Community Resiliency Indicator: An MCGM Initiative

In the event of any major disaster, both man-made or of natural causes, the citizens in affected areas suffer manifold losses. These include loss of family and friends, homes, personal effects, shops, etc. Such losses greatly affect the livelihoods and security of the affected persons and cause a traumatic impact on the community.

 

Whilst the Administration and the Emergency Support Services are engaged in discharging their duties, to identify requirements and to mobilize and deploy necessary resources in the affected areas, there, however, remains the matter of the emotions, behaviour and reactions of the community at large.

 

Will there be a law and order situation where citizens take advantage of damage to shops and indulge in looting or attack the weak and the vulnerable?

Will the traders create an artificial shortage of grain and foodstuff, medicines and drugs?

Will there be constant wailing and chest beating and a rush to be the first to grab relief supplies?

 

Keeping these factors in mind, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai along with all stakeholders working with issues relating to disaster management, came together to participate in a discussion on resiliency capabilities of the citizens of Mumbai. The purpose of this coming together was to deliberate and plan efficiently to address the challenges of preparing, responding and recovering from emergency situations.

 

Also and with particular emphasis, deliberations were held on gauging the responses and other indicators of the citizens in the face of disasters, so that the Administration and the Emergency Support Functions (ESF) may be the better equipped while responding to reactions of the community.

 

This subject has not been given wide publicity nor is it widely incorporated in academics, research and policy programmes in India.

It is therefore felt necessary to conceptualize ways and means by which the levels of Community Resiliency could be assessed, measured and mapped.

 

Community Resiliency is about communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the Emergency Support Functions.

 

A person, society, eco-system or a city is resilient in the face of shock or stress when it returns to normalcy (i.e. equilibrium) soon afterwards and does not deteriorate further.

 

Disaster resiliency also refers to the capability to prevent or protect against significant multi-hazard threats and incidents, including terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously recover after a disaster and reconstitute critical services with minimum damage to public safety and health, the economy and national security.

 

Self assessment and the need to formalize a document of Community Resiliency Indicators (CRI) is the need of the hour. Such a document is required for every city and it would be an asset to the subject of mitigation of trauma and increased efficiency, in many aspects of disaster management.

 

I am pleased to share that the considerable efforts, put in by the Disaster Management Cell of Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), the Lead Agencies along with the NGO partners, have resulted in a very useful document, which would serve as a guide for the Administration and Mumbai’s Community.

 

In our study, we have not taken into consideration matters in respect of rebuilding damaged prosperities and financial aid to the affected persons. These factors would involve large financial outlays which would be subject to sanctions by State and Central Authorities. Our exercise was aimed at producing a study on citizen behaviour and the resiliency factor in the event of a disaster.

 

What is Community Resiliency

Resiliency is the capacity of human and natural/physical systems to adapt to and recover from sudden change. It is the capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards, to adapt by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure.

 

Communities are provided a broad array of services, from water and waste disposal to civil defence, education, street cleaning, open space, land use planning, and environmental quality. Along the coast, communities may also be provided for flood protection, beach access and near shore water quality. These services are affected during the disaster but resilient people motivate others and assist in the restoration of amenities without causing disturbance and agitation.

 

Resilient communities are people who enhance the capacities to respond to the impact of crises and step up to restore normalcy. Resiliency is not a single trait, but is rather a combination of traits or characteristics that can reduce community vulnerability. Neither is it a single step, but is rather an on-going effort. With every calamity the community comes across, they reveal the capacities of mental and behavioural agility.

 

Resiliency includes an awareness of vulnerabilities and planning for ways to protect important services, when protective measures do not work as anticipated. This, however, does not mean that people work in a parallel stream for recovery, but that they will join together with the efforts of the administration.

 

A major goal of a resilient community is to minimize the occurrence of disaster. Hazardous events will happen and some damage is inevitable from major events; but major events need not result in a disaster. The hazardous events such as storms, earthquake and tsunamis are not avoidable, but the consequences of the events, the loss of human life, property and essential services, can be avoided when a community is resilient.

 

Even impacts of hazardous events with human sources, like massive railway accident, fuel depot fire and terrorist attack can be monitored with proper planning.

 

The need for Community Resiliency

In the Indian context, Community Resiliency is not a new concept. With every incident, may it be rural areas like Bhuj, Killari or Uttarkashi earthquake or coastal tsunami in Tamil Nadu to bomb blasts in metro cities like Mumbai and Delhi, people have reverted to near normalcy on the second or third day of the disaster.

 

This is specifically because of our value system; strong faith in kindness, positive attitude towards rigorous work, cooperating and helping attitude to others. However, mental shocks, bad memories, economic losses have taken a long time for recovery.

 

Human and natural systems undergo constant change, hence, we need to help communities in minimizing risks and losses. This will be critical to the region’s long-term viability and success.  When a disaster occurs, quick recovery is the only solution.

 

It is often observed that people tend to compare and assume that some miracle will bring the situation to normalcy; they not only pray to ‘God’ but they wait for the miracle to happen and remain passive and resigned to fate.

Perhaps the Indian psyche tends to accept such “Acts of God” as part of their karma.

This state of mind is to be avoided at all times.

 

Time required for recovery depends on a variety of factors, viz:

-          Building resiliency in children and families

-          Preparedness

-          Stress and coping

-          Managing a crisis

-          Coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PSD)

-          Paediatric bereavement

-          Overcoming depression & anxiety

-          Anger management

-          Behaviour management

-          Self-care

-          Mental health concerns

 

Recovery has different dimensions, viz:

-          It is time oriented – short, medium and long

-          It requires an understanding of the community- the symptoms, the networks and the dependencies

-          It occurs when all aspects of community well-being (both mental &physical) are addressed after an emergency

-          It needs to be led and coordinated from the time of the disaster

-          It needs adaptive leadership and management

-          It will take a long time – particularly after a disaster

-          It will create new opportunities for the community

 

Hence, if an Indian community (either rural or urban) requires to be empowered with inner strength to bounce back from a disaster, we need to inculcate:

-          Courage to find out their own solutions

-          Leadership; individual as well as team leadership

-          Realistic awareness about different types of disasters

-          Regular practice for preparedness

-          Multi-level and structured training

-          Sense of pride towards the community

-          Feeling optimistic about the future of the community

-          Spirit of mutual assistance and cooperation

-          Sense of attachment for their community

-          Self reliance and search for own resources

-          Support for education at all levels

-          Organization and development of partnership and cooperative working in the community

-          Diversified employment in the community

-          Locally owned employment opportunities

-          Formation for strategy for increasing independent local ownership

-          Openness to alternative ways of earning and economic activity

-          Competitive position of community

-          Creation and implementation of community vision and goals

-          Pursuing trait for achieving goals

-   Formation and development of plan which will encompass all segments of the Community

 

For the purpose of our study, we felt the need to measure the behaviour of the various sections of the community, in the event of a disaster. We compiled certain parameters / conditionalities by investigating into the data available on disasters encountered by us in the past, by which, the behaviour and reactions of the community could be measured in terms of an index.

 

There are many methods that can be used to develop an index, and in this document, the working group has chosen to use ten indicators derived from the behavioural pattern of the Japanese community during the recent disaster in Japan.

 

Under each of these conditionalities / indicators, of the behaviour of the target community is to be assessed and recorded in a level of 0 – 5. By averaging these levels an index is to be arrived at. This index would then readily be used to gauge the prevailing situation and decide on the course of action to be taken.

 

Having completed the study, our mission now is to build a safe and disaster-resilient community by developing a holistic, proactive, multi-hazard and technology driven strategy through a culture of prevention, mitigation and preparedness, to generate a prompt and efficient response of community at the time of disasters.

 

The entire process will centre-stage the community and will be provided momentum and sustenance through the collective efforts of Government Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

 

The authors are Mr. S.S.Shinde Joint Municipal Commissioner, and Project Director, DRMMP for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and Mrs. Indrani Malkani, Trustee V Citizens Action Network. This article is an excerpt from a paper presented by the authors on behalf of MCGM, in the ‘Resilient Cities World Congress’ in Bonn, Germany, in May 2012.

 

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