Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 20, 2012

Wholeness embraces strength and weakness

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on April 20, 2012

In late 2009 the Pew Research Center asked a statistically valid sample of Americans, “whether or not they knew the names of the neighbors who live close to them and found that 19% said that they knew the names of all of their neighbors, and 24% said that they knew most of them. The remaining three-fifths of Americans know either some (29%) or none (28%) of their neighbors by name.”

To be sure you didn’t miss it:  28% of Americans do not know the names of any of their neighbors.

Many American communities are not whole.  Many places where many Americans reside are not what is traditionally meant by “community.”  In yesterday’s post Jessica wrote, “some communities are more about struggle than success and a Whole Community approach means little if there is little to nothing to build upon.”

The Pew Study highlights a meaningful correlation between economic well-being, educational attainment and social connectedness within residential areas.

It is worth noting that even among the most highly educated and affluent over 35 percent are almost entirely disengaged from those living near-by.

None of this is news. Robert Putnam has helped us understand the evolving nature of American communities.  With less optimism, so has Charles Murray.

If we accept the changing character of American communities (Putnam) or the veritable  collapse of some communities (Murray), does this invalidate the Whole Community strategy?

I don’t think so.  From an emergency management, civil defense  or homeland security perspective Whole Community is a pre-event mitigation strategy designed to enhance readiness and self-reliance where this is achievable, identify where readiness is weakest, and better understand what outside help will be needed to address specific vulnerabilities emerging from this process.

The strategic short-hand is to preserve and enhance existing strengths while recognizing and engaging persistent vulnerabilities.

Whole Community is also, according to one homeland security wag who does not want to be named here, “a therapy to combat the call-911 pandemic.”   This “old codger” argues that the 911 system has had an insidious influence on the expectations of both the public and first-responders.

“The proliferation of public safety call centers has,” he claims, “caused a consumerist cancer” to transform the relationship between citizens and the public safety community. “I don’t mean to suggest 911 has not helped.  It has saved thousands of lives.  But the secondary and tertiary effects aren’t pretty.”

The growing — sometimes ridiculous and abusive — dependence on 911 by some “consumers” has been widely noted.

What I think is more interesting is the claim that the 911 system has redefined the role of police, firefighters, and others.  “We are now subjected to time-and-motion studies that can be entirely contrary to the principles of community-based, citizen oriented, professional services.   Before 911 we never presumed, and the citizens seldom expected, we could respond quick enough to always save their bacon. Now we are public safety ‘barristas’ expected to respond with whatever exotic mix of services the consumer decides they need on demand.  Thing is, it works. At least on the small stuff it works really well. So we’re all being habituated to behaviors and expectations that will absolutely fall-apart when something really bad happens.”

In Whole Community efforts in which I have participated the single most empowering inputs have been from big, brave, smart, uniformed personnel telling their civilian neighbors, “If  (something unusually bad)  happens, you won’t see me for an hour, maybe two or three.  If (something really, really bad) happens, it may be a couple of days.”

The first reaction is surprise, and I have seen a few cases of sputtering, “Well, what do you mean?” But it does not take long for most folks to look hard at prospective natural, accidental, or intentional disasters and recognize reality: What can I do with my neighbors to increases the chances for my survival and recovery.  In a few cases I have observed as Whole Community engagement has taken a “place” and helped make it a “neighborhood.”

I absolutely agree with Mark and Jessica this will not happen everywhere.   I also agree with Arnold that there are public sector behaviors — especially a predilection for control and subverting collaboration — which undermine Whole Community potential in places where it could happen.

Chris Bellavita wrote, “How interesting would it be if homeland security’s Whole Community philosophy were mashed with a new pedagogy of self governing?”  I agree and suggest it would be as interesting and more effective if it was an andragogy of self governing.

Partly this is an inside joke, but pedagogy assumes an authority to transfer knowledge from those with it to those without it. Andragogy focuses much more on facilitating and serving the self-motivation, pre-existing experiences, and independent intelligence of the learner.

Pedagogy is for children. A vulgar form of pedagogy can be effective with consumers.  Andragogy is for citizens.

Whatever else, a Whole Community is made up of citizens with equal rights and complementary responsibilities.

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Comment by John Comiskey

April 20, 2012 @ 6:27 am

First comment, I want to say or blog a lot more about “our” whole community. But as is increasingly become my norm, I have prioritized other tasks over this blog. I mention this because I, like most Americans, am busy. My wife and I both work and our two teenage children keep us more than busy. We know most of our neighbors on a first name or nod basis. In August, Hurricane Irene missed our block but knocked out our power. We got to know our neighbors a little better. In addition to our block community we have our work communities and are very much involved in our daughter’s soccer community.

Second, I emphatically agree with your conclusion that a whole community is made of citizens and complimentary responsibilities. The core of my civic education andragogy is that juxtaposed to the Bill of Rights is a Bill of Responsibilities.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 20, 2012 @ 9:23 am


I value my network of virtual neighbors and friends, including you. This neighborliness helps motivate and inform my own preparedness and resilience and adds a great deal to every aspect of my life.

But if the grid goes dark for a long-time or if a wildfire sweeps up the mountain and every time there is a blizzard: First, I hope I am home. Second, I am glad to know, be in some relationship with, and trust my neighbors Jimmy, Chad, and Dean (each about a half-mile away).

I don’t have my neighbors hunting skills or heavy equipment, which makes me especially appreciate having them as neighbors; especially if my wife is home and I am not. I am glad to have a 20,000 gallon concrete water reservoir to share.

What I am trying to say is that physical proximity still matters. Blogs are just blogs. Being in relationship with you is meaningful, but it is very different than being in relationship with Jimmy, Chad, and Dean. Sounds really obvious. But for 28% of Americans (or more), I expect my neighborhood sounds like a different planet.

Comment by bellavita

April 20, 2012 @ 11:36 am

An andragogical touché, Phil. Nicely done.

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 21, 2012 @ 1:55 am

Terrific post! Thanks Phil!

Comment by My (Our) Neighborhood and Yours

April 21, 2012 @ 7:18 am

To value the neighborhood and to get to know folks, having children very much helps especially if one’s personality permits in outreach to other parents often starting off as a simple “hello” maybe when waiting for the kids to come out from school or watchjing at the soccer field on an early saturday morning. I have watched some parents, even standing next to a neighbor and fellow parent, hesitant or having far too little self-esteem and say nothing and thereby miss the opportunity to learn about other parents and neighbors and what is happening in the neighborhood and the community at large…It is unfortunate for all. This technologuy age has adversely affected communication as much as it has contributed so much. We are so dependent on the compuetr, even forgetting spouse, never mind the kids or the town. Parents must understand the value in getting out together and with choildren..to the playground and also, going to a school meeting at the local town hall or city hall re an issue which affects you and/or family…well, joining others to be more informative often results in helping to get to know another better and others as well.

When I stood for 1,491 hours all alone through three (3) very cold winters in a one-man protest to reopen a closed fire station, acting in an unselfish and committed moment in my Life on behalf of my neighbors…despite their signing some 7,000 citizen petitions I had [prepared and they signed during my (our) three year stand w/sogn in hand…I was always intrigued by the fact that while many were intimidated by various other folks for various and specific reasons, not one othre fellow nbeighbor, even more affected by the absence of proper EMT first response, showed up and stood with me. Sure they might come by and offer a much appreciated hot chocolate or a wave or a beverage, yet in their dysfunctional and busy lives, they were simply too busy and I guess even though I might have been busier than at leasta fedw of them, sure they called the local politicians and still no one stood with me in the pouring rain or willing to have their faces slapped by sleet pellets….

The fact is that during the “Blizzard of ’78” – Boston closed down for four days…people could take a moment and yes, they did get out and out of necessity walked and met folks along the way often leading to friendships w/neighbors. People talked about this refreshing experience! For the most part, many enjoyed their new relationships, even if more were temporary, yet they had made contact and now knew who they were waving to…

I do concur with the meaningful correlation herein as I, too have found that there is a direct link more often than not w/economic well being, educational attainment, etc. as those involbved in the community are in fact those more often than not with the willingness and interest to grasp issues affecting them and their commuinity and by getting involved, join committees and join the respective clicks, though if one is contrary to their perspectives, the intenseness which often evolves leads to neighbors against neighbors and can become vicious, therefore depicting to those less inclined to get involved as better off….

People for the most part are good and would like to help, though given the mobility of our society and this dependence on wheels, well, wholeness does indeed embrace strength and weakness, yet again, I emphasize the need that professional EMT’s and first responders must secure more fderal funding as it is these folks, often our neighbors, who will be the ones to help us when we cannot go it alone. We can depend upon another just so far and if the calamity is really substantial eevn if for instance this past fall, a storm knocked us out of electricity for five days and many in the area had electricity and heat, refrigerators full of food, yet no one invited another neighbor over to cuddle!

If something really bad happens and given the econoimic uncertainties and the political garbage we must contend with from the WH down to the local school bureaucracy, something bad will eventually happen and no, we will not be prepared. I have always wanted to suggest neighborhood, street by street, neighborhood mettings with each street having at least two neighbors volunteering as assuring that neighborhoods within the whole community are more tightly knit for those willing and interesyted to prepare best for a calamity, knowing who hey might depend on with respectiuve experiences and skills to help one another out. To be better preared in this complex world where we are all in such a hurry that the stats on kids getting hit when parenst and/or neighbors are backing out of the driveway are horrific stats as we are far too busy and far too quick and seemingly cannot slow down and place priority on family, community and Life itself!

Here in New England and more sepcifically, the more affluent communities, while some can afford to py the heightened property taxes which fund out first responders, let me say that property taxes are reaching levels where folks are challenged and therefore given the ineptness of politicians and even the locals who cannot even keep their own checkbooks in balance and are dictating budgets and expenditures, We folks are in trouble not only with the soaring federal budget which this WH has knowingly and intentionally allowed government to expand and bring further dependence upon government enabling government to further control the individual and coupled with both sides of the Congressional aisle allowing the Constitution to come under sich siege from within, the whole community has been affected to the extent that the local communities will inevitably begin to crumble under the burdens and given the ongoing unemployment rate which is far higher than depicted…I am fearful that the local EMT’s and first responders, those who respond to our front door in case of desperate 911 call, well fellow nbeighbors, they may just not be there as I certainly have seen the years fly by and now an elder, cannot standin the snow for 1,491 hours to protest intentionally wrongful and irresponsible ways of governing…and given the self-agenda and the inability of parents even taking the time to stop and make breakfast for their kids in the morning or to find tiem from their texting when their kids are starving for quality imes, as an elder, every day precious as time clicks away and my departure etched in stone, whatever the calamity, we will be unprepared in so many ays when such inevitability arrives. I can only continue to stand forthright and a step behind our much appreciated police officers and firefighters, our well-traioned EMT’s so devoted to saving Life and w/arthritis in hand from holding my one0man protest and now arthritis in the knee as a result of simple aging in another season of a man’s Life, handing the torch to others who are willing and confident in their ways is becoming difficult for it seems technology has further interrupted our Life never mind in their neighborhood or the street, but within our families where parents are playing War Games or texting to others has become more important than addressing the needs of children seeking only a parent to watch Sponge Bob w/o interruption w/their parents.

The world from the WH to the Congressional ais;le to even the bedroom have all become so self-serving that to truly reach out to another, to truly portray caring and to stop and go out of one’s way, well, the days when stopping and helping another, even neighbor stuck in his/her driveway when we would hear the tires spinning and grabbing shovel and joing another neighbor or two to help this standed neighbor in his/her driveway are no longer…it is too warm to get a jacket on and boots to go out…snd most are annoyed at the spinning wheels of the neighbor across the street who can use some help as they must get to work for they might indeed be the first responder who later will be called to help those who care little about another…

We are in trouble folks and w/the cost of food, gasoline to reach $6 and $7 dollars and an economy bankrupted by the self-serving who feel a beer on the WH lawn and this elitist mentality is the way to go…as I wave – adios – it sure is not the commiunity our Grandparents grew up in and even the town I grew up in and it is best to prepare for the inevitable and to be prepared in every way as yes, I am the doomsayer as I see little hope that the “KGB Putinites” – the “Beltway Bandits” or the “Brutes of Tehran” have the solutions that will be in the best interests of scoiety at large and as long as we have fellas like George Soros around and the elitiists who lust for power and this derrogatory demeanor towards the individual and their phiosophy Hillary and “Smug-smiled Pelosi” that – you know best – funding fom the federal government for first responders must be increased to help in preparedness and far less funding sent abroad to help sustain differing societies and cultures whioch abhor ol’Glory as much as some of our neighbors do and this “Goldman Sachs” riddled WH and some of those in Congress who should be asked to resign or Congressional Hearings be imposed.

This latest re secret service…the same idea as having Monica entering the WH through the back door…disrespect for values, our beloved Republic and the vales imposed for erason in this Judeo-Christian nation with out forefathers far more enlightened than We and who pointed to us in bequeathing our US Constitution and cautioning us that We must stand guard and be weary from those within.

When these well-versed and astute gentlemen, who knew their Latin and ancient Greek, knew how to write and add w/o calculator, understood the value in communicating and of neighborhood and community sharing values, understanding why our national currency, the dollar, not federal reserve notes, but the dollar must be backed by gold and silver and further understanding in – clicking their mouse – that if We the People adhered to Biblical verse and the US Constitution, no other could defeat us, no matter thir intent, their malice towards us for standing together and understanding what it is we are standing for, no matter who should attempt to pull the veil of Lucifer over the good and wonderful people, the most Charitable people, We, each of us proud to be an American and understanding what this means, well, this devisive WH and its narrow perspectives having no vision to the future other than its intent to control the people and failing to understand that We fled the King nd his tax burden and yes, maybe most have little knowledge of the Battle of Lexington on the Lexington Town Green and what happened at the Concord Bridge, as my days become shorter, I am hoping that some will still stand tall for the community, for the neighbor and w/shovel or protest sign or some heartfelt inetnt, stape outside their comfort zone and undertand why so many men and women have gladly given their Life to assure that ol ‘Glory still waves in depicting Freedom of individiuality and caring to help another so together a bond against tyranny will assure a stronger America, a community resilient and standing shoulder to shoulder so help me God!

God Bless us all!

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
PO Box 1612
Harwich (Cape Cod), MA 02645
skype: christopher.tingus

for others

Comment by JM

April 21, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

Phil. I would never have linked the relationship between 911 systems and public expectations. Thanks for the comments on Whole Community. I am still trying to grasp the government’s role in this whole community concept. I am not sure if the concept offers a whole solution to the issue. As you pointed out, this may not be a one size fits all solution to community preparedness and resilience.

I am looking forward to future discussions with you and Chris regarding pedagogy and andragogy over the upcoming months.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

April 22, 2012 @ 7:45 am

JM: I first heard the connection made by a law enforcement officer at a national conference about two years ago. My anonymous “old codger” has lots of stories that, when taken together, certainly present a hypothesis worth further exploration. How and when does active care breed unhealthy dependence? How can we express care and concern in a way that cultivates greater self-reliance?

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 22, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

Professor Dennis Mileti, PhD sociology pioneered the concept of the “theraputic community” forming after natural disasters. I wonder whether certain hazards, like a pandemic where vaccines in short supply or non-existence will result in same sense of community.

Personally I believe there will be many tests of the “whole” community before election 2012. Perhaps and hoping I am wrong.

Hoping someone is studying in depth the Stanford U. pepper spray incidents last year. Physically opening mouth of students by force and injecting spray for which the Standford U. President has apologized.

The Rodney King verdict (police found innocent) triggered the LA Riots in 1992. The resulting fires declared a Presidential disaster and California learned [as did other STATES] don’t let their NG troops be federalized under TITLE 10 of the US Code.

Personally I believe whole communities start with whole neighborhoods but perhaps wrong.

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