Devastating hurricanes, earth-scorching wildfires and damaging tornadoes always happen somewhere far, far away from most Americans; or so they believe when they watch another disaster unfold on the news. And most times, they do.
However, no community is immune from the random nature of natural or man-made threats.
So every community should be prepared to respond to major disaster says public administration scholar Ann-Margaret Esnard. She tells why in her new book, Displaced by Disaster: Recovery and Resilience in a Globalizing World (Routledge, 2014), coauthored with Alka Sapat of Florida Atlantic University.
“We all live in a pre-disaster state,” says Esnard, a Georgia State University Second Century Initiative professor expert in disaster policy and preparedness. “We are all vulnerable to disasters, albeit differentially based on our location, the hazard, our socio-economic status and community resources.”
The book focuses on planning and recovery for those displaced, examining practices and policies in the United States and globally.
Esnard hopes it will encourage scholars and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines – policymakers, emergency managers, planners, sociologists, anthropologists, public health officials and business professionals – to think about joint solutions to displacement, including the repeated and protracted displacement faced by the most vulnerable residents of U.S. communities.
Natural disasters impact not just individuals and families, but also businesses and communities. “Disasters impact everything. If a business is shuttered by a disaster, for example, what are the ripple effects when its employees are laid off?
“We tried to look at the big picture, including host communities that become home to disaster survivors,” she says.
Communities must plan for the long-term consequences of displacement. “If we want our communities to thrive, we have to think of displacement as affecting many segments. It’s not something that goes away after a month.
“We’ve not fully appreciated that ‘long-term’ could mean it will take decades to rebuild.”
She also says that, surprisingly, their research uncovered a lack of consensus on the terminology used for displaced persons.
“We don’t all agree on the same meanings – from field-to-field in academia and on to practice. Yet something as simple as the terminology and definitions we use across different areas – planning, public assistance, etc. – affect what we do as policymakers and planners.”
Esnard has been invited to speak on the impacts of involuntary displacement at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s People Matter Symposium in September. For more information on the event, go to http://peoplematter.mit.edu/
For more information on Displaced by Disaster, go to http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415856041/.