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Project Update: “Building Resiliency with Diverse Communities”

David Myers, Director of the Faith-Community Center at the Department of Homeland Security, provides an update on a project to assist communities prepare and recover from disasters.

I am eager to update everyone on a major project undertaken by the DHS Center titled “Building Resiliency with Diverse Communities.” The project is a multi-year assessment and training pilot in Miami-Dade County, FL that will assist marginally affiliated communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. It does this by leveraging their resources and filling in their gaps of knowledge and experience.

The pilot project has two phases:

  • The first phase – through the fall of 2010 – seeks to increase capabilities of 16 faith- and community-based organizations (FBCOs) in Miami-Dade County. This phase includes an assessment of the degree to which few FBCOs and area emergency managers are connected. It also includes a “social mapping” of the area. This process provides a quick but comprehensive view of what and where community resources exist.
  • The second phase of the project -- through the fall of 2011 -- will use the information gained from the first phase to implement a management training model for the Miami-Dade organizations. As a result of the training, the organizations will be included in emergency preparedness planning. They will also have the skills and resources necessary to organize and develop their efforts to serve the emergency needs of their respective communities. Emergency managers also will be aware of the resources the communities offer during a disaster.

Because this is a pilot project, it does not stop with Miami-Dade County. Our goal is to create a process and training model that will be used in the country’s other urban areas which historically have had a high number of disasters and whose population includes a significant number of communities that are only marginally connected with emergency management systems.

Earlier this year and as part of this project, a study which compiled the status of the research on the efforts of FBCOs in emergency preparedness and response efforts was released, "Faith-Based and Community Organizations’ Participation in Emergency Preparedness and Response Activities." The Center, working in partnership with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, commissioned the study to identify research efforts that assess FBCOs’ capacity and collaborative networks related to emergency management. The research shows a broad range of approaches to increase FBCO engagement and coordination identified in the research and policy literature that can help guide future program development. The study also found that while most of FBCOs have capacity to aid vulnerable populations during a disaster, some are not well positioned to do so currently.

I’m excited about the project because it will improve opportunities for recovery from disasters of already vulnerable individuals and families. Even more, due to better preparation, it may even save lives. Often, the resources and needs of Americans living on the margins are not suitably included in emergencies and I believe that this project can help change this reality. 

David Myers is the Director for the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security