On each anniversary of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, I pause to reflect on, and pray for those 1,836 souls who perished in the devastating storm and flooding that followed. Recently, I ran across an article about efforts in New Orleans to reach out to residents with a survey asking if they plan to evacuate during a hurricane. The article made me begin to think about the realities of "stay or go" as it related to citizens, and also the ramifications on businesses organizations, and the underserved. Needless to say, a great deal of planning has taken place in the Gulf region and throughout the country since Katrina.
Within this ongoing response-recovery push exists a "resilience gap" that has become wider for the underserved. Despite the efforts of many to get individuals and households to prepare, more than 66 percent of U.S. households by conservative estimates have done nothing to prepare. That figure is likely much higher among people below poverty, elderly, limited English speakers, disabled, and those without personal transportation, disposable income, or access to the internet, Bridging this readiness gap will require new, creative approaches to get people prepared, and to better equip response and relief agencies, and private companies to respond more efficiently when they don't. While some have taken the issue to new levels, most practitioners have not.
Closing this resilience gap involves several key concepts that could change outcomes for all disaster survivors:
Last but not least, we must look within ourselves and admit that despite our best efforts we have failed to prepare those who are least able to prepare themselves......the underserved. The are, after all is said and done, unable to self-evacuate in most cases, and incapable of preparing without the resources and empowerment that we practitioners alone can provide. Resilience is not merely the ability to "bounce back" but to rebuild one's capability better than it was before the setback.
Better outcomes require better inputs. Disasters are going to happen. What we do to prepare is within our control. The suffering in Katrina, Sandy, Baton Rouge, Flint, or other devastated communities can happen where you live. Are you ready?
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