By Daniel Homsey and Daniel Aldrich
When it comes to preparing for large disasters, we may imagine that building better roads, ports, and buildings will be enough to give our society resilience to future shocks. Unfortunately, traditional investments in the built environment to mitigate risks are important but not adequate. Research from communities around the world shows that social, not physical, infrastructure is the key to building resilient neighborhoods and cities. These neighborhoods and towns can recover from any kind of shock to residents, whether they’re extreme weather events or terrorism.
Knowing the importance of social ties, we still must help our residents and their surrounding community get ready to meet the immediate needs of their loved ones and vulnerable neighbors. Social cohesion is great, but they still need to feed and care for each other under intense circumstances — so how do we get them to prepare for that mission without using fear based messaging?
In San Francisco, we’ve developed an easy solution: “Throw a Block Party!”
In 2015, the San Francisco’s Neighborhood Empowerment Network partnered with the Red Cross, SF SAFE (a community policing NGO), NERT (our local version of CERT) and the Department of Emergency Management to pilot a new community capacity building initiative that would advance a variety of capacities to increase a neighborhood’s ability to respond to a disaster with little or no support from professional first responders.