Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

A Note from My Son

I had an email from my son the other day that I thought I’d share with you.

“Dad,

We had a ‘fire emergency’ at work today and it got me thinking. I suspect it was a false alarm; but while people left the building after the fact there was no real sense of what to do after we left the building. Having grown up reading DuPont safety pamphlets and having worked in aviation for 12 or so years, I had the mindset that we should report in and take a roll call in case somebody was missing [Absolutely - That's my boy!]. While the general structure seemed to be in place (i.e., there was a plan), the plan was not enforced and had not been communicated to newer employees. I asked myself why, and in my own internal dialog I drew some parallels to the larger issue of community preparation.

Borrowing on the idea that we need to control what we can control and not waste resources on those things that we can’t, I decided that the single most important action leaders can take would probably be communications. Furthermore, while communications after an ‘event’ are critical, communications before the event are even more [I'd say "just as"] important. That is because the most important factor in resiliency of a community (according to my hypothesis) is the preparedness of the individual. And that goes far beyond the “having bottled water and non-perishable food” aspects of physical planning. In order to be truly resilient, it is imperative for the members of that community to know what to do immediately before, during and after an emergency. Call it mental preparedness. A city, county, or state can have the best plans; however if all participants (down to the smallest unit) aren’t familiar with their roles – those plans are USELESS. In Katrina, I suspect that there was a lack of planning that was a root cause of a lot of the problems before and after the fact; however, if the folks in the Superdome knew what the plan was (however minimal) they would have been better prepared, there would have been much less panic, and they would have been more resilient.

As evidence of my hypothesis, think about the 911 system. Is it more important that we have the system or that anybody who has been in this country for more than 24 hours has seen a mention of the system and shortly thereafter learns what it means and when and why to use it?

Back to the situation at hand. If this had been a real fire and people had been ’potentially’ trapped, authorities would have wasted a great deal of time and energy on ‘rescue’ that could have been better spent on ‘response and recovery.’

Bottom line – unless a leader can say that he feels as comfortable about his community’s resiliency after a triggering event as he does (or should, if he is properly prepared) about his family in a house fire, his community is not resilient. Finally, the best plans in the world are useless unless everybody involved is mentally prepared for their role in carrying out those plans, and this extends down to the individual level.

Thanks,
Matt”

Yet again, my son makes me proud to be his Daddy (of course, his intelligence probably comes from his mother!). Matt’s right, though, resilience starts at the bottom. You can’t have a resilient community if its individuals and families aren’t resilient. You can’t have a resilient nation if it’s communities aren’t resilient. And, as I’ve said before, the three most important factors in resilience are leadership, leadership, leadership.

Thanks, Matt!
(Your very proud) Dad