When individuals and communities face trauma — whether they be rapid onset shocks that result from a natural disaster or slow onset stresses, such as those caused by abuse or neglect — they need resilience to survive and recover. Resilient communities and individuals spring back from difficulties and return to normal, healthy activities.
What factors make a community resilient? The International Federation of the Red Cross studied communities that overcame disaster and identified common characteristics that made it possible for a community to move forward from those devastating events. The following characteristics contribute to a resilient community:
Its people are knowledgeable and healthy. When people in a community are knowledgeable about health — for example, when people have first aid skills, practice good hygiene and sanitation, and have prepared for disasters — the community recovers more quickly, with less loss of life.
It is organized. Organization allows the community to identify problems, establish priorities and act. Many communities, including Thurston County, have developed and practiced “incident management” systems that enable them to respond quickly to a variety of shocks and stresses.
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It is connected. Families and individuals within the community have relationships with others (families, friends, faith groups and governments) that provide a support network as well as goods and services when needed.
It has infrastructure and services. Resilient communities have strong housing, transportation, power, water and sanitation systems, and are able to maintain, repair and renovate infrastructure as necessary.
It has economic opportunities. Having diverse employment opportunities, income and financial services allows a community to be resourceful and react to changes.
Through its Thurston Thrives initiative, Thurston County is working to enhance our community’s resilience. Our ability to respond rapidly and effectively requires building community resilience before disasters occur. Because children are especially vulnerable to traumatic events Thurston Thrives gives particular attention to developing resilience in children.
Most children growing up in Thurston County will experience at least one traumatic event during their childhoods. To help our children and our community respond and recover from such events, we as parents, teachers and community members need to know what we can do to develop resilience in our youth.
A community summit — Resilient Children, Resilient Communities, presented by the Junior League of Olympia on May 3 — will provide an opportunity to learn how we can enhance our children’s and our community’s ability to bounce back and move beyond adversity. Attendance is free, but space is limited. Reserve your place at the event by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you can make it.
Dr. Rachel C. Wood is the health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501, email@example.com, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.