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Research

As part of the Community Disaster Resilience initiative, a research review was conducted of over 120 articles about community service providers, vulnerable populations, networking, current preparedness information, resiliency and vulnerability, communications, and social sciences disaster research. The central ideas from this research were useful to the steering committee’s work and development of the network.

Research highlights are categorized by four key areas:

1. Networking

  • Understand the structural and relational differences of partnerships, collaborations and coalitions
  • Move from bridging to bonding to develop trusted-known relationships
  • Recognize effective leadership styles
  • Measure a network’s effectiveness by testing agreed-upon parameters of success and confirm with credible member testimony
  • Identify ways to strengthen member engagement 

2. Communications

  • Family and friends are a primary source of information
  • Individuals without a social network are more vulnerable
  • The development and use of a safety net of people can serve as a trusted resource of information and assistance
  • Feelings of helplessness among vulnerable populations may result in coping mechanisms that lead to inaction
  • People perceive preparedness and risk information by social and cultural factors rather than science or facts
  • Peer-to-peer and social media can be more effective than standard media sources
  • Leveraging social media is a useful communication tool to reach vulnerable populations

3. Current Emergency Preparedness of Vulnerable Populations and Community Service Agencies

Community Service Providers
  • Community service providers seek to duplicate best practices and successful ideas or programs
  • Unrealistic expectations of emergency management agencies and community service providers may put vulnerable populations at greater risk during disasters
  • Community service providers often have overlapping service areas and cross jurisdictional and state boundaries
  • Disasters can create a collapse of social service capabilities of community service providers; locating the vulnerable populations becomes imperative
  • Disasters create a new norm of how providers work with clients and other organizations; adaptation is needed
  • New norms may change daily routines or require providers to modify existing or seek new partnerships
  • Community service providers often do not have emergency preparedness plans; or, general template plans are used to meet requirements but may not address unique operational functions
  • Emergency preparedness efforts are not a priority when daily work exceeds the capacity of staff and resources
  • High turnover, staff training, testing emergency procedures, and updating plans can be challenges to an organization
  • Employees often need to be educated about their own emergency preparedness so that they can be available to assist the community service provider in times of disaster
     
Vulnerable Populations
  • The more a vulnerable individual utilizes a trusted-known relationship, the stronger the bond and influence in emergency situations.
  • Bonding can be direct or indirect depending on the person’s association to trusted relationships. Examples may be an individual person (caregiver) or association with a particular group (social media or network).
  • People can become vulnerable at any time; those with the fewest resources to take care of their basic needs during emergencies or disasters should be considered vulnerable populations.
  • Vulnerable populations may base the decision to react during an emergency on the reality of the individual situation and not on the threat
  • Transportation can be a major barrier to preparedness and actions for many who rely on public transportation
  • Emergency preparedness messages must practical with doable tasks for the vulnerable individual
  • Peer to peer connections may help to demonstrate how to be resourceful during a disaster through relatable examples

4. Resiliency and Vulnerability in Social Science Disaster Research

  • Resiliency and vulnerability are interconnected
  • Resiliency includes both cultural, social, and faith-based factors in addition to material, technological, and economic concerns
  • More input from social scientists is needed to understand why people may or may not prepare and the psychological factors that influence their decisions
  • Resiliency has become a catch-all phrase; variations in definitions makes it difficult to make a definitive determination of how to apply individuals and communities
  • People who feel they can change what happens in their life are more apt to prepare and build social structures; those who react to what happens in their life due to individual circumstances are less apt to prepare
  • People use coping skills to prepare, respond and recover in emergency situations; past experiences and coping skills can increase or lower one’s ability to adapt in disaster situations
  • Use an individual’s adaptive capacity as building block to achieve resiliency instead of a diminishing capability.
  • Difference between chronological and social time are essential to understand how people, emergency management agencies, and communities react to and understand disasters
  • More research and understanding of social vulnerabilities needed; current emphasis is on physical vulnerability