Frequently Asked Questions
The 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, From Shared Risk to Shared Value: The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction “warns that the worst is yet to come.” 1 Disasters, whether natural (e.g., hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods) or technological (e.g., nuclear accidents, toxic waste, and oil spills), can disrupt infrastructure and social-ecological systems, leading to loss of life, destruction of property, long-term environmental damage, and economic collapse. The report found that the loss associated with earthquakes and cyclone winds alone is $180 billion per year.
Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability 2 from the Fifth Assessment Report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that impacts from climate-related extremes highlight the vulnerability of ecological and social systems to climate variability. Droughts, wildfires, floods, heat waves, and extreme storms continue to impact the world. A February 2014 presentation by Munich Re found that the number of weather-related loss events worldwide more than doubled from 1980 to 2013. Further, losses and damage have almost quadrupled to almost $200 billion over the last decade. 3 In 2012, Munich Re found that North America has been most affected by these weather-related extreme events. 4 Focusing on just a single sector, electricity, a 2013 report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability 5 found that the annual costs of power outages caused by severe weather average up to $33 billion per year, with that number rising to almost $75 billion when hit by an extreme weather event such as Hurricane Ike in 2008.
One of the guiding principles underpinning national and international disaster preparedness programs is to facilitate community resilience and sustainability. By focusing on resilience, communities will be able to sustain themselves during a disaster, maintain critical functions, and accelerate their return to a “new normal.” One of the ways that this can be accomplished is by learning from previous disasters and recovery efforts. With the number of natural disasters anticipated to rise and the continuing threat of terrorism, it is imperative that communities begin to integrate resilience into planning and mitigation activities.
Sharing timely and accurate information with the public, responders, and interagency partners about risks before a disaster occurs can save lives and decrease recovery time should a disaster occur by encouraging communities to enact mitigation programs, ensuring that the public understands what to do should a disaster occur, and providing the response community with the information needed to bolster preparedness efforts. Should a disaster occur, the timely and accurate dissemination of information will be a key factor in how the public responds to the event.
Leaders must sort through the information to determine what’s accurate, what’s important to act on, and what information may be inaccurate. They must be responsive to questions from staff, the media, and their citizens, and communicate effectively through the media to accurately characterize the risk and provide scientific and specialized information in simple, easy-to-understand language to inform the public about the current situation, dispel rumors, and garner trust.
A key component to the successful completion of any organizational development project is collaboration and open communication. Stakeholder engagement and inclusion are key factors that will determine the success of organizational development and change activities. J&M understands that communication is the “engagement mechanism for change.” 6 It remains our belief that any type or organizational change will only be effective if the people within the organization:
- Understand and respect the change or program,
- Feel that they were part of developing it,
- Understand their roles in implementing the change, and
- See measurable and visible results as it is implemented.
Disasters, both natural and man-made, do not discriminate between large urban centers and smaller rural areas, between classes, or between economic sectors. They have the ability to fundamentally change the physical, social, and economic landscapes across all sectors of a community. The White House has estimated that climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost the American economy more than $100 billion,7 and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability 8 found that the annual costs of power outages caused by severe weather average up to $33 billion per year, with that number rising to almost $75 billion when hit by an extreme weather event such as Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Recovery is a long and complex process that includes revitalizing the economy, including the tourism and agricultural sectors, as well as rebuilding the infrastructure and restoring livelihoods. Recovery involves creating more resilient housing alternatives, building capacity at the community/village level to manage recovery and create jobs, and helping to rebuild social and human services such as local healthcare facilities and schools, while honoring and maintaining cultural traditions. Recovery must look at the interdependencies that exist between the physical, social, and economic elements of a community and understand the impacts that a project will have on other sectors. Understanding these relationships is critical in the development of a holistic recovery program.
Because of the role that businesses and economic development organizations can play in a post-disaster environment to assist with the economic recovery of states and local communities, it is imperative that these organizations be able to resume vital functions and services as quickly as possible. A robust business continuity and disaster recovery program is essential to the rapid restoration of services. As seen in disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, a disaster or event impacting the regional economy can ripple across the nation.