Disaster Planning and Recovery National Virtual Roundtable - Residential Insights
Residential and whole of community
A) There is a need for universal design
During a disaster event, an environment that is not universally designed (one that considers the accessibility and usability of an environment - building, product, service, space, etc) creates additional challenges, stressors and potentially serious health implications for people with a disability or needs that are not considered.
B) Recovery is often a 'financial' maze for residents
The way an organisation supports a person during the recovery process can greatly influence their experience and their trust in that organisation. People face many financial decisions as they navigate through the aftermath of a natural disaster event and take steps towards recovery. A person’s financial capability and their ability to self-advocate, along with their knowledge or relevant technical expertise (ie construction, architecture, etc), may influence their ability to make decisions. Limited capacity to engage in complex processes and protracted discussions with financial institutions, and a lack of awareness around available resources and financial products, were identified as barriers to recovery.
C) Flexibility within the system supports individual resilience
Organisations that take a flexible, innovative approach and work with community members to understand and respond to their unique circumstances are perceived to better contribute to positive community outcomes. People who are impacted by policies and processes that lack flexibility to adapt to a disaster event, may be more vulnerable to financial hardship.
D) Communications across the journey influence response and recovery
Community word-of-mouth and the ‘street presence’ of organisations and emergency services were identified as a prevalent, accessible and effective means of communicating. Digital exclusion, a lack of social connection and geographic location were identified as barriers to accessing information and timely communications. There was an overall lack of awareness of the assistance programs and support available from essential services, highlighting an opportunity to improve proactive communication to promote services.
E) Electricity is a gatekeeper during a disaster
Access to electricity is a key factor in decisionmaking during a disaster event as it is so crucial to safety and liveability. Whether or not they have electricity is a major consideration for people. when considering evacuation leading up to a disaster event, and for those returning home to a damaged or uninhabitable home in the aftermath. For some people, particularly those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, a lack of simple, accessible and relevant communications around managing electricity during a disaster event were identified as barriers to safe and timely access to power.
F) Connections and community networks are key
There was a clear link between a person’s level of community connectedness and their resilience to the disaster. Community organisations were key in actively connecting with people throughout their journey, particularly those without strong social and support networks. Strong referral pathways within the community sector and across sectors were key to simplifying people’s journey and proactively facilitating access to relevant support, services and programs.
G) Trauma and mental health can subconsciously be deprioritised
In the wake of a disaster, personal and family safety takes immediate priority, and people are inundated with tasks and decisions necessary to regain stability and a sense of normality. Emotional wellbeing is often overlooked, and the true emotional impact and need for psychological support may not be realised until six to 12 months after the event. Organisations that did not have trauma-informed processes or appropriately trained staff were recognised as a barrier to community members engaging with support services. Difficult interactions with service providers were often traumatic and had a significant impact on people’s experience.