Social disaster recovery

By Bryan Sali

Disasters are social phenomenon. If society is not present in some form then there is no disaster. It follows, therefore, that recovery is by nature a social event. Recovery is an often misunderstood event in which the sole purpose is to restore a damaged community to its pre-disaster state, insisting that citizens need to return to normalcy as soon as possible. However, this often replicates the vulnerabilities and places people, a potentially socially fractured group, in a vulnerable community once again. In order for recovery to be effective and sustainable it needs to be used as an opportunity for improvement, which may mean some sacrifices need to be made in order to attain that.

Long-term social and sustainable recovery needs to consider many aspects of community. The following list is not a complete list, it does not include the physical (engineering) aspects of recovery that are already done very well, but it does cover most of the points that must be considered for truly effective social recovery. Recovery needs to include considerations and allowances for:

  • Health (Physical, Emotional, Psychological)
  • Community artefacts
  • Social Support Networks
  • Special Needs individuals and groups
  • Community social and cultural organizations
  • Non-governmental and Government Recovery Assistance
  • Memorials and anniversaries
  • Homelessness and transient populations
  • Cultural and language differences and inclusivity
  • Physical community planning (e.g., New Urbanism)
  • Employment issues (retraining, access to jobs, new opportunities, suffering industries)
  • Media
  • Economy and banking

Naturally each one of these items represents a massive planning undertaking and each has many considerations buried within them.  It is therefore, necessary that recovery planning committees and teams be a large, diverse group of people from multiple fields and organizations who are experts and who are motivated towards making their community a better place to live.

Bryan Sali is the first graduate from the NAIT Emergency Management Diploma program