The Role of Community in Disaster Response

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Popul Res Policy Rev (2010) 29:127–141 DOI 10.1007/s11113-009-9133-x

The Role of Community in Disaster Response: Conceptual Models
Olivia Patterson • Frederick Weil • Kavita Patel

Received: 1 May 2007 / Accepted: 15 October 2008 / Published online: 5 November 2009 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Abstract We focus on the role that community plays in the continuum of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, and we explore where community fits in conceptual frameworks concerning disaster decision-making. We offer an overview of models developed in the literature as well as insights drawn from research related to Hurricane Katrina. Each model illustrates some aspect of the spectrum of disaster preparedness and recovery, beginning with risk perception and vulnerability assessments, and proceeding to notions of resiliency and capacity building. Concepts like social resilience are related to theories of ‘‘social capital,’’ which stress the importance of social networks, reciprocity, and interpersonal trust. These allow individuals and groups to accomplish greater things than they could by their isolated efforts. We trace two contrasting notions of community to Tocqueville. On the one hand, community is simply an aggregation of individual persons, that is, a population. As individuals, they have only limited capacity to act effectively or make decisions for themselves, and they are strongly subject to administrative decisions that authorities impose on them. On the other hand, community is an autonomous actor, with its own interests, preferences, resources, and capabilities. This definition of community has also been embraced by community-based participatory researchers and has been thought to offer an approach that is more active and advocacy oriented. We conclude with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of community in disaster response…...

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