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Relationships & Connectivity

Running through the observations of nearly every person interviewed for this study was the fact that pre-established relationships greatly sped response and improved results. Social service agencies with prior experience working together were able to put together emergency responses quickly, even when that was not the focus of their work. Existing relationships with local governments allowed service providers and government officials to adapt quickly without lengthy meetings or contract negotiations. Good working relationships between municipal and County staff promoted smooth coordination of all staff, from public safety to public utilities. Emergency response personnel had already established relationships across agencies and jurisdictions through regular training events, whether in the field or in table-top scenario exercises. Broadening these out to include non-traditional partners would help in spreading and maintaining relationships. Inclusion of disaster preparedness and climate information games such as that developed by the Red Cross Climate Center7 can further enhance trainings and further develop networks. Personal relationships among individuals provided rapid assistance for neighbors, especially the most vulnerable. Several observers pointed to the strong relationships among women in the Latin American immigrant community as a key to helping them cope despite a lack of resources. Where relationships did not exist, people built them quickly, building on the basic level of trust that already existed in most communities. The implication for Disaster Risk Reduction is that social service agencies like the Red Cross and United Way can take on an explicit role of advocating for vulnerable groups in good times and bad. Also, any activity that builds social networks – music groups, sports leagues, parent-teacher associations, etc. – can build the ability of people to get help and information when disaster strikes. Social media can help to maintain these networks even in the absence of a high level of activity.

PERC Reports