Community Disaster Recovery Success Series: The Importance of Organizational Networks and Outreach and Coordination
The effectiveness of a community’s response and its ability to spearhead recovery after a disaster is often confounded by a number of factors. The severity and impacts of the event, past disaster experiences, organizational capability and capacity, and the social capital of the affected individuals and groups all factor into how a community is able to respond.
Successful community disaster recovery operations reinforce the importance of FEMA’s ‘Whole Community Approach’ and must leverage all of the resources of the community, from government to businesses to its citizens. In addition, outreach and coordination between all players should be a top priority.
Many organizations and networks are involved in the community recovery process. But the emergency management and public safety professional is still an integral component of community recovery operations. By understanding the potential impacts and possible cascading effects of different disaster types, the emergency management community can proactively identify community organizational networks that will have vital roles and responsibilities, identify organizational gaps in key recovery issues, identify strategies to build organizational capacity where needed, and incorporate these community organizational networks into the broader community recovery strategy.
A successful community recovery strategy must also consider methods and mechanisms to engage the public in important recovery decision-making processes. In a post-disaster environment, social trust in government becomes a symbolic token to a community, can extend the period of a united community, and facilitates an effective community recovery decision-making process that is supported by an established governance structure and an open decision-making process that involves the community.
The result will be a more effective recovery strategy that:
A successful public engagement is not simply measured by the number of public forums or the number of attendees. Instead, it is a more organic strategy that involves the pre-disaster engagement of key organizational networks (identified in step 2) to understand their collective roles and responsibilities in the community recovery strategy. In a post-disaster environment, the objective of the outreach and coordination strategy should be to influence key community organizations and community leaders to generate a momentum for sustained long-term community recovery that is inclusive of the community and void of individual agendas.
This post-disaster objective should be aligned with a public participation strategy that creates a new direct link between the public and the community and governmental decision makers, ensuring that those who make decisions that affect the lives of others enter into dialogue with those affected before making those decisions. Successful public outreach must provide opportunity for interested public and affected stakeholders to participate and voice opposition, support, perspectives, and opinions as the community recovery process evolves.
The inclusion of the community and emergency management professionals into future community recovery planning efforts will result in more informed community stakeholders and the reinforcement of the emergency manager’s coordination role during all phases of emergency management, including community disaster recovery. Understanding these orbits of organizational networks and their community reach will be an important element of the coordination strategy and involving these critical partners in the decision-making process.