Preparing for Disaster at the Local Level

A fire truck and ambulance parked head to headThe New America Foundation recently released a publication titled “All Disasters Are Local. Resilience Should Be, Too,” about the upsurge being observed in natural disasters and steps that can be taken to be better prepared. The report is a summary of presentations and talks from various experts and participants who gathered in February in order “to examine how technology might help better meet the needs of the vulnerable and underserved before, during, and after natural disasters.”

The report highlights common ideas and themes shared by the experts, one of which being the importance of preparedness at the local level. In addition to individuals within communities being prepared and having emergency plans, it is vital for the private sector and government role players to build relationships and have plans in place before a disaster hits. Too often these relationships do not exist, and the report notes that if these key players “meet for the first time during a disaster, it’s already too late for effective crisis response and preparedness.”

Also of great significance in the discussions was the responsibility of assisting people with disabilities, as they are often the most vulnerable during a disaster. Once again, preparedness at the local level is vastly important since every community is different, and thus has different needs. Strong communication is essential, in terms of both relaying information to disabled people, as well as receiving information from them, to establish better accessibility to their needs. As one expert notes, “An accessible community […] is an inherently resilient community.”

The report ends by examining five challenges and avenues for exploration identified by the participants, with recommendations made regarding how technology may be used to address each one.  The five areas examined are:

  • Establish a Common Lexicon around Resilience and Vulnerability;
  • Develop Standards for Gathering, Using, and Sharing Data;
  • Expand and Regulate Public-Private Partnerships;
  • Convene for Better Research and Development; and
  • Improve Physical Infrastructure for Readiness and in Response.

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