Over the past couple of years, many WeTHRIVE! communities and schools have been working on ways to increase resiliency and social connectedness. Much of this work is in response to the COVID pandemic, which has left us with what the U.S. Surgeon General calls a public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection.
With September being National Preparedness Month, we’re taking a look how addressing the issue of loneliness, building community resiliency, and increasing community engagement relates to being prepared for an emergency, whether it’s another pandemic or something we’re more likely to experience in Hamilton County, such as a flash flood, fire, or tornado.
To find out, we spoke with Christa Hyson, director of the emergency preparedness division of Hamilton County Public Health. Christa says the basis of what her department does is to plan, train, and develop partnerships with organizations, communities, and schools throughout the county, so they can prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
What is resiliency?
According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), community resiliency is the ability of a community to prepare for anticipated natural hazards, adapt to changing conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.
Rebuilding after an emergency brings to mind supplies and resources that may be needed, but Christa notes that a sense of community is vital to the process. With a sense of community, you fiercely protect what’s yours and no one else is going to take care of it like you do. “The federal government can give you pallets of water,” she says. “But they’re not the ones sweeping up the dust left behind. That is the community’s role.”
How can we build resiliency?
Community resilience grows when residents feel they can belong, depend on each other, and add value to their community.
It’s important to have some connection with the people who live around us, even if it’s just knowing their names or faces. “After an event happens, if you see a sea of people, but you recognize one face, you’re probably going to feel most comforted by that familiar face,” Christa explains.
“Having that sense of familiarity and having that sense of comfort is one last thing that you have to worry about when you’re in the response mode,” Christa says.
Practical tips for emergency preparedness
Building resiliency is important for communities, but it’s also important at the individual level. You can build your own resiliency by taking steps to be prepared for emergencies.
- Know what type of emergency you’re most likely to face. A good starting point is the Hamilton County Threat and Hazard Rankings, which lists the emergencies we’re most likely to experience in Hamilton County.
- Sign up for Alert HC so you’ll be notified when an emergency occurs in Hamilton County.
- Create a Smart911 profile, which you can do when registering for Alert HC. This allows first responders to have quicker access to important information in case of an emergency.
- Make your own emergency plan. Christa recommends visiting Ready.gov and completing this Family Communications Plan. If you have children, get them involved with planning.
- Make your own emergency kit. Christa emphasizes that this doesn’t have to be expensive. Get an extra battery pack so when power goes out you can at least charge your phone and stay in touch with people. Keep some shelf-stable food on hand, like a box or two of granola bars.
Talk, plan, be safer
She adds, “The people that have a plan have a much higher rate of success – and by success, it means living. Like if there’s a home fire, you have a designated a place to meet outside so that the police and fire don’t go in looking for you, which could potentially cause more harm.”
WeTHRIVE! builds resiliency
Over the next couple of months, we’ll share how WeTHRIVE! schools and communities are building resiliency by bringing people together for community events, programs, classes, and more. Every community is different – they may foster social connections with a community garden, a family movie night, exercise classes, or even pickleball!
Join Hamilton County’s new COAD!
A Community Organizations Active in Disasters (COAD) is a collaborative group of organizations that want to help our community during and after a disaster. Non-profits, businesses, faith-based organizations, and community groups can join. Download the COAD flyer for more information, including the first meeting which will be held on Tuesday, October 17, 2023!