Citizen Resiliency – Community Networks and Emergent Groups

Although you can arguably say that the use of community networks were in place in the time of the pioneers in covered wagons settling the American west, they did “not have adequate information to assess the situation, the risks and the possible actions” with the information available for choices perceived as suboptimal (Helsloot 2004, p.110).  Today, modern community networks have the advantage of the use of technology and social media tools to augment their response to disasters.  Palen et al (2010) in “viewing the citizenry as a powerful, self-organizing, and collectively intelligent force, information and communication technologies can play a transformational role in a crisis (p.1).”  Yates (2011) states that “social media’s value is predicated on frequent contributions of small knowledge chunks in various forms that are easy to acquire, share and use.  The information currency of disaster response is increasingly text messages, images, short videos, blog posts, and web links – all encapsulated knowledge chunks.  Social media’s strengths are supporting ad hoc network formation bringing together various players with different expertise and contexts, and providing some level of common ground between them” given that “disaster response typically involves a coordinated response between individuals (p.6-7).” 

Helsloot and Ruitenberg (2004) believe that “it is most likely that the modern citizen responds to disasters in the same fashion as his ancestor.  Contrary to popular belief, citizens do not panic in disaster situations, they provide the initial aid, and generally speaking, citizen response is what saves the day when disaster strikes (p.98).”  Langer (2009) states that “most first responders in crisis situations are not trained professionals, but local people in the community responding to the event.  Local volunteers naturally create groups and work together to help people in need (p.1)”. Palen (2010) states that “high involvement by members of the public in a disaster is not new”, though the use of technology and social media now “makes their involvement more visible and broadens the scope of their participation.  Citizenry should now be viewed as a powerful self-organizing, and collective intelligent force playing a transformational role in a crisis.  Indeed, in cases of structural collapse, the majority of those saved are by emergent volunteer groups.  Individual and local groups come together as emergent temporary organizations that improvise rescue and relief efforts (p.4).”  Colton et al (2008) stated that emergent individuals or groups which the authors called “shadow responders” often come from households, friends and family, and neighborhoods.  Morrow (2008) believes that an important asset in the reduction of vulnerabilities lies with the people and groups themselves (p.12).”  Within these citizens and emergent groups is important social capital—networks and relationships—that can become vital resources in building and maintaining resilience.

How do you think community networks can be more easily transformed into emergent groups in a local disaster?



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