Fostering Resilience in
Individuals and Families
Michelle L Magario
Schedule of discussion topics
1 Introduction 5 Resources
-What is resiliency and why is it essential -Help is available
2 The Basics 6 Summary
-Definitions/Parameters/Determinants -The bottom line
3 Supporting Items 7 References
-Elements that support or foster resilience -Where the information came from
4 Become a Survivor
-individual changes to promote
Why promote resiliency?
Facilitate a Return to Normalcy
Minimize Secondary Losses
Efforts are Multi-beneficial
Resiliency & Vulnerability
Determinants of Vulnerability and
Psychological Vulnerable Factors of Dimensions
Parameters Groups Resilience of Resilience
Multiple Patterns of
Dependent upon Risk
Impact of Relationships
Very Young, Elderly
medically or emotionally
Socially and Physically
Isolated or Marginalized
Single Parent Households
Travelers and Tourists
Factors of Resilience
Levels of Social Resilience
Tribe or Clan
Locality or Neighborhood
Dimensions of Resilience
Life and Injury Access-services/support
Physical Health/Wellbeing Income security
Mental Health/Wellbeing Social Links
Home/Shelter Community Assets
Safety and Civil Security
5 Stages of Change
and Advice Capacity
Information and Advice
Know where to find
Know what to expect
Information and Advice
County Emergency Management Office
Keep it safe
Keep it dedicated
Social Security Cards
½ tank minimum
Personal & Community Support
BECOME A SURVIVOR
Become a Survivor
Know Your Neighbors
Lower Anxiety Levels
Calculate your Risk
Train your Brian
Tell the Story
Envision a Positive
Bonanno, G. A., Brewin, C. R., Kaniasty, K., & LaGreca, A. M. (2010).
Weighing the costs of disaster: Consequences, risks, and
resilience in individuals, families, and communities.
Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 11(1), 1-49.
Capitol Reader Political Book Summaries. (2007). [Review of the book
The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation, by S
Stephen Flynn]. Random House.
Landau, J., & Saul, J. (2004). Facilitating family and community
resilience in response to major disaster. In Living Beyond Loss:
Death in the Family (p. 285). WW Norton and company.
Norris, F. H., Pfefferbaum, B., Stevens, S. P., Wyche, K. F., & Pfefferbaum, R. L.
(2008). Community resilience as a metaphor, theory, set of capabilities,
and strategy for disaster readiness. American Journal Community
Psychology, 41, 127-150.
Paton, D., & Johnston, D. (2006). Disaster Resilience. Springfield, Ill: Charles C
Redlener, I. (2006). Americans at Risk. New York: Random House.
Ripley, A. (2008). The Unthinkable. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Good morning, and welcome to Fostering Resilience in Individuals and Families. This presentation will focus on the aspects and conditions essential to building resiliency in preparation and response to disasters, both natural and man made. It is my hope that lessons learned today will assist you and your family in attaining a state of readiness that will allow you to become more self sufficient and able to manage situations that disrupt our normal day to day life.
The agenda we will follow today begins with the reasoning behind the need for resilience, followed by definitions, and determining and supporting factors. We will also focus on those actions that will promote resilience and where additional help can be found. It is my core belief that education is the key to all change, and only through knowledge can effective change occur.
The purpose of this presentation is to promote and foster resiliency in individuals with regards to disasters. Before we discuss what steps and actions will promote resiliency, we must first decide why. Why promote resiliency? The answer to this question can be broken down into 4 broad responses. The first, cost effectiveness: it is estimated that every dollar spent on prevention may save as much as seven dollars in post-disaster spending (Capitol Reader Political Book Summaries, 2007). Additionally, resilience can help to expedite recovery and facilitate the return to normalcy, the ultimate goals of the recovery process. Resilience and preparedness also has the added benefit of minimizing secondary losses such as injury, health and psychological complications. Finally, actions to enhance, promote and foster resiliency will have added benefits, outside of disaster situations. This will become more evident as we discuss the elements that support resilience.
Lets take a moment to be sure we understand the concepts of resiliency and vulnerability. Both of these concepts are directly liked to one another in a number of ways, with each having an effect on the other. Resiliency has been described, in the concepts of physics and math, as the “capacity of a material or system to return to equilibrium” or the “speed at which homeostasis is achieved” (Norris, Pfefferbaum, Stevens, Wyche, & Pfefferbaum, 2008). This overall concept can be applied to the sphere of disaster management, as the adaptive ability of individuals and communities. Likewise, the limits of resilience are directly affected by the extent to which those individuals are vulnerable to a particular event or influence. Both of these concepts, resiliency and vulnerability are dependent upon the situation or context, and are malleable. By changing one, we gain greater control over the other.
There are a number of variables that can have an impact on resilience. How an individual or family responds and adapts during a crisis will be largely dependent upon these variables. While some of these variables are beyond our control, we are not totally powerless. A number of these variables are governable.
Research has shown that while disasters generally cause a certain amount of psychological upheaval, only approximately 30% of individuals exposed to disasters show a severe degree of psychological harm. These problems include PTSD, grief, depression, anxiety, stress related health costs, substance abuse, and suicidal ideations. Research has also shown that although psychological harm occurs fairly regularly, most recover psychological equilibrium in a fairly reasonable amount of time and experience only transient distress. The extent of psychological impact is generally dependent upon factors that influence both risk and resilience; prior exposure to both the risk and how one adapted to that risk. Additionally, while some evidence supports the claim that the disaster experience can strengthen bonds within families and communities, research has shown that the opposite is actually true. Often, the stress of a disaster causes an erosion of personal relationships and families. And lastly, the extent of psychological harm is relative to ones proximity to the disaster. Those not inside the actual region of the disaster often only experience minimal and transient symptoms of psychological distress. (Bonanno, Brewin, Kaniasty, & LaGreca, 2010).
The term vulnerable groups has been used to describe those who may have a more difficult time managing during a crisis or disaster situation. These individuals, or groups of individuals, by definition are also likely to be less resilient, and unable to achieve ‘equilibrium’ after an event. This list, while not all inclusive, includes the very old; the very young; those with physical, medical or emotional disabilities; the very poor; those who do not speak the native language; indigenous groups who may be socially isolated; the socially or physically marginalized such as rural communities and prisoners; large families who may be overburdened with many needs; single parent households; and travelers or tourists who may be aware of the risks in a given location. (Paton & Johnston, 2006).
As mentioned, resiliency is influenced by both psychological determinants and the limitations of vulnerability. Resiliency is also influenced by an individuals preparatory actions and prior exposure to disasters, the amount of social support available and accessed, and an individuals personality. It is widely accepted that certain personality types are more inclined to rise up and succeed after a life altering event, than others. In addition, as much as poverty influences vulnerability, so too does a loss of resources; perhaps to an even greater extent. Those with limited resources, when catastrophe strikes, loos relatively little, however, those with ample resources who subsequently lose those resources are often less able to cope without the loss of what they have deemed to be essential to their ‘equilibrium’. Similarly, those whose impoverished circumstances place them in a more transient environment are more able to cope than those who suddenly find themselves in such a transient circumstance. Finally, the over exposure of mass media often lends itself to an exasperation of factors that may impede resilience. What is often termed ‘over saturation’ of depictions of grief, loss, and heartbreak, can challenge even the most resilient of persons. (Bonanno, Brewin, Kaniasty, & LaGreca, 2010).
It is important to recognize that even though this discussion is primarily concerned with the resiliency of individuals and families, no single person exists in a vacuum. Social resilience, as it applies to our immediate surroundings, exist on several levels. These levels expand, in ever increasing circles, encompassing what we view as our world. It begins with the individual and expands outward to include our social contacts and circles; those persons and groups we can rely upon during crisis and disaster to provide support, comfort, and resources during our times of need. (Paton & Johnston, 2006).
The final concept of resilience, and that which impacts resilience, is defined as the dimensions of resilience. This concept encompasses those aspects that are impacted, to a lesser or greater extent, during a disaster. Some of these aspects are more acute in nature-such as health, safety, shelter, water and food; and others, while certainly important, pose a less acute need. (Paton & Johnston, 2006)
Now that we have defined the determinants and parameters of resilience and vulnerability, we can move on to those actions and behaviors that will support resilience.
Dr James Prochaska, a clinical health and psychology researcher, has described the 5 stages of change that an individual faced with crisis goes through. By understanding these steps and applying them to disaster management we can form a more cohesive plan towards a disaster ready society. Pre-contemplation describes the general felling of “this wont happen to me”; people will be reluctant to hear any advice on changing their behaviors. Contemplation describes the stage at which people may agree that there is some possibility of an adverse event, they are willing to at least listen to the advice, but again, are still not ready to make a change. Preparation-this is the first real opportunity to spur people into action or change. People are listening and this is the point at which reliable and credible information should be offered. Action-at this point , your audience is listening and ready to act. This is the point we as disaster planners need to get to in order to affect any real change. Maintenance- describes the most crucial step in the change process. Now that people are listening and acting, you need to keep them engaged, keep them active, and reaffirm the benefits of their newly achieved state of readiness. (Redlener, 2006).
Now that we understand an individuals thought process behind accepting change, we need to be able to support the change towards resilience. The elements that support resilience can be broken into 5 broad attributes. Within these 5 categories, the elements and steps that contribute to resiliency can be found. (Paton & Johnston, 2006).
Once people are ready to listen, even before they are ready to act, they need to be provided with information and advice. Taking this into your own person lives, do you know where to find the information you need on any given risk? Do you know what to do to prepare and what to expect? This is the first real step towards resiliency; an awareness of the risks around you and the ability to tap into informational resources to help you mitigate those risks. (Paton & Johnston, 2006)
There are a large number of places to locate information regarding the hazards and vulnerabilities of your community. My first suggestion, try Google. My county publishes it’s Hazard Assessment and Vulnerability Analysis biannually, as it is updated. This document provides a wealth of information not only including the natural hazards in our area, but areas of concern like traffic and public works issues that are expected after an event. If you can’t locate a document online, call the EMGT office. As a publically funded venture, the Hazard/Risk Assessment should be available somewhere, even if it is not published on-line. Archived news articles are also a great source of information; searching for particular hazards such as flooding or tornado can give you an idea of what is common. Older family members, friends and long time residents can also provide a vast amount of information. Long time residents may also be able to give you an idea of how well the local government managed a disaster. FEMA can provide information such as flood mapping, and lastly, but certainly important, the CDC can provide information on the psychological impacts of disasters. It may take a little time to gather your information, and to get a decent picture of your areas concerns, but knowledge is the first step in becoming a survivor rather than a victim.
Resources—you’re going to need them! The list may seem overwhelming at first, but if you take it one step and category at a time, you can create a “go kit” enviable of any soldier. For those of you used to camping, this task is actually not going to be that difficult. For those who are not accustomed to camping, and have an outdoors man or nature enthusiast at your disposal, they can be a valuable source of advice and help. Lets go through the list item by item. To store your resources I recommend a standard military issue sea bag. They can be purchased at a plethora of on-line stores such as Amazon, or at a local army/navy supply store. I prefer the sea bag as it was designed to be sturdy, waterproof and to carry A LOT of stuff. Large plastic totes can also be used but they can also be cumbersome to move in a hurry. Remember to keep whatever container you choose at a weight limit that you can manage. My first attempt yielded a bag that weighed more than I did. Needless to say, a bag that is too heavy to transport is nothing more than a large paper weight. You need to be able to take it with you!
Cash, your going to need it. One of the first essential services to fail in a disaster is often the power grid. Like most Americans, I rely solely on electronic banking; to pay bills, buy gas, groceries, for literally every aspect of my financial life. This is simply not going to be possible in a disaster. Even stores without power can still operate, but they will do so on a cash only basis. Start saving early, a little bit at a time. Keep your cash supply safely stored and readily accessible. And keep it dedicated. There is always the temptation to see a stash of money and think, a vacation would be nice……but the purpose of this stash is to be prepared in the case of an emergency.
Important documents-those listed above, should be stored in a safe, waterproof, fireproof box, ready to go when you are. This location is also an ideal place to store the cash supply you are currently working on saving!
Gas. In order to evacuate your going to need fuel. Power interruptions may close gas stations resulting in long lines at those who are able to remain operational. In addition, it is not uncommon for gas stations in disaster areas to ration the fuel supply. There may also be a safety issue for those stations that remain open. In a disaster situation, when a large number of people are forced out of their comfort zone, and tensions are high, there is a possibility of violence. This is certainly more likely in a mass evacuation event. It is a good practice to always keep your vehicle fueled with at least a half of a tank of gas. This will allow you to be further away from the epicenter of an event before the need for fuel becomes acute. If you do need fuel, in order to evacuate, don’t wait until the last minute. The earlier you address the need, the more time you will save in the long run.
First aid kits. Make one or buy one. You may or may not need one, but it is always better to be prepared. Many organizations and colleges offer low cost first aid and basic triage courses, often taught on a Saturday or Sunday, that can provide you with the basic knowledge to treat injured persons. Along those same lines is CPR. If you don’t know it, or haven’t had a refresher course in a while, learn it!!!!! It is such a small effort to make for such a huge payoff. This sort of knowledge, first-aid and CPR, is never wasted knowledge. Lastly, medications; if you or anyone in your family requires medication for health reasons, make sure you have at least a weeks supply available sat all times. As mentioned before, power interruptions may make refilling prescriptions impossible, so be prepared.
Food and Water are among our most basic necessities in life. There are a number of commercially available MRE (meals ready to eat) products on the market. They are lightweight, neatly packable, and have a very long shelf life and are a very convenient option for your go kit. This convenience, however, comes with a price as they can be quite costly. An alternative is to gather a supply of staple food stuffs. Canned meats, rice, beans, peanut butter, soups, and canned vegetables are all good options, just remember that canned goods are heavy and even though they have a prolonged shelf life, they are still going to need to be rotated and replaced as they get older. If you have infants in your family, you are also going to need to pack formula. Experts recommend the liquid, ready to use variety it does not require a sterile water supply, which may or may not be available after a disaster. Speaking of water, you are going to need either bottled water, or water purification tablets. Again, bottled water is heavy to transport and move but depending on the duration of a water outage, may be an option to treating or boiling water.
The remaining items in your go kit include clothes: a 2-3 day supply, don’t skimp on the socks, and a jacket and an extra pair of shoes; hygiene items such as deodorant, tooth brush and paste and toilet paper; tools: at a minimum you should have a knife, axe, shovel and hammer. Multi-tools like the one shown are extremely handy and easy to pack; Radio and Flashlight: get one that charges with a hand crank or is solar powered, it will save you the additional expense and weight of carrying batteries. Newer models also have a port that will charge your cell-phone. One last thought on resources: If you have pets, make sure you account for them in your kit. They are just as helpless as children during a disaster. Once you have gathered all of the items you need in your go kit, pack it and store it in a location that is readily and quickly available. You don’t want to have to try to access your attic in the middle of a storm or in a power outage. Ideally you should be able to evacuate within 15 minutes. This will take practice and confidence, which we will talk about next. One last thought—Do you know where you are going? A map might be handy, but so would a secondary sheltering location. Friends, family, campground provided they have occupancy….all things to think about.
Just as all first responders, police, fire, EMS, hospitals, schools, airports, water-ports, and the military practice emergency disaster drills, so to must you and your family. Know where you are going, what you are taking, practice packing and unpacking, get comfortable with the process of evacuation, and know where you are going to meet up with family members if you are not together when a disaster occurs. Know the evacuation routes in your area, know what resources you are going to be lacking and where to find them. Knowing your ability to manage an incident is just as important as preparing for the incident itself. While it is certainly recommended that you take ownership of your own wellbeing during a crisis you should also understand your own limitations. (Paton & Johnston, 2006)
Personal and community support can be invaluable after a crisis, especially to those who may have special needs individuals in their family. Chances are that if you have a special needs person in your life you are already familiar with the support groups in your community. These agencies can provide additional support and guidance when planning as well. Many communities also have special needs registries for those who need additional services such as medical transport during a crisis. Again, do not wait until the need arises to locate these services. As mentioned previously, in the case of pets, many local agencies are dedicated to the sheltering of pets during disasters, farms will also often take in larger animals such as horses in the case that they may need to be evacuated to a safer area. Again, plan early!!!! (Paton & Johnston, 2006)
Now that you are more familiar with the concept of resiliency, how to achieve and maintain it, it is up to you to spread the word and pass along the information you have learned. Encourage friends and family to become more resilient, more prepared. Participate in the governing process of your community, advocate for mitigation and proactive strategies. Volunteer to help others become ‘ready’. Get involved—It is incredibly empowering!!! (Paton & Johnston, 2006)
In general, there are two ways of approaching a disaster situation or crisis. You can plan, prepare, and become proactive—become a survivor; or you can do nothing-and become a victim. This section will share some advice on how to become a survivor.
Amanda Ripley, a senior writer for the New York Times, and author of the book The Unthinkable, offers some advice on the subject of becoming a survivor. (Ripley, 2008)Cultivate resilience: change your attitude. People who perform well in crisis situations and who recover afterward are those who: believe they can influence what happens to them, find meaningful purpose in life’s turmoil, and believe they can learn from both good and bad experiences.Know your neighbors: this is a fairly simple concept. Know who is around you, who might have valuable resources, and who might need additional help.Lower anxiety levels: yoga, marital arts, deep breathing exercises, exercising, or a soothing hobby can all help to lower anxiety levels, which will make you healthier in everyday life as well. Lose weight: there is no real pleasant way of saying this. Obese people move slower and generally have more health problems, they are more prone to secondary injuries during a crisis including heart attacks, and the recover slower from injuries that do occur. During the evacuation of the Twin Towers on September 11th, obese people were 3 times more likely to be hurt during the evacuation process. Calculate your risk: This was covered in the information and advice section and cannot be repeated enough. Be aware of your surroundings, and be prepared to act.Train your brain: practice, practice, practice. Where ever you are, learn to make note of the exits, be on the look out for dangers, do this until it becomes second nature.
After an event, in addition to the planning practices employed prior to an event, long-term recovery from disaster will become a priority. Some actions that can contribute to a successful long term recovery include building a sense of social connectedness. Re-establishing social connections, broken by the disruption of the disaster will not only aid in an individuals recovery, but will assist in the overall communal recovery as well. Tell your story, as the old adage goes: Grief shared is grief halved. By sharing your survivor story you can inspire others, by sharing your lessons learned, you can educate others. Re-establish your rhythm and participate in collective healing rituals. Memorials and anniversary vigils to remember the event often follow traumatic events and can aid in the collective healing of a community. Envision a positive future. Support groups are available to assist those who do not have a natural tendency towards optimism. If you are a naturally optimistic person, share that; pass that optimism along. If you are not naturally optimistic, support groups can help you top get in touch with the power of hope. (Landau & Saul, 2004).
The federal government is fully vested in helping us become a more disaster ready society. There is an abundance of information and guidance that can be found at these sites. There are, of course, many other sites that can be found through a simple search but be wary of sights that promote fear or paranoia or who charge a fee for their services. Make use of the information on these sites, it can be invaluable.
In summary, we are all responsible for ourselves during a disaster. Take ownership of that responsibility. Consider it a social and moral obligation. Become informed, have a plan, prepare yourself, and practice, practice, practice. Once you are prepared, share your information, spread the knowledge, convert your family and friends. Make everyone around you understand the importance of resilience. Finally contribute, become a proactive supporter of preparedness policies in your community. Get involved and make a difference.