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Avoiding Unintended Consequences in Disaster Recovery

It is about the people, Stupid!

When you think about all the things that need to be knitted back together following a disaster, from telecommunications, transportation, utilities, housing, schools, etc. the tasks and projects can be daunting. In the end we need to remember this, “It has become imperative we are able to look at solutions systemically and holistically to avoid unintended consequences and make sure we don’t just rebuild – but also we preserve the well-being of people.” 

Here is a link to this report, Changes in Human Well-being and Rural Livelihoods Under Natural Disasters about a China disaster and the mistakes made there that had consequences for people and organizations that ended up being negative and not considerate of the impacts to individuals, families and communities. It is not enough to give people a house and a place to work. The social impacts of dislocation and relocation from the familiar to the different and sometimes strange can be huge. The Great Japan Earthquake also had older people who were displaced for years, and their only desire was to die and be buried with their families back in their communities of origin.  

You can't call that a success for this element of the community. 

Lastly, I'll add this. Don't discount the lessons from foreign disasters. Yes, the cultures are different and the government response mechanisms are different, but people are people. Maslow's hierarchy of needs applies quite broadly.

Claire Rubin shared the primary link above.

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.