"We have a 21st Century assumption that government will fix everything in a crisis. The fact is, it can't," says Lt Gen Russel L Honoré, the commanding general of Joint task Force Katrina, on page 64.
In 2005 CRJ raised the subject of societal self-reliance, a topic that has re-emerged in many of our articles and comments over the last four years.
The role of communities in preparedness and resilience is in the spotlight and it is now becoming difficult to deny their link to sustainability.
There is a growing acceptance that there are consequences to where and how we live and develop our societies, especially when set against a backdrop of climate change and urban encroachment in floodplains – as discussed at the recent FloodFighters conference (p63) – or into grasslands or forests, which can exacerbate damage from wildland blazes (p50).
On page 12, Christine Jessup looks at the Australian wildfires in terms of societal expectations and response. She explores whether citizens perceive emergency management as a public service, asking whether vulnerability increases if community members see themselves as ‘consumers’ of this service. Lt Gen Honoré also says: “We’ve outsourced just about all our preparedness and protection to others.”
Does this mean that citizens have renounced their own responsibilities?
It seems logical that we should be working on adaptation and self-preparedness in tandem. Communities should be drawn back into the fold of emergency preparedness infrastructure as equal partners. Individuals are not simply ‘consumers’, with all the self-defeating expectations and connotations that such terminology might engender in the context of building a more resilient society.