Resilience to fires and floods: The importance of the response process

Resilience has been identified as an “ordinary magic”, (Masten 2001) but it only occurs in a proportion of the population. Since there is a lack of evidence to suggest it is a uniform phenomenon, the question remains – Can anything be done to help more people experience resilience in the face of a disaster?

The Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference wishes to thank Ms Gisela van Kessel, Lecturer, University of South Australia who presented this study at the last conference held 28-30 May 2013 , Mercure Brisbane.  Ms Gisela van Kessel presented data from semi-structured interviews with 19 people who had experienced the 2010/11 Victorian floods and 20 lay witness statements from people who presented to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

The qualitative analysis applied Bronfenbrenner’s theory to resilience as an interaction in a person-context-process-time model, where context is understood as a system of nested levels (Bronfenbrenner 2005). The findings confirmed that both personal characteristics and contextual factors (predominantly social support) are important to resilience. In addition to this, it was identified in this sample that the process of delivering assistance was more effective in terms of resilience if it utilised a mechanism of empathy.

This process was observed consistently across all levels of the nested system including the settings of home, work, and school, relief/recovery/evacuation centre, media and government activities. Rather than centralise the individual, as has been done so far in disaster resilience research, this study recognises the importance of the consequences of the actions of others as a process within a person’s social ecologies to an individual’s resilience. This has implications for process of delivery of assistance and how resilience outcomes are measured.

This presentation is available on podcast via our website or click here.  Also available is the Book of Proceedings and podcasts of other presentations from the keynote and session speakers.

The Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference  look forward to reconvening in 2014 5-7 May at the QT on the Gold Coast.  Abstracts are now open.  Click here to submit an abstract