We define resilience as the capacity of any dynamic system, such as a community, to anticipate and adapt successfully to challenges. Source
In practice, community resilience is a collaborative endeavor that brings together community partners, public health agencies, first responders, and other stakeholders to prepare for, respond, and recover from adversity or change.
Community resilience uses community engagement as a foundation for planning, preparedness, and response activities. This approach ensures all voices are reflected in decision-making and promotes the inclusion of populations that may need additional support. Source
WHAT DO RESILIENT COMMUNITIES HAVE IN COMMON?
IN RESILIENT COMMUNITIES
Residents and organizations are engaged in the community and connected to each other
The community pools existing resources to become stronger in the face of threats and risks
The community learns from prior events to better manage future challenges
Building Blocks of Community Resilience
There are eight levers of community resilience. We focus on four: education, engagement, community self-sufficiency, and partnerships. Evaluate improvements in these core areas as you measure your progress towards a more resilient community.
These levers are immediately familiar to most public health practitioners and provide insight into how a community resilience perspective supports alignment between everyday public health practice and public health emergency preparedness and response,” say the authors of a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health.
RESILIENCE IN ACTION
Three coalitions show how the concepts of resilience translate into action. Each coalition is an example of a community that is strengthening four building blocks of resilience: education, engagement, community self-sufficiency, and partnerships.
Example 1: Acton-Agua Dulce
In this geographically remote desert region, over 500 community members use the social networking tool Facebook to stay in-touch with coalition activities, share the latest news during wildfires events that threaten the community, and provide tips on disaster preparedness.
As part of the the Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience (LACCDR) project, the coalition also conducted HAM radio trainings so community members could supply emergency communications with local authorities and check-in with each other during emergencies.
What’s more, this community scored highest for possessing supplies in preparation of an emergency according to the results of a study by LACCDR investigators. In fact, volunteers from the community authored their own “Residents Guide for Survival” working in partnership city and county representatives.
A second LACCDR coalition formed in Huntington Park, CA, continues to focus on Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in partnership with the local fire department. The CERT program educates the community about disaster preparedness and provides training in fire safety, search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Students must complete three 8-hour training sessions to receive certification.
This largely Spanish-speaking community certified 32 residents during the LACCDR project and the number continues to grow. The Huntington Park CERT launched a website that offers links to education on disaster readiness and highlights citizens taking action to make a difference in their community.
A coalition from Compton, CA, better known as PAC RED, focuses on preparedness for seniors and community members with special needs, among others. For example, the coalition’s website offers educational videos for the deaf or hard of hearing with sign-language instructions that describe how to summon the police or fire department during an emergency.
The mission of PAC RED is “to educate residents and stakeholders within their local communities on the importance of disaster awareness and preparedness by ensuring emergency planning, training and resources are available and accessible to everyone regardless of age, gender, race, religion or affluence.”
Endorsing a “whole community” approach to resilience, the coalition collaborates with partner agencies including FEMA, the Compton Office of Emergency Management, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the American Red Cross, in addition to faith-based and community leaders.
Building community resilience is a top priority for both governmental and non-governmental entities, and increasingly an issue of national and global significance. While building resilience is central to the ability of communities to respond and recover to a range of stresses, the actual “how to” of resilience development has left many unanswered questions.
Recognizing that many organizations had identified resilience development as a priority but were only partially equipped to carry-out the complex resilience challenges that lay ahead, a team of investigators from the LACCDR– a community resilience demonstration project foresaw the need to test what it means for communities to build resilience locally, including what activities are needed to strengthen resilience-based capacities and capabilities, partner effectively across government and nongovernmental organizations, and measure progress. This experience along with the pooled expertise of national leaders over the last several years offered a new opportunity to gather insights from actual experiences of resilience development-both successes and pitfalls- to create an accessible, web-based resilience program to help communities nationally.
In 2016, LACCDR investigators built from the earlier demonstration project and along with national leaders, initiated this effort to translate lessons learned to create a web-based platform that unpacked many of the unanswered questions about what it really means for communities to prioritize and activate resilience development. During developmental stages of the platform development project, the team sought the advice of a User Advisory Panel comprised of local, state, and national representatives who have made great strides in their own communities. This work is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Our Beginning: A Snapshot of the Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Project—Building and Testing Resilience Locally
In 2010, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched LACCDR in collaboration with academic institutions (UCLA, RAND Corporation, Loma Linda University, USA), governmental and non-governmental agencies (United States Geological Survey Science Application for Risk Reduction, Emergency Network of Los Angeles, USA), businesses (private media consultants) and 16 community coalitions in Los Angeles County.
The goal of the 5-year collaboration was to improve resilience at the community level with a focus on four areas of capacity building: education, engagement, self-sufficiency, and partnership.
After conducting a needs assessment with stakeholders and community leaders, 16 community coalitions were recruited to test resilience strategies.
From 2013 – 2015, coalitions were provided training and technical assistance as they developed and executed their plans to improve community resilience and/or preparedness.
HOW WE MEASURED OUR RESULTS
The team adapted the Public Health Response to Emergent Threats Survey as an index for evaluating LACCDR outcomes at the household and neighborhood level among 4700 residents. The survey highlights how coalitions took action to improve community resilience over time.
Since launching the LACCDR in 2010, the community’s perceived collective efficacy of the community scored highest overall. Across all communities, emergency supplies also scored strongly while community engagement scored low. Results varied for the measure of communication with while civic engagement proved relatively similar across neighborhoods. Review an explanation of the results>
Testing the Resilience Capacity of Coalitions
The team also conducted a tabletop exercise with 203 coalition members—a self-guided exercise enabled coalitions to put new community resilience skills to the test using a simulated event. The scenario chosen was an extended heat wave with impacts to community health and infrastructure, a plausible threat in the greater Los Angeles area where temperatures can exceed 100° F in the summer months. In subsequent iterations of the tabletop, other scenarios (e.g., measles outbreak, hurricane response, climate adaptation) have been used.
The goal of the exercise was to assess the ability of coalitions to leverage partnerships and resources to confront a slowly evolving and multifaceted emergency.
The exercise revealed most coalitions did not have enough (both quantity and type) of the partner organizations needed for an escalating heat wave or adequate engagement of organizations representing at-risk populations. Coalitions also concluded they lacked the educational resources needed to fully understand the impacts of an extended heat wave, hampering their ability to convey messages to their community.
The use of a tabletop scenario proved a constructive test of resilience capacities in the absence of an actual event. It also provided important insights for coalitions working to strengthen their skills in disaster response and recovery planning. Read the journal article>
Organizational Network Survey
The team surveyed organizations that partnered with LACCDR coalitions using a social network analysis program called PARTNER (Program to Analyze, Record, and Track Networks to Enhance Relationships) at the start of study and at least once more during the span of the project. With PARTNER, survey responses are linked to an analysis tool that visually maps the collaborative network and analyzes the number, strength, and quality of connections among Source
Measures used to assess partner connectivity included types of relationship, trust among partners, and value of the partner organizations to the coalition’s mission.
Post survey, the team is interpreting the results of their data analyses and preparing a manuscript for publication in a peer reviewed journal that will include recommendations for future projects.
PROGRESS THROUGH COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
The LACCDR project brought together numerous institutions and stakeholders to develop the resilience within diverse areas of the County. Organizers employed a community-engagement model that encouraged co-leadership among institutional contributors, stakeholders, and community members, with a focus on vulnerable populations often under-represented in conventional disaster preparedness efforts. Participants included:
Building community resilience to disasters is a national priority that is being addressed at the local level by both governmental and non-governmental entities. These efforts are uncovering many “how-to” questions by local officials and community organizations seeking to implement resilience initiatives in their communities.
What skills, capacities, resources, and relationships does our organization need to implement this?
What are ways to talk about resilience with community members so it has meaning and leads to action?
What “bumps in the road” might we expect during implementation and how can we get over them?
Despite the growing number of community resilience tools and programs, few address these practical issues. Our vision, therefore, is to translate lessons learned by leaders in the field into a pragmatic website useful for practitioners, government agencies, and community organizations engaged in building resilience in communities.
HOW THE PROGRAM IS ORGANIZED
Our program is distilled into three sections that will step you through each phase of your community resilience initiative. In our experience there is no “cookie cutter” method to building resilience, so we suggest you modify these processes to fit the unique needs of your team or organization.
Many will begin by getting to know the concepts of community resilience then delve into each section while conducting their program. Others are ready to jump ahead to learn how they might build and improve in year 2 and 3 of their project.
Learn more about program or get started on the path to building resilience in your community.