The social media campaign promoting the importance of keeping a “grab and go bag” ready has been met by a twitter storm of both alarm and mockery. Prompting panic: Why would anyone need a grab bag? Do they know something we don’t? And ridicule based on the lack of specificity of said grab bag, what impending doom we might all be facing and what an emergency plan even means. Initial alarm escalated into conspiracy theories, not least due to the campaign’s insensitive timing during mass uncertainty over Brexit.
The fallout from this highlights the significance of the language used within emergency preparedness and a realisation that language which might appear innocuous to emergency service professionals, does not chime with the public. Greater insight clearly needs to feed into how communications are designed and what kinds of messages and advice would be useful to be shared.
The campaign has not meaningfully engaged with how to encourage resilience within a community, which begs the question, what would have been meaningful? Emergencies and significant incidents touch many people’s lives, and are expected in increasing regularity due to climate change related extreme weather events. Considering how we would help one another and prepare, should an incident affect us or others in our community, is of increasing importance. Communication and information spread are key to this: knowing where to go to get help, how to keep safe and how to help one another.
As part of the Connected Communities Innovation Fund we back four initiatives working to develop community resilience in emergencies. What we see is that in the emergency management sector, collaboration between the public sector, communities, the voluntary and private sector, is essential to finding a way forward. Good collaboration requires: openness in communication, trusting relations and respecting each other as equal partners, with different skills and knowledge to bring to the table.
Enabling community resilience is a hugely complex challenge and creates many questions:
The complexity of enabling community resilience relates to the unpredictable nature of emergencies and because no community is ever the same. There are no hard and fast solutions which will work in every situation, and it is therefore inconsistent with top down decision making.
So rather than seeking to find a “grab and go bag” style one size fits all solution, that might miss the mark and fail to achieve positive impact. Fostering greater community resilience starts by thinking about how we create the space within our communities for discussion among equal partners, to negotiate shared understanding and meaning about the challenge and possible solutions, building trust to lead to coherent action.