Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 21, 2012

Community powered recovery

Filed under: Business of HLS,Preparedness and Response,Private Sector — by Christopher Bellavita on August 21, 2012

This post is about two sisters from Monson, Massachusets.

A tornado destroyed part of Monson in 2011.  The sisters — Caitria and Morgan O’Neill — used “two laptops and a slow Internet connection” to create what they call  community powered recovery.

They now teach other communities how to do the same thing.  They turned their experience into a business.

Caitria and Morgan O’Neill describe their idea in a TED video.

You can watch the nine minute video at the end of this post.

But first a few appropriate words from the 2012 National Preparedness Report (with my emphasis):

Efforts to improve national preparedness have incorporated the whole community…. This whole community approach to preparedness recognizes that disasters affect all segments of society.  While the Federal Government plays a critical role in coordinating national-level efforts, it is communities and individuals who lead efforts to implement preparedness initiatives throughout the Nation….

Experience has shown that community members often serve as first responders…. Faith-based and voluntary organizations, furthermore, have demonstrated remarkable speed and capacity to establish operations to care for those in need after a disaster….

Of course, preparedness is not a new concept…. What is new is the unity of effort that whole community partners are bringing to the challenge, as well as the recognition that preparedness does not just involve spending resources—it involves changing mindsets and behaviors.

Here is the TED talk

A somewhat cynical colleague watched the video and sent me the following note:

I’m delighted at the confidence, even the certainty, that the 2 sisters have that ‘someone’ will do what is necessary.  Ah the human spirit!



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Comment by Arnold Bogis

August 21, 2012 @ 12:40 am

I hate to be the cynic…but…

I usually find that I’m surprised that TED talk participants haven’t hurt themselves bending their arms to pat themselves on the back for discovering something NOBODY has thought of…

Bless these girls for caring, but they never offered one point to explain why communities would adopt any of their proposals before disaster strikes. Of course it makes sense in the aftermath…but what doesn’t?

Why do what they propose beforehand? Of course it makes sense, but so does a lot of historical disaster preparedness. That’s ignoring the issue of those citizens who choose not to be on Facebook…

Comment by John Comiskey

August 21, 2012 @ 5:40 am

“A country like ours” (Caitria & Morgan) –disaster response logistics is frustrating and painful.

Veteran first responders will tell you many stories about resources that were well intentioned, not needed, and impeded rescue/recovery operations. At the same time, they will tell you needed resources were not available.

Caitria and Morgan are youthfully and wonderfully perceptive and naïve –and that is a good thing. The whole of community is an ideal –an ideal worth working at –an ideal that affords hope and opportunity. Whether disaster response or recovery is bottom-up, top-down, or the more likely combination of the two is no matter –there is no need for a scorecard. What matters is helping those you can when you can.

Disaster response and recovery is about civic mined collaboration –those who have sworn an oath to help (or have volunteered for the hour/day/week/etc) assume a sense of service for those who are/have been in harm’s way.

Arnold’s skepticism identifies the civic apathy that is pervasive in this “country of ours.” We care not (or not so much) when we are not in harm’s way and care too much after disasters strike –someone should have done something before.

IMHO, we will hear this post-mortem again –but if Caitria and Morgan and people like them have their way we will see fewer post-mortems and more disaster success stories.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 21, 2012 @ 10:36 am

Having turned 70 on August 4th would prescribe two beautiful brainy Irish heritage lasses to help me recovery from that passage of time.

And rumor control under web 2.0?

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

August 21, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

This is one of many heroic efforts to help Monson, a small town that experienced 4 major declared disasters in one year. Give these folks a break, guys!

I met the Town Manager, in July at the Colorado Conference (NHRAIC). She deserves a lot of credit for her long and hard work on recovery.

Also, behind the scenes a nationally-known disaster researcher (whose hometown was Monson) donated her time and effort to advising town officials on response and recovery matters after the disaster declaration.

It would be nice if someone documented the full story so the full dimensions of the recovery process were known.

Pingback by Small-Town Recovery Effort – TED talk by 2 young residents of Monson, MA « Recovery Diva

August 21, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

[…] I found this link on the blog HomelandSecurityWatch.com, which posted an article titled Community-Powered Recovery.  […]

Comment by Georgina

August 21, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

Great that people are talking about recovery, and acknowledging that after the inital interest by media and wider community, attrition is high (in terms of those willing to volunteer etc). We are planning and preparing for recovery here in South Australia. Keep up the good work!

Comment by The Hopeless Recovery!

August 22, 2012 @ 7:39 am

Given my professional relationship to the booming mining sector in Australia, business is good and funds and resources are available which is becoming less and less available to communities and counties across America as the economy worsens, continued iunemployment rates depict the increasing challenges across America and having a person turning sixty (60) years of age every seven seconds and some 60%+ of American seniors having less than $25k set aside for returment and their equity lost in home values….

Recovery in Monson from another bout of Mother Nature’s wrath just a short time ago and while some compassionate folks in the immediate aftermath of calamity are engaged, unless it directly affects them, do not rely on government or neighbor or even family for eventually as this economic and political plight continues to spread this veil of uncertainly and instability over even more of the population, well, unlike the Australian spirited enthusiam and patriotic pride of its wonderful People, We have lost and sort of resilience and with millions of foreclosures again due to take many more homes away from American families because of the ineptness and indifference of these “beltway bandits” so self-engrossed and self-indulgent…

….folks are beginning to feel despair and far less resilient as we perceive capable as the American dream is will become a mention as the veil of darkness soon brings depravity and soup lines to “Main Street USA” and it will not be Mother Nature playing havoc on the locals, but this deceitful mentality presented by “Smug-smiled Pelosi et al” who has bankrupted the coffers and accounts of Americans everywhere and I am very concerned that cities and towns will not have the funding available to maintain even appropriate first responders who in many communities are already below minimum staffing endangering these dedicated public servants themselves.

A poor job as portrayed by Katrina, a terrible response to Haiti and with a double-dip recession and worse to bring despair, given the narcissistic portrayal of many Americans, as this economy and global political discourse worsens, you will have only God and yourself to rely on….be prepared. gather your nuts and store them much like the Chinese have done in raping the riches of Africa and are now presently in Australia and even in our own North American backyard loading vessels with commodiies and their nuts to save for the future in hugh stockpilings while we wallow in “Sleep Hollow” and allow these “beltway bandits” on both sides of the Congressional aisle and particularly this “WH Goldman Sachs” administration to strip us and shred the Constitution!

It is not the recovery in a small town like Monson which concerns me for We have some ill conceived notion we are prepared and with Winston Churchill’s bust replaced at the WH with Martin Luther King’s bust, the hopeless recovery is ever present and will only grow worse and the failure of individuals to stand on behalf of our nation and our Judeo-Christian values, well, unless you repent and get involved, you will no longer be texting, but standing shoulder to shoulder as did many Americans not to long ago on “Main Street USA” hoping to get soup and a piece of bread…You would be surpised at how many Americans right now would like to have soup and a piece of bread as local food pantries are emptied as soon as they are stocked….

Resilience is not an attribute of many today with such self-agenda and little empathy towards those less fortunate….Soon, history will repat itself and despite the technological innovations before us bringing such hope to mankind, dysfunctional and selfish dominance will be our demise….and by the way, Winston Churchill is no longer here!

Comment by Quin

August 22, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

Leadership. As they said, it’s not rocket science. Initiative with sides of brains, industry and charisma will take you a long way. But giving communities software only gives them the tools. Without the interest and motivation like these two sisters this effort too will have its own short peak, like their powerpoint slides, and then fade away.

Chris, whoever made that comment to you sounds like one of those who squash the bugs that occasionally try to rise up and bring a bit of dash and initiative, maybe even the latest buzzword of “disruptive thinking”, to their work. Too bad, because it’s the initiative and leadership of the two sisters we need to clone and institutionalize, not a few bits of code. Too many of the stupid but industrious. (In case you’re not familiar with what happens when you combine those two: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Hammerstein-Equord )

And from one of my favorite books in synopsis form, fits these two to a T:

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