Where does community resilience and emergency planning meet?


Where does community resilience and emergency planning meet?

In Autumn 2011, the ‘Exploring Community Resilience’ report identified some ‘hot issues’ for practitioners. 

One issue that was raised is about how emergency planning and bottom-up community resilience initiatives can work better together.

To introduce this topic, CoP member Wendy Graham, Director of Disaster Welfare Services in the New South Wales (Australia),  shared some of her experience at seminar in Dunfermline, March 19th ( expresilienceseminarmar19th.pdf).

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http://youtu.be/hcYbJcyg7m4Wendy Graham, Director of Disaster Welfare Services in the New South Wales (Australia), who was on a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship to the UK exploring how bottom-up…Continue

Tags: planning, emergency, resilience, community

Started by Davie Philip. Last reply by Nick Wilding Apr 5, 2012.

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Comment by Clare Moran on December 12, 2012 at 16:40

Hi there, I have just completed a PhD on this topic. The research project tracked policy development and implementation of the Community Resilience concept in UK emergency management and the evolving role of the Third Sector in this, focusing on the Scottish experience. If you are interested in discussing these issues further you are welcome to contact me at cm258@st-andrews.ac.uk. Best, Clare.

Comment by Nick Wilding on May 29, 2012 at 16:53

I have been doing some following up reading after the seminar - especially delving into the American Journal of Community Psychology - as there are some very interesting articles there that, starting from a disaster-emergency perspective, propose some interesting models of community resilience that resonate very tightly with those proposed in the Exploring Community Resilience Handbook. I have been doing this research because I'm about to put out a call for a new CoP Associate to develop a topic on community conflict under the resilience theme:

And, in addition, a chapter of Tom Wolff's book The Power of Collaborative Solutions which has a neat overview of how we need to learn how to network and co-ordinate before moving towards collaboration: wolffcollaboration.pdf

Comment by Nick Wilding on May 29, 2012 at 16:32


A summary of the 'emergencies and resilience' workshop is now available:


Emergency Planning and Community Resilience: Seminar at ACH, March 19th 2012

In the early months of 2012, website stats for the CoP publication Exploring Community Resilience showed a burst of over 600 downloads New South Wales and Queensland in Australia. In January, I had also been contacted by a new CoP member, Wendy Graham, who was doing research into community resilience before taking up a role Director of Disaster Welfare Services in New South Wales. Our publication, she said, was one of the most useful she had come across – and she’d now like to come visit Dunfermline as the first stop of a world tour supported by the Winston Churchill Travelling Scholarship.

I proposed hosting a workshop on the question of how ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ emergency planning strategies might better connect – a question that had been highlighted in our earlier report. Twelve CoP members from England, Scotland and Ireland gathered on 19th March, and Wendy opened with her experiences of managing the response to the Victorian bush fires (which impacted 78 towns and left 210 people dead), and reflecting on the huge challenges her colleagues faced as we spoke, as over 75% of New South Wales was flooded and hundreds of communities were  being evacuated.

Wendy brought into sharp relief the escalating human and financial costs of disasters as climate change impacts are being felt. She offered insight into how natural disasters can trigger human-made disasters. The most obvious concern events such as the Fukushima nuclear power plant melt-downs. But Wendy also described how, several years ago, well-wishers inundated one NSW region with so many (unwanted) donated goods that storing them became a nightmare – and how it took a team of eight (paid) people a year to disperse them. Wendy also emphasized that when communities are over-reliant on one source of income – such as a banana plantation – that loss of this income can have large, long-term impacts on that community’s viability.

The conversation then moved on to consider the policy implications of these stories. Lloyds and other large insurers have some of the strongest voices in business about the costs of climate change and other society-wide risks. National and local governments are increasingly concerned about the immediate as well as long term costs of disasters and how to enable communities to become more resilient in advance of, as well as during, emergencies (see, for example, http://www.readyscotland.org/). However, we identified that too often there remains a gap between the policy and practice of community preparedness.

We agreed that the Austalian example is helpful in shining a light on issues that are also relevant in the UK and Ireland (albeit at smaller scale) and that, as with in Australia, there is significant potential to enhance learning and connections between community development workers and activists and emergency services/planners (who are in danger of ‘reinventing the wheel’ of asset based approaches to resilience building).

Wendy is now continuing her journey with visits to the Cabinet Office and Cumbria, before flying onward to Washington DC, Canada and New Zealand. She promised to update us on her findings. And in the meantime, her visit has helped to alert CoP members to the opportunity to better connect the emergency planning profession (and the resources they steward) with community developers across the jurisdictions of the UK and Ireland.

Comment by Anthony Hodgson on April 3, 2012 at 15:18
Comment by Alan Brown on April 3, 2012 at 13:41
Love the quote that Scotland's resilience is in a bunker, and also the one about resilience to what?

Having seen a top down approach by visiting our secret bunker, one can but laugh at the presumption that many forms of technology will be there to save the day. Telecoms, electricity, fuel etc.

I think the best approach is not to focus on one specific risk and to prepare for that, but to help a community get better connected, to build social capital and knowledge so that many risks can be managed. Transition folks helping after the New Zealand earth quakes and also helping after the disasters in Japan are classic examples, the latter being shown on the new 'In Transition 2.0' film.

Ref smart grids, yes it would be ideal to provide power when the grid fails, but the risk to line workers needs considered. Hence why inverters auto-off when they loose a power signal to protect against electrocuting repair engineers.
Comment by Nick Wilding on April 3, 2012 at 11:31

Hi tony

good thoughts on grids - do you have a reference for the research on self-healing energy grids that you mention?

seems that you are raising the potential for community owned grids, a little like egg's, but which also connect to the main grid. key issue then is cost - unless there might be other benefits possible at same time as investing in this infrastructure. I wonder for example whether the new government renewable heat incentive (announced last week - to include opportunities for communities to access payments), combined with community owned broadband and energy systems (hydro for example), might allow for some early experiments in this. I'm helping out with an  event with Scottish Water in April where we might be able to raise these issues.

Thanks for thoughts - stimulating as ever.


Comment by Anthony Hodgson on April 3, 2012 at 11:01

I think one of the big issues around where bottom up and top down meet (or rather conflict) is in the legislation, regulation and commercialisation of infrastructure. For example, there is research on self-healing electricity grids. This would enable a relationship between microgrids, mesogrids and megagrids where they would each support each other depending on the contingency. But my neighbour who can afford solar panels and generates significant surplus has no way of routing electricity to me when the grid is down. There appears to be no policy or technology investment for microgrids. Backwoods versions are not good enough for communities. Smart metering seems to be OK for energy saving but locks us all in to the exisiting system which is ill-structured for resilience. I offer this as a thought starter on where bottom up meets top down. There are many other examples.

Comment by Davie Philip on March 19, 2012 at 8:50

I am attending the Resilience and Emergency Planning event later today. This morning I was re-reading Rob Hopkins' post on "Community resilience, Transition, and why government thinking needs both" where he explores the UK Government's  ‘Strategic National Framework on Community Resilience’ 

This Government document defines Community resilience as “Communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services.”

Very relevant to this discussion, you can read Rob's post here...


Comment by Nick Wilding on March 16, 2012 at 15:15

Hi Debbie

Many thanks for your interest in this event coming up on Monday. We'll do our best to capture the conversation and post in here, perhaps to kick off a discussion on how this group on fieryspirits might make a constructive contribution to this emerging area of work...

In the meantime, here is a briefing that I've sent to participants with a view to helping to shape our conversation... if you or others have thoughts you would like to feed in in response, please do!

Best wishes

Nick Wilding

Exploring Community Resilience Seminar

19 March

National disaster management approaches have shifted significantly in the recent years from  a government centric, command and control paradigm  to a resilience based approach which demands a shared responsibility between governments, communities, businesses and individuals.

Role of government is not to prescribe but should be to enable, share practice on what works well. At best it provides the framework/baseline for the cultural shift, awareness raising, changing behaviour, a  slow cultural change.

  • What is the group’s view of how this shift is being played out at the community/ local level.
  • What support are communities seeking from  government to strengthen and enable community resilience at the local level.
  • What does a community working in partnership with emergency services, local authorities/government, and other groups really look like?  Are there examples?
  • What are examples of communities that have expanded their emergency planning to include other voluntary organisations that do not have emergency response as their primary objective but do have an interest in community resilience.  What are the barriers?
  • Are there actions/policies of Government that detract from or risk damaging/destroying social capital and community resilience?
  • Community disaster resilience really is about the intersection of community development with command and control – opposite ends of the spectrum – how do we bridge the gap?
  • How can the wealth of experience and expertise in community development be integrated and maximised into the environment of  community disaster resilience.
Comment by Debbie Brooker-Evans on February 21, 2012 at 14:26

It would be really useful if there were some notes or copies of presentations from this seminar as I'm based in Plymouth in Devon and Dunfermline is almost an ocean away from us so will not be able to attend, but would be really interested in hearing from previous experiences.  I am a local authority emergency planning officer and have been tasked with trying to initiate a community resilience programme in my area and would really like to understand how other people have set about this task.  I am conscious that my first job is to map existing community networks and what work is already going on in our communities before "reinventing the wheel" so as to speak.


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