Preparedness Summit: American Red Cross Community Resilience Pilot Program

Feb 24, 2012, 5:15 PM, Posted by

The American Red Cross Community Resilience Pilot program focuses on building community resilience before a disaster, by enhancing community collective action around preparedness. Jacqueline Yannacci, program manager of community resilience for the Red Cross, spoke about the project at this week’s Public Health Preparedness Summit.

The Red Cross has implemented the community resilience pilot project in five sites—New Orleans, South Mississippi, Miami, Denver and San Francisco. The goal of the pilot is to test the Red Cross’ community engagement strategy. “We typically do a lot of awareness and education around preparedness,” says Yannacci. “But, in the emergency management field the idea of resilience is kind of new, and we wanted to take a look at what this idea of resilience meant for how we work in the community.”

Yannacci, who started her career at the Red Cross with the hurricane recovery program that worked in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, says she saw in that work that it’s not only important to be prepared for the immediate response, but that recovery is a critical part of the disaster cycle. “We asked: what could we do prior to a disaster happening to help increase the community’s ability to bounce back faster?”

Yannacci says the Red Cross wanted to expand beyond traditional awareness and education preparedness work and also focus on getting different sectors of the community connected together to collaborate, identifying their greatest vulnerabilities and risks in the community that they could then address.

The resilience effort, says Yannacci, requires a four step strategy:

  • Understanding the community through an assessment phase, which identifies existing community data and assesses community assets and vulnerabilities through work with emergency management experts as well as engagement with community members
  • Monitoring preparations taking place in the community to make sure that the issue is actually being addressed and progress is made
  • Reassessing the work of the networks to see if the goals have been reached, and then moving on to a next set of goals or reassessing the original goals

Funding for the project is not a key concern. Right now, we’re finding out that it doesn’t require a lot of additional funding,” says Yannacci. “It certainly requires staff time for those who are participating in the network, but not an enormous amount of resources. For example, in Miami, one of the networks is focused on daycares, and it’s really just the daycares coming together and planning their continuing of operations. They want to set up 'sister' daycares so that if they can’t come back online after a disaster, that they have an alternative for parents.”

Yannacci says one challenge is generating interest in communities that have not faced recent disasters. “That’s why we think it’s important that the ideas be generated from the community itself so they have the buy-in and feel that what is important to them is being addressed."

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Medical countermeasures (MCMs) such as drugs, vaccines and diagnostic devices, are often critical components of public health emergency responses. During and in preparation for such emergencies, the Food and Drug Administration plays a critical role in how federal, state and local agencies use MCMs. To address key legal issues, the Public Health Law monthly Webinar Series, sponsored by American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics; Network for Public Health Law; Public Health Law Association and the Public Health Law Research Program will be holding a webinar, "Recent Developments in FDA’s Emergency Authority," on Thursday, March 15 at 1 – 2 p.m. ET. Presenters will include attorneys from the FDA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats.


This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.