Emergent Tactics during Disaster Response and Recovery

Contingency plans seldom work out as conceived during a disaster. The simple reason for this is that they are designed during times of normalcy and rarely can account for significant emergent phenomenon during a disaster. As such, we find emergent tactics from responders, citizens, government agencies during response and recovery efforts. These practices are vital for effective disaster recovery processes and often revolve around preferred communication mediums, social gatherings, and volunteer exchanges. Below I outline three important emergent practices that are often observed during disaster recovery efforts.

  1. Volunteer Coordination: During and after disaster recovery, one of the common and important emergent practices is volunteer coordination. The coordination of volunteers are carried out in various levels. It sometimes start from one post on a Facebook page or a shout on Twitter.Communities need a coordinator who organizes information on virtual spaces and also coordinate the volunteers’ desire and the hosts’ needs. Today, much of the coordination is mobilized virtually through online social platforms.
  2. Partnership: During and after disaster recovery, disaster relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, United Way and  government agencies (e.g. FEMA), partners with local communities to offer help and support for the areas hit by disasters. While there is some cooperation among these agencies, we also see a heavy dose of competition among agencies during relief efforts. This is a natural outcome of how these agencies are structured and funded. Emergent competition is understudied in the literature and needs to be looked at.
  3. Community Memory: Communities impacted by disasters practice remembrance of their shared experiences through ceremonies, events, and gatherings. This can occur through sharing of photos on a Facebook page to build collective memory of shared experiences and to sustain hope. More formally, this can be a city-wide event for remembrance where community leaders ensure rebuilding efforts are in progress. These ritualistic practices act as a community’s coping mechanism. While some of these ritualistic practices are standard, some do emerge due to the specifics of a disaster.

All of these emergent practices are important for effective disaster recovery and also essential for strong community development. What are some of the other issues that help or hurt the emergence of community resiliency?


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