5 Ways to Help Communities Recover After a Natural Disaster

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Helping Communities After Catastrophic Events

  • Address Their Immediate Needs
  • Stimulate the Local Economy
  • Clean Up the Area
  • Rebuild, Don't Relocate
  • Strengthen Community Bonds

From earthquakes to hurricanes, natural disasters can have devastating effects on local communities. Emergency responders can also make things worse if they rush into the situation without the knowledge or preparation to handle things efficiently. For people seeking an emergency management degree, it's important to do a little research about ways that aid groups can actually help a community after a crisis.

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1. Address Their Immediate Needs

In the wake of a catastrophic event, people are most concerned with survival. Their priorities will be finding food, water, shelter, clothing, and medicine. They'll need to tend their wounds and fill their stomachs; they'll need to get some sleep in a warm, dry and safe place. If their most urgent needs aren't being met by governmental or humanitarian aid groups, they'll move on from the community, and they might not come back once they've settled somewhere else.

2. Stimulate the Local Economy

A common mistake in emergency disaster response is focusing so much on the distribution of physical goods that things like cash and business vouchers are forgotten. With the latter, however, aid groups can help the economy as well as individuals. They can boost cash flow through the community at a pivotal time, and they can encourage self-sufficiency among the residents. People will visit local businesses for food and blankets instead of waiting in line with charity groups. Life will get back to normal at a faster pace.

3. Clean Up the Area

Cleaning up after a natural disaster usually involves more than just picking litter off the streets. For example, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, flood water can contain everything from toxic chemicals to hazardous waste. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tornado debris can include sharp objects, live wires and the potential for carbon monoxide exposure. Clean-up efforts after a disaster will need to prioritize safety in the handling, gathering and disposing of dangerous materials.

4. Rebuild, Don't Relocate

The poorest residents of a community tend to suffer the most after a natural disaster, especially when it comes to real estate. They find themselves displaced when their neighborhoods are declared unstable or unlivable, and before they can move back, developers will snap up the cheap land and rebuild it for higher-income demographics. Aid groups should be very careful when it comes to relocating populations because of a lack of infrastructure in the area. Once they're moved, they tend to stay moved.

5. Strengthen Community Bonds

Studies from a resilience expert have shown that communities with stronger social ties tend to bounce back from catastrophes faster than others. When people feel supported by their friends and neighbors, they feel better about their communities as a whole, and this can be a great asset in overcoming the physical, emotional and financial challenges of disaster recovery. Emergency response groups might want to think about organizing more community programs after major disasters.

These are just a few things to consider when it comes to helping communities after natural disasters. If you're pursuing an emergency management degree, these will be the types of difficulties that you face. Learn them well to become an effective force in post-disaster recovery.