I suggest you create a “Civic Resilience Corps”, the CRCs, because the current approach to preparedness turns many people off and the avenues for citizen engagement in emergency management processes are not adequate. It is also a way to address our current economic recession/depression, very much like the Civilian Conservation Corps in the past.
Citizen Corps, CERT, American Red Cross, Neighborhood Watch, etc. are all myopic and problem oriented; the emphasis is on crime, preparing and volunteering in government response efforts during times of acute disaster. These programs are not available in all areas and do not take into consideration the conditions in rural America, especially those with a relatively low risk for disasters.
However, we are experiencing a serious chronic disaster in many of our communities, things are getting worse and a “perfect storm” is heading our way, i.e. pandemic, peak oil, climate change implications (increased frequency, severity, concurrency of natural hazard events) and centralized system instability.
We must take an all hazard, worse case scenario approach but must also have fun within a positive, goal-oriented approach.
The draft National Recovery Framework is a good document that includes cross-sector collaboration and incorporates the components of resilience. (http://www.fema.gov/pdf/recoveryframework/omb_ndrf.pdf) However, it also presents resilience building as a way to decrease recovery time, a way to return to normalcy as soon as possible.
Our current era is one of great change, returning to a state of normalcy based upon how things were in the past is not adequate. We must be forward thinking and incorporate processes of adaptation and preparedness that includes community networking and basic skill development.
Dr. Plovnick, with the Community and Regional Resilience Institute, stated, “Resilience is positive adaptation to perceived adversity”. Shanna Ratner and Dr. Susanne Moser, in a report to the The US Endowment for Forestry and Community, Inc., report: “Resilience rests on the combined abilities to deal with and bounce back from disturbances and shocks, the ability to adapt to change, and the ability to be proactive, forward-looking and self-determining, rather than just reactive and outside-determined, to create a desirable future.
I am the coordinator for the “Community Health and Civic Resilience Alliance” (CHACRA) in my local rural neighborhood and the architect for a replicable, scalable national effort that also addresses rural needs.
I propose we secure the funds to place a part-time RN CHACRA coordinator in every Township/Parish to help address current health needs while building localized community resilience and communication pathways with County, Regional, State, National entities. Such a nurse conducts community assessments with sustainability in mind (social, economic, environmental), develops resource directories, an on-line neighborhood network and an inter-independent cross-sector collaborative architecture.
The infrastructure is reflective of the National Response Framework ESF functions with teams to address basic needs and support services at the local level. The National Incident Management System (NIMS) ensures efficient and effective delegation, clear communication pipelines and streamlined efforts with our local response partners during times of disaster while maintaining a horizontal team approach.
Of course, educational outreach is vitally important and includes introductions to the emergency management planning processes, access to American Red Cross training programs, basic life skills, etc. Active collaboration with Citizen Corps, CERT, Neighborhood Watch, etc. is also an important component.
CHACRA is a grassroots effort that seeks to build bridges with our government partners in an effort to maximize health, re-weave our community safety nets, promote health and help people prepare to stay at home for extended periods while also being better positioned to help take care of our neighbors, especially our vulnerable populations. After all, most responders prefer that people stay home during emergencies and the most resilient communities are those that know help may be greatly delayed, or non-existent. As we make the transition away from oil, it is vital for us to rebuild our localized systems. Taking an acute disaster approach to preparedness based upon historical precedent simply is not adequate anymore.
The CHACRA strategy emerged from my role as the County-City Public Health Infrastructure Coordinator and is based upon a thorough review of available research and reports that revealed numerous weak/missing links, like civic engagement in planning processes, the need for more women and domestic violence specialists, etc.
The strategy is a bottom-up/top-down approach reflective of the Transition Towns Initiatives but one that also takes active steps to bridge with emergency management processes. Each neighborhood RN CHACRA coordinator is the grounding pin for resilience building efforts, with sector working groups emerging around basic needs and support services. For example, shelter is a basic need, energy and communications are support services.
Here at the Broad Well Learning Center we have created a passive solar structure with an off-grid photovoltaic electrical system and an amateur radio base station, hard line phone/fax and high-speed internet (not available in our area except via satellite internet). In times of need we will be able to provide electricity to our vulnerable neighbors with medical equipment, a place to charge batteries and a way to communicate with the outside world.
The communications support service team is also a way to develop radio communications within the neighborhood area, increase the number of HAM radio operators and help meet current needs for more volunteers to participate in non-emergency public service events. The other basic need and support service teams also address current needs while building systems of resilience to better respond and adapt to whatever may arise. We also host numerous fun neighborhood gatherings to help strengthen our relationships, host diverse conversations/community counsels, and provide re-skilling workshops.
Addressing our national energy needs is a complex and dynamic challenge. We propose that one-step toward preparedness in this arena is for every neighborhood to establish an off-grid electrical system, i.e. with a battery bank, to provide a similar services. In addition, we propose that a shelter-working group could also address our current neighborhood economic needs by offering Bed & Breakfast lodging during non-emergency times.
However, such things are very difficult for mobilized citizens to accomplish without financial assistance. There are many RNs across the nation, such as myself, who have left the health care workforce due to its dysfunction and unhealthy work conditions, are now unemployed and who are eager and willing to participate in such a CHACRA initiative in there neighborhoods. They can serve on the physical/psychosocial health and education teams and most of the RNs already know the people and the cultural circumstances in their respective neighborhoods.
The CHACRA initiative is a way to rebuild our communities in a sustainable fashion, address current needs and develop robust and resilient systems capable of responding in collaboration with our emergency response partners in a worse case scenario. Such a strategy also establishes a solid base for our grandchildren and future generations to build upon as they adapt to a world of great change.
Thank you for offering this opportunity for dialogue.
However, if we wait for government action it will be too little too late, if we act as individuals it will be too little, but if we act as communities it may be just enough just in time.
Please feel welcome to contact me if you would like additional information, to initiate a CHACRA effort in your neighborhood or would like to donate funds or services to our efforts here in Appalachia.
Kathy Jacobson, RN