Moving beyond the blame game in disaster recovery
It took the world by surprise when an Italian Court convicted six scientists and one government official of manslaughter because they failed to predict the magnitude of a devastating earthquake in L’Aquila in central Italy in 2009. In 2005, the public blamed President George Bush for the deficiencies and failures in the Federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina.
Having been through a natural disaster in Christchurch as well as a few economic recessions, I can’t help but wonder if natural disasters cause more harm and destruction to human life and property than a sever economic recession. Even with the advances of science, natural disasters are still unpredictable and comes without much warning. That is why there is so much destruction that comes from a severe natural disaster. And when the disaster is over, we are left feeling very insignificant and helpless. Living and working in the eastern suburbs have made me realise that a natural disaster leaves people feeling vulnerable, disoriented, and insecure. This causes them to look to government and insurance agencies to restore their security and to reestablish the necessary lifelines. I wonder if the blame games start when these agencies appear to be unresponsive to the needs of disaster victims. With the use of social media, negative public opinion have a significantly increased the impact in people’s views of these agencies.
We shouldn’t let the blame game stop us from working together to find the best solution for the victims. Hurricane Katrina triggered major reforms in emergency management, advanced low-income housing programmes, and developed community development and social justice programmes. But this only came about when agencies were willing to listen and work with the interest groups formed to keep the agencies honest. If we can learn to work together in Christchurch, not only would Christchurch be rebuilt but the whole nation will benefit because disaster management policies will be shaped with the lessons we have learned here.
I have been really inspired by our mayor Lianne Dalziel. She has given me fresh hope that we can move forward. She recently stated that central and local government together with the government and insurance agencies must work together collaboratively so that all the issues are sorted. She has also started forums to listen to the various community and interest groups. She spoke recently at a forum where she said, “We need to build local, community capacity because decisions and the ultimate resilience of a community are driven from the bottom up, but at the same time we need to ensure that communities have access to the expert advice and support they need.” I
There is fresh hope rising. Lets find a way to move beyond the blame game to working together to help the victims and the city to move on.