Of Disasters and Social Capital

While going around and being introduced to various offices in Tallahassee City and Leon County, Florida, I find myself giving a composite of geography, sociology, and history lesson. I am not surprised that people know only a few things about out small archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. In contrast, we know so much of the United States.

They find it surprising that we are made up of more than 7,600 islands and that we go through an average of 20 typhoons every year – making us the third most at risk country in the world according to the World Risk Index. As a developing country, we still have so much to do in terms of getting our communities prepared but we have been making progress. The government, civil society organizations, and communities have to work hand in hand to help ensure zero casualties during disasters.

Neighborhood leaders answer the tabletop exercise on disaster preparedness organized by the Neighborhood Public Safety Initiative and the City Resilience Office.

I also find myself telling the people I meet that what we lack in funding, technology or infrastructure, we make up with social capital. Community engagement is key in ensuring the success of preparedness and resilience-focused projects and activities. Understanding the dynamics of a community, the relationships, personalities, and environment is key in ensuring its active participation.

The tabletop exercise  and various resources can be downloaded in the Tallahassee City’s Neighborhood PREP (Plan for Readiness and Emergency Preparedness) page
Build Your Bucket encourages families to create their own 72-hour emergency supplies . This activity is also a part of the Neighborhood PREP toolkit.

In the Philippines, civil society organizations (CSOs) are given their seats (four representatives) in both national and local disaster councils, as mandated by our Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law. The government recognizes the role of local and national organizations, the private sector, and the academe as partners in resilience. It also encourages the whole of society approach in disaster risk reduction.

Volunteering for the American Red Cross at today’s Build Your Bucket event at Crawfordville, Wakulla County

I have attended several planning meetings participated by the city, county and CSOs in Tallahassee discussing current and future projects that relate to the city’s resilience. The recent establishment of the City Resilience Office as part of Public Safety and Emergency Management can help the city to look into the bigger perspective of not only keeping people safe from disasters but also ensure that the system can cope with new stressors brought about by stronger hurricanes and climate change.

Resilient cities and countries know that it takes a village.


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