Resilience in Emergency Management: Reducing the Impact of Disasters
Disasters are on the rise and their impact is becoming more devastating, costly, and enduring. In this blog post, we explore the concept of resilience in emergency management and how it can help reduce the risk of life, property, and environmental damage. We also discuss key guiding principles and tools to help emergency managers achieve resilience. Read on to learn how your EMA and local community can better prepare for, withstand, and recover from emergencies and disasters.
Disasters are occurring with greater frequency and severity—their impact is becoming more and more devastating, enduring, and costly. Climate change is a major threat to human well-being and the health of the planet. Over 6,600 climate-related disasters were recorded between 2000 and 2019. In a statement in May 2022, President Biden called the climate crisis “the number one issue facing humanity”.
Resilience in emergency management is defined as “the capacity of a system, community or society to adapt to disturbances resulting from hazards by persevering, recuperating or changing to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning”. In essence, it is the ability of a community or organization to prepare for, withstand, and recover from emergencies or disasters. While we may not be able to stop disasters from occurring, we can minimize their impact. Resilience plays an important role in this objective.
One of the main goals of emergency management is to reduce the risk of
- loss of life
- damage to property (infrastructure)
- damage to the environment
- damage to the economy
How can risks be reduced?
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was published by the United Nations, and signed by 187 member countries, to achieve a substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities, and countries by 2030.
Key guiding principles
To prepare for potential emergencies and disasters, emergency management agencies (EMAs) can implement and test their plans for continuous improvement. A culture of preparedness can be achieved through training, encouraging participation in drills and exercises, and promoting emergency preparedness within the community or organization. Additionally, building partnerships with other organizations and agencies can also help to build resilience by sharing resources, knowledge, and expertise.
Engagement with all of society
Providing timely and accurate information to the public during an emergency is a great way to ensure public resilience. When people are informed about the nature and severity of an emergency, they can take appropriate measures to protect themselves and their families. This can include evacuating the area, taking shelter, or avoiding certain activities or areas that may be dangerous.
Take a look at our COVID-19 lessons learned and how to keep the public informed during an emergency.
In complex emergency situations, multiple agencies are required to work together to respond effectively, mitigate damage, and restore normalcy to the affected community. By coordinating efforts and sharing information, emergency managers can reduce duplication of effort, prevent confusion and improve communication, and ultimately improve their ability to respond to emergencies quickly and efficiently.
Check out our four steps for successful interagency collaboration during a disaster.
Addressing underlying risk factors vs response and recovery
Mitigation and emergency planning are integral components of emergency resilience as they help to minimize the loss of life, property damage, and disruption to the community. By identifying potential hazards and developing plans to address them before an emergency occurs, emergency managers can reduce the likelihood and severity of the impacts of disasters.
Read our top emergency planning tips.
Tools to help emergency managers accomplish resilience
Keeping track of personnel and training certifications is one method to ensure team resilience. Is your team qualified? Another aspect of training is not only proof that your members have received their certificates, but that they are also practicing this training. Do you have a method that could prove, in a court of law, that you and your team are competent? This doesn’t usually require a skill testing question, but rather proof that you are following and practicing industry standards and that you are logging those sessions.
Exercises and drills
While plans are a great start, we don’t know if they work until they are tested. Just like an athlete practices their skills for the big game, we need to continually be testing (and improving) our emergency plans. D4H has an incident management tool that is capable of leveraging those plans in real time.
There are many ways to help improve public preparedness, but as a specific example let’s look at broadcasting tools. D4H is integrated with mass notifications providers to allow local residents to sign up for disaster notifications. Are you in an area near major industrial complexes? Frequent wildfires? While we often consider notification systems for our responders a priority, mass notifications tools also allow us to consider public notification and help resources stay focused on the emergency.
What does a resilient community look like?
Want to know if you have achieved resilience? Community resilience examples from international research describe what this can look like:
- They are empowered to use their skills, knowledge, and resources to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. They are able to adapt their everyday skills and use them in extraordinary circumstances.
- They are educated on the risks that may affect them and how they might affect their lives, businesses, and the environment.
- They are engaged in all aspects of community life, adopting a long-term, holistic, and community-reflective perspective, influencing and making decisions that address the needs of their whole community.
- They encourage trusted champions to communicate the benefits of resilience to the wider community and influence others to get, or stay, involved.
Resilience in emergency management allows for a faster return to normal operations which can have a positive impact on our communities. How are you measuring your progress toward resilience?
About the author
For over seven years, Clinton Boyda has led a regional municipal agency in Alberta, Canada, as the Director of Emergency Management (DEM). Representing ten municipalities, Clinton has seen how important a tool like D4H is to help Emergency Managers keep organized during all phases of a disaster. Also, as a Search and Rescue First Responder, he has seen the value D4H provides to manage certifications, callouts, and incident reports. What automation would help you the most in your emergency management role?