A Model for “Community-Driven Emergency Management”

We got a great document from the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, on their “What Are We Reading?” page.  It’s the Community Resilience Strategy (click title to download), from the Wellington Region Emergency Management Office in New Zealand.  (New Zealand has a lot of earthquakes, notably the Christchurch quake in February 2011, which killed 185 people and caused around $30 billion in damage.)

This sensitive and intelligent plan aims to create “social capital” by pursuing three strategic objectives: build capacity, increase connectedness, and foster cooperation. The intended result is for communities to “own their preparedness,” such that “relationships and connections with others facilitate access to resources and information, and help communities resolve collective problems more easily.” This is what they call “Community-Driven Emergency Management.”

The planners realize that communities must be approached with a sensitivity to existing relationships and interests.  “Communities are not made of static or linear sets of relationships…. Individuals and organizations connect with one another through interlinked channels at multiple times and for various reasons…. Communities have different interests and will own their preparedness with different levels of enthusiasm.”

The strategy calls for the agency to act as a “facilitator” of connections in the community that result in increased preparedness.  “In practice, this becomes a Communicate & Collaborate model of Emergency Management, which complements the traditional Command & Control model.”

We at Phinney Hub find this approach inspiring. Our mission reflects the same objectives, though on a smaller scale:

  1. We want to help build capacity in individual households, on a block-by-block level.
  2. We want to increase connectedness among people and organizations with useful skills and resources, on a neighborhood level.
  3. We want to foster cooperation by providing information-sharing tools that can be used by all levels of volunteer responders.

We think that this strategy integrates well with the community-oriented programs of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, and with the citizen-powered efforts of the Seattle Hubs Network.  As we begin our work here in Phinney Ridge, we look forward to collaborating within the communities that make up our neighborhood, and with the capable and energetic agencies beyond.

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