Disaster survivors believe they are better prepared for the next disaster

Many Australians who have survived a natural catastrophe are more optimistic that their communities will be ready for the next one. However, one-third of individuals living in disaster-prone locations do not feel prepared for a disaster or confident in their capacity to recover quickly. These are just a few of the findings from Monash University's nationwide Fire to Flourish study, which polled over 3,500 Australians about their disaster preparedness and resilience. According to our study, one of the most valuable assets after a crisis is the individuals who have lived through it. However, this asset is vastly underused.

According to climate estimates, disasters will become more frequent and severe. However, rather than waiting for tragedy to hit, there is a chance to work directly with communities to create pre-disaster resilience now.

The Fire to Flourish National Survey polled an equal number of men and women, as well as an equal number of people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. The most significant variation in perceptions of preparedness and resilience was due to past catastrophe experiences. We discovered evidence of "post-traumatic development," which occurs when people experience positive transformation following a stressful incident. A previous calamity had a significant impact on how prepared and confident individuals felt about the future. Although catastrophe survivors are frequently portrayed as victims, this is not how they perceive themselves.

Survivors of natural disasters:

  • indicated more trust in their towns' preparedness for the next calamity (71 percent of disaster survivors compared with 51 percent of those who have never experienced one).
  • indicated more trust in their household's preparation (68 percent vs. 43 percent of those who had not experienced a disaster).
  • They spoke with their communities about local issues and efforts on a more regular basis (61 percent versus 49 percent ).
  • know locals who were ready to stand up and lead recovery operations if necessary (62 percent versus 49 percent ).
When asked how they would cope in the case of a future calamity, 67 percent of survivors stated they would cope "well" or "very well." Only 48% of individuals who had never been through a tragedy felt the same way. When people and groups face tremendous adversity, they frequently learn new talents and capacities. This increases the likelihood that they will respond to their next challenge with resilience. People frequently feel an increase in communal cohesion following a calamity, with the effect increasing drastically in the early aftermath. Even 10 years after a tragedy, both women and men questioned reported better levels of communal togetherness than before the occurrence. However, not everyone expressed the same amount of readiness or resilience.

Worryingly, one-third of respondents living in disaster-prone locations do not feel prepared for a disaster or confident in their capacity to recover successfully. Nearly half of poll respondents stated they would not deal well, if at all if a catastrophic event occurred within the next year. These findings highlight the need for targeted investment in disaster resilience at the community level. Catastrophe-affected communities serve as the foundation of any disaster response. Survivors, on the other hand, are frequently underused in developing strategies for their community's long-term resilience and preparation initiatives.

In other words, they may be excluded from long-term planning. Almost half of those polled in our study do not feel they have the power to better their neighborhood. Only a minority feels that their community seeks innovative approaches to deal with problems or that their community has the chance to actively participate in designing its own future. Community resilience will grow if catastrophe survivors are encouraged to use their unique abilities and lived experiences to drive recovery efforts that are suited to local goals and locations. A recent study shows that pre-disaster levels of social cohesiveness and support reduce the health and economic costs caused by catastrophes in Australia. These foundations must be strengthened. 

Communities cannot afford to wait for a crisis to occur before beginning to prepare. Despite this, many communities are unsure they have the support and resources they need to recover from a disaster. More emphasis should be placed by the government, municipalities, and communities themselves on boosting disaster preparedness among people who are likely to be affected by a disaster. It is critical to establish cross-sectoral links. Another idea is to enhance community networks across Australia so that we can better support and learn from one another in community-led resilience building.

This entails providing chances for disaster survivors to share their experiences, knowledge, and skills in order to help their local community recover and contribute to the overall preparation efforts of Australian communities. The poll results will be used to shape Fire to Flourish's continuing program of work, which aims to develop innovative methods to help communities in leading their own local projects to increase disaster recovery and resilience. According to the poll, individuals living in disaster-affected areas have critical information and skills that should be key to any disaster response and preparation planning and decision-making.

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