Disasters have Direction by Dr John Plodinec

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Disasters have Direction

On Community Resilience by Dr John Plodinec

Our friends at CARRI – The Community and Regional Resilience Institute  -have posed an interesting concept to think about:  Disasters Have Direction – What Does That Mean for Community Resilience?

This guest article is by Dr. John Plodinec.  John is the Associate Director for the Community and Regional Resilience Institute (CARRI) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this role, he is responsible for identifying and evaluating technologies useful for enhancing community resilience. He also is playing a leading role in development of CARRI’s Community Resilience System. He has been heavily involved with CARRI’s engagement with the Charleston, SC, region. Read more about Dr. Plodinec here

Disasters Have Direction – What Does That Mean for Community Resilience?

For a few years, FEMA and DHS have championed the idea of an “All Hazards – Maximum of Maxima” approach to planning. The basic premise is that if a community plans for the worst of the worst, then it will be prepared for whatever may actually happen. This is a deceptively simple tautology that I think deserves a little more analysis than it usually receives, especially in terms of community resilience.

Let’s start by looking at an idealized community.

A community can be thought of as an ecosystem. There is a “human layer,” made up of individuals and families. There is an institutional layer, consisting of private businesses and other economic institutions, and all of the other “human-serving” organizations in the community. Then there is the physical, environmental, layer – containing the built and natural environment. All of these are held together by the social capital within the community (some may argue whether the physical layer is bound to the community by its social capital, but that’s a subject for another post!).

Of course, this is an ideal community; real communities may have a strong economy but be weak in the human element. Some have a decaying infrastructure but a flourishing natural environment. Thus, we can depict a real community as follows. This real community would be relatively weak in terms of its community institutions, have a somewhat stressed natural environment, but have a robust built environment.

Now let’s assume the community is hit by a hurricane. The initial impact on the community is going to be on the physical layer; buildings are going to be blown down, debris will be strewn about, flooding may occur. The other parts of the community will be impacted because of these physical blows. In our notional real community depicted above, there would be relatively little damage done to the built environment, but the natural environment would experience much greater damage (at least in relative terms) because it is weaker.

But what happens if a pandemic occurs? There is no immediate…. Read the entire article on the CARRI website

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