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Tag: Community Resilience

My challenge to emergency planners in the wake of Manchester

My challenge to emergency planners in the wake of Manchester

I want to preface this short post with two caveats

  1. I think the responders in Manchester have done, and continue to do, an incredible job. Not just the emergency services, not just the NHS staff, but everyone who has helped in any way. It’s a clear demonstration of the many supporting the few.
  2. My sincere condolences are with all the families of those killed, and with anyone affected by Monday’s events. I encourage you to dig deep and donate to the appeal fund to help support them through the difficult months and years ahead.

I didn’t know any of the victims or casualties from Monday’s attack, but I did follow one on Twitter. He brought his infectious sense of humour to my news feed. His name was Martyn Hett.

Martyn was 29. Facebook was launched when he was 16, Twitter when he was 18. He, and millions of others (myself included) have grown up not just with ‘IRL’ friends, but a whole network of online friends and acquaintances. Communities for whom sharing the same geography isn’t a factor.

I’ve seen outpourings of grief online from people that never knew Martyn. I’ve also seen those people supporting each other, showing compassion and kindness. The ripples of the incident go far beyond the physical communities within which he moved.

With more of us being connected through social media (or other platforms the internet has to offer), I think this needs to be a factor in how we design emergency response.

The world, our cities, and the people within them are constantly changing. It’s difficult (perhaps impossible) for large organisations to react quickly to every single one of those changes.

My hope is that emergency planners, especially those digital natives who have grown up online like Martyn, continue to challenge current processes, ensure arrangements reflect changes in society and above all, don’t forget that you’re doing this for anyone who is affected by an incident, no matter where they happen to be.

 

30 Days, 30 Ways: Day 7

30 Days, 30 Ways: Day 7

Growing up in the heart of suburbia we had a lot of neighbours; 4 who immediately bordered our house, but many other people who lived locally that either I or my parents knew well enough for them to watch our house when we went on holiday or vice versa.

Now I live in London and would struggle to pick my neighbours out of a line up.

trellick-and-royal-crescent

 

Today’s 30 Days sets me the following challenge

1 Pt:   Do you know your neighbours?  If not introduce yourself to at least one neighbour around you.and tell them you are playing #30Days30Ways..

2 Pts:   Does your neighbourhood have an association or some sort of community connection?  Find out how to connect with your neighbours and check if you have some sort of neighbourhood call tree.

Out of my friends in London I’m fairly unusual in that I’ve lived in the same house for four years, so arguably I should know my neighbours comparatively well…let’s conduct an experiment…

  • Neighbour A – a French couple with a young baby who moved in about 4 months ago. Other than an exchange of passive-aggressive notes about bins we’ve not spoken.
  • Neighbour B – a flat of four people, I’ve met two of the current tenants, a brunette Scottish girl who I’d estimate was about 25, and a guy (that’s literally all I remember about him).
  • Neighbour C – in what I expect is a 6 bedroom house I’ve only ever seen a late-middle-aged man when I’ve been round to collect delivered parcels. I’ve seen him walking a dog but I’m not sure it’s theirs as I’ve never heard it at night.

I think we can probably agree that I don’t know them particularly well ( a conclusion I reached a year ago when I wrote a similar blog!) However, I do have a reason to speak to my neighbours at the moment, actually about a small emergency (leaky shower!), so I’ll report back in a few days about how my discussions develop!

Banish the Hi-Viz Jacket

Banish the Hi-Viz Jacket

Family stories and media-influenced interpretations of the past often depict communities coming together in times of adversity. Typically in Britain it’s referred to as Dunkirk Spirit, but I’m sure there are examples of it the world over.

banish the hiviz

Although we often have a positivist view of the past, one only has to look to the Good Deed Feed in London’s free morning paper or to the banding together of London’s communities after the riots in August 2011 to see that this trait remains just under the surface for most of us. I’ve mentioned that we, as emergency managers, shouldn’t forget about emergent behaviour, but we also should remember that people often have a way of coming together in response to an incident. None of these community responses arose because there was a ‘plan’.

With the threat of coastal flooding last week it’s taken me longer than I anticipated to get my thoughts on the first National Community Resilience meeting down on the blog. Firstly, I should start that calling it the first meeting is a bit of a misnomer. Since I’ve been working in this field in the UK there have been at least 3 attempts to ‘launch’ the concept. It’s currently defined as “Communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services.”

In the past, my main bug-bear has been around the definition of community (people are simulatenously members of numerous communities, which onces are we talking about?), and whilst I think that remains an issue, there was another aspect which became apparent, which is aspiration.

There were a range of presentations from different areas of the UK, but what struck me most was the continued fixation on developing a plan. Whilst this may have been ok 30 years ago, the nature of modern life means we’re more Global Village than ‘Vicar of Dibley’. For me, the days of Community Resilience based on intricate hazard specific plans and networks of local wardens are long gone.

I’ve been searching for some time to find a phrase which, I think, more accurately captures what I think community resilience should be striving for, and I think I’ve found the answer. Optionality – the quality or state of allowing choice.

  • Less community plans, more people in employment and therefore better positioned to look after themselves should there be an emergency
  • Less high visibility jackets, more people focused on education (not necessarily just formal education either, it could be education on risk exposure perhaps?) thereby enabling choice between different options.
  • Less grab bags and wind up radios, instead a generation of healthier people less prone to illness and injury.

Developing a plan is easy, anyone can do it. Engendering change and instilling resilience into all aspects of society is a far greater challenge, but I believe that is where the focus of effort should be on Community Resilience. It might be aspirational and difficult to measure, but I have a feeling that it’d be a better use of energy than a community flood plan.

Alternative views welcomed – my ideas are in their infancy and constructive challenge will help me develop them!

 

Image Credit: Imperial War Museum

Pop Up Emergency Planning

Pop Up Emergency Planning

From one off exhibitions and sample sales to short term high-concept bars and restaurants, the trend for temporary, ephemeral retail and leisure has gripped London, and many other places, in recent years.

wave

The cynic in me knows not to be drawn in by the marketing and hype, but then I get a serious case of FOMO and hop aboard the ‘for a limited time only’ train. From eating deep fried crab in petrol stations, to sipping rum from watermelons in a faux 1950’s holiday resort; it’d be fair to say I’ve participated in the trend.

However, it wasn’t until this week that I thought about transitioning this from a retail context to resilience.

Emergent behaviour in response to disasters is nothing new. There are countless stories of unplanned, improvised and spontaneous responses which should give us all a warm feeling: despite not knowing our neighbours, community spirit really is alive and kicking.

Perhaps though, there is room to develop, enable and facilitate these pop-up responses in the event of an incident? Are there any lessons to be learned from retail for our own pop-up planning, both within the responder community but also at the individual and community level?

In a study conducted in 1983, Quarantelli identified a typology of emergence, shown below.

Structures

Tasks

Old

New

Old

Quasi-Emergence

Task Emergence

New

Structural Emergence

Group Emergence

Remember the London Riots Broom Army? The task was new, the clean-up of the mess and debris left by several days of consecutive looting and vandalism. The structures used were also new and so this would be classified as Group Emergence.

With the Volcanic Ash Cloud of 2010, people near airports offered spare rooms to stranded passengers – a new task (the provision of shelter), but using existing structures (people’s homes rather than camp beds in a village hall), giving rise in this case to Task Emergence.

Whilst this is a useful model for understanding different motivating factors behind emergent behaviour, as with most things, I expect there is a degree of overlap between the different groups, and it’s hard to classify all examples of emergence as just one of these types.

However, in thinking about this typology, where can we help enable emergence in the future? It’s easy to identify the ‘old’ structures and tasks, this is  what we do every day and in the way that we currently do it. Even identifying ‘new’ tasks isn’t that complex, as whilst they may not be everyday tasks, they’re likely to be foreseeable. I think it’s the identification of ‘new structures’ which presents the challenge. (I have a feeling that VOST could be one of these new structures, and I’ll get round to blogging more about the use of volunteers to support operations soon!) It’s easy to say ‘communities’ but who? What are the factors which make someone a community leader, how do they get people onboard with their vision? How do they coordinate spontaneous activity?

There is a tendency for emergency planners to seek to ‘control’, when actually that’s both extremely complicated and largely not desired by affected communities. We need to dispel two myths, that the public is incapable and that we can solve everything alone. There is going to be emergence in disasters, so we should include emergence in preparedness activities.

 

 

Image Source: kimchiandchips.com

Facebook Emergency – who you gonna call?

Facebook Emergency – who you gonna call?

How many of your Facebook friends do you think you could call on in an emergency, perhaps to provide you with a bed (or at least a sofa!) for a couple of nights? Complete the 3 question survey!

What’s this all about?

I finally managed to watch The Social Network this weekend. Whilst not the most exciting of films, it provided time to appreciate how much ‘social media’ has changed how many people do things.

As I mentioned previously in my post on the Boston Bombings, I’m no stranger to the digital world and have been instrumental in the implementation of corporate social media presence for two employers – recognising and emphasising the potential benefits for emergency planning and response at an early stage.

I avoid watching the news unless there is a story I’m following, and I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper (bar a quick flick through the Metro to pass time). In general, my news consumption is now predominantly Twitter and the links it provides to other content.

The average Facebook user has 140-150 friends. To someone who was clambering at the doors to be a member when it was still exclusive to colleges in America, this seems counterintuitive. I believe there are two phenomena at work here:

  1. Simple maths (my favourite kind), as explained in The Anatomy of Facebook and
  2. The changing demographics of Facebook – as older generations embrace it, they potentially have less online friends and therefore reduce the average number of friends?

So back to my survey – how many of your Facebook friends do you think you could call on in an emergency, perhaps to provide you with a bed, or a sofa, for a couple of nights?

I don’t want to prejudice the results of my survey, but here’s my hypothesis…I expect that there are probably 10% of my friends who I wouldn’t feel too uncomfortable in contacting for assistance. Of those, I’m going to guess that 50% are local, given that Facebook is primarily locally clustered.

So for ‘Average Joe’,

  • 140 x 10% = 14 Facebook friends that he can contact
  • 14 x 50% = 7 of which live locally who could help Joe out

Joe could then approach these friends and they could plan together to support each other – what we in the trade call “Community Resilience”.

I’m going to leave the survey open for 2 weeks and then report back on how results compare to my prediction. If you want to leave any thoughts on the rudimentary maths on show here, just pop a comment in the box below.

Anytown Unleashed

Anytown Unleashed

For the last 4 months I’ve been spearheading a project known as Anytown. The project aims to help develop better understanding and awareness of how different ‘city systems’ all interlink. Today I unleashed my baby into the world at Defra’s Community Resilience & Climate Change Workshop. Read more on the project below.

When you throw a stone in a pond, ripples propagate from the centre. Similarly in emergencies and disasters, impacts of an initiating event can propagate and cause a cascade of consequences. There are many examples of this both in the UK and overseas, yet there has been little formal consideration of it to date.

The intention of Anytown is to simplify reality and model the interconnections and interdependencies between systems in order to provide a greater level of awareness of these potential impacts.

During my studies we had an assignment involving ‘Complex Cascading Disasters’ and I remember at the time, that there was little readily available research in this area. That situation hasn’t changed significantly so in February, I coordinated a number of workshops bringing together over 100 representatives from 52 organisations to discuss and harvest their knowledge and experience.

Looking back to my ripple analogy earlier, from the workshop data I created ‘ripple diagrams’ which demonstrate how consequences cascade from an incident through various sectors.

Anytown is now free into the world. This is exciting as one of the key aspects that I realised during the development is that a model is only as good as the information that feeds it – so now many more people have the opportunity to contribute. I’ll bring occasional updates on the progress of Anytown as I move from the model development (hopefully) towards visualisation and simulation.

The ‘work’ version of this post is over here