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  • Writer's pictureErika Andresen

Better Together

Why do I do what I do? Why do any of us undertake a vocation or open a business? We enjoy having purpose. We enjoy being of service to others.

But how can we BE better together? By being present. By being available. By realizing our actions impact, enhance, and influence others. By combining forces. Especially in the realm of resilience.

I will recommend Rebecca Solnit's book, Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, to anyone in the emergency management space. It's about how people who never liked each other or didn't know each other instantly have a bond as a result of co-lived tragedy. I've started recommending it to business continuity professionals. Why? Public and private should not be separate in responding to a disaster. Community resilience depends on it.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has, since the Obama administration, promoted the "Whole Community" response. It gives communities agency in their own lives: in how they prepare, how they respond, and how they recover. Small businesses, religious institutions, schools are all part of the community as well as being survivors of the disaster. I wrote "survivor" instead of "victim" on purpose. Things happen to victims. Survivors roll with the experience and come out stronger on the other side. There is a massive psychological shift in that; the more involved you are, the more control you have over your circumstances. The more prepared they are, they more quickly they are able to assist with a return to normalcy, which is all anyone wants after a disaster.

FEMA recognizes how vital local businesses are in the recovery process. Businesses provide services. They provide food. They provide comfort and familiarity. They provide paychecks. The sooner things start to look like normal, the quicker the community gets there. It is unfortunate that rural communities have a particularly bad time with this.

Rural businesses are caught in a vicious cycle. There isn't enough investment from big businesses in the community. Lack of business and services means lack of residents. Lack of either means less tax revenue. What pays for mitigation and preparedness? Tax revenue plays a big part in that bank account. The less money, the less prepared they can be. When a disaster does happen, the businesses wind up unable to recover. They leave. The people leave. Towns die. Rural small businesses in North Carolina, for example, are the main cause behind the Rural RISE program: trying to get them to stick around. One of the first things recommended on the list of education and preparedness actions? Business continuity.

FEMA has its reservations about the business community's ability to truly help with the Whole Community response. They fear that the professionals are more concerned about their clients and products. Some businesses, maybe. But if there is community involvement from the beginning, where everyone is brought in to have discussions, with the aim the community thrives afterwards, room can be carved out to help everyone.

This is why business continuity as a practice is so important. It's not the local or federal government's job. It's not the individual's job. It's everyone's job to prepare, learn from each other, and work together - resilience lives in that special sauce.

You started a business to serve people. Be able to be around to keep serving them, especially at a time when just having the light on means so much to the community.

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