, and manufacturing. A disaster here is especially difficult because of the shared jurisdiction. So EMs formed the Canada-US Action Plan–an agreement about how to share resources. As a direct result, water sector representatives on both sides agreed to use the same online portal to share best practices/lessons learned.
5. USA. The 2012 Challenge. FEMA in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation created the Community Resilience Innovation Challenge designed to encourage community members to “, develop a collective, local ability to withstand the initial impacts of disaster events, respond quickly, and recover and rebuild the community to an enhanced level of resiliency” (p. 33). In effect, the government provided grant money to support grass-roots resiliency projects. Because most towns don’t have the money to get started.
And here are the bios of 5 people working in the EM field to give you a sense of the range of activities:
1. Michael McDaniel: Principle designer at Frog. Working to design storable, transportable, quickly assembled, and reusable housing for the first 90 days post disaster. Right now, we have to rely on FEMA trailers or tents which is inadequate in many ways.
2. Richard Ruge: Chairperson for Disaster Preparedness for Vulnerable Populations. He works to build awareness for vulnerable populations (children, the elderly, the disabled, etc) and to support alliances between community groups.
3. Ana-Marie Jones: Executive Director at CARD (Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters). She works to encourage the shift away from threat-based preparedness messages toward a lifestyle of readiness. “I want to inspire everyone to embrace their inner MacGyver, to awaken their secret superhero, to band together to say no to fear, threat, bureaucracy and everything else that divides us and leaves us feeling vulnerable.” p. 42
4. Joanne Drummond: Executive Director at Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, CA. She works to mitigate (make less frequent or intense) wildfires. She wants to educate the surrounding community to gain support for natural–tho not catastrophic–wildfires.
5. Jase Wilson: Founder & CEO of neighbor.ly, a “crowdfunding website to help people invest in places and civic projects they care about…” He says, “Government is not just this big entity out there–it’s something you can interact with… We should help the government help us.”
You can see how our work touches on so many aspects of life. If you’d like to be more involved, check out your local CERT branch (Community Emergency Response Team) or one of the websites we’ve mentioned (below):
- BTW, there’s a Teen CERT too. I highly recommend it.
- Though the Community Resilience Challenge is over, there is another informal one you can join. Find it here!