By Allison G. S. Knox
Emergency management literature is rich with examples of community resilience and how to prepare so when a disaster occurs, the community bounces back quickly. There are numerous ways community resilience can be applied: through the use of utility companies, through the use of community religious organizations, and through the various mitigation programs, to name a few.
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Community Resilience and Vulnerable Populations
While community resilience is an important component of emergency management, it should also be understood that the concept can help vulnerable populations. They are particularly difficult to care for because they may require special needs on a regular basis, like medical care. Vulnerable populations might also include those living with disabilities, the elderly, or children. Thus, they need special considerations during disasters.
Winter Emergencies and the Elderly
Winter emergencies are often considered to be just snow storms. But they are potential disasters because of the amount of resources they require to effectively manage the emergency. During these emergencies, individuals are often snowed in, which means they’ll need to be dug out.
Many elderly people, however, can’t shovel, use a snow blower, or drive themselves to the grocery store, making them especially vulnerable to winter disasters. What if these elderly people don’t have family or friends to rely on during these disasters? What if they’re independent enough to not be in an assisted living facility?
Reconsidering Vulnerable Communities and Community Resilience
Keeping in mind the concepts of community resilience, it is very important for emergency managers to consider these vulnerable populations in their disaster management plans. It is also important that they think about how to clear driveways, walkways and areas around homes so emergency vehicles can get through. It would be particularly important and forward thinking for communities to create a registry in which elderly persons could make it known that they need such help.
Realigning Resources in Times of Winter Emergencies
Ultimately, mitigation efforts do work so disasters become less costly. For elderly persons, it’s important to keep them out of emergency rooms. With many of these concepts in mind, Emergency Medical Services have reorganized some of their resources around the community paramedicine model.
By utilizing the community paramedicine model, individuals with chronic illnesses do not visit the emergency room as frequently as they once did. They are also healthier and have lower healthcare costs. If communities adopted a similar model for the elderly helping them to clear their walkways among other things during winter issues, they might keep elderly persons from having more serious emergencies.
When it comes to concepts of community resilience, there needs to be a discussion how to help vulnerable people. If communities do not have the resources they need during a disaster, it will be very difficult for them to recover. So emergency management offices should rethink how to help individuals in their communities, particularly those that have a difficult time helping themselves. Ultimately, it is an important mitigation measure to consider.