Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Considerations for Resilience — Learning From COVID-19

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2020  AS OF 04:00 PM EST

To-date there are 585,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide. With more than 97,000 cases, the United States (US) has surpassed Italy and China with the most confirmed cases. Twelve states now have major disaster declarations, with eight new states — Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Louisiana — all recently receiving declarations. As of this morning, seven additional major disaster declaration requests have been received by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and are currently in process for approval.

Public health emergencies, specifically pandemics like COVID-19, do not fit neatly within our notion of a disaster. The physical landscape — residences, businesses, and infrastructure — shows little to no signs of damage.  The disaster is not limited to one incident over a matter of hours, days, or geographic boundaries.

Pandemics can appear and spread quickly, can be much longer lived, and can cover larger geographic areas with significant cascading impacts beyond community health. For instance, COVID-19 was first discovered in China in late 2019 and in just a few months has become a global pandemic with hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases around the world. This rapid spread also necessitates extensive implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (remote work environments, business and school closures, large event cancellations) with immediate and long-lasting economic implications. But what does resilience in the midst of public health emergencies look like for individuals, communities, and businesses during a prolonged period of response and recovery?

As lockdowns and stay-in-place ordinances extend from days into weeks, many are left asking, “When will crisis mode end?” It is not always easy to determine when it is appropriate to begin transitioning from response to recovery and eventually normal operations, and is highly dependent on contextual factors — level of community spread in a given area, as an example. The phases of disaster response and short-term recovery can become blurred during any emergency, and this is true within the context of pandemics.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Continuum of Pandemic Phases: Source

 Pre- and post-disaster recovery planning can help to identify tools and strategies that will help communities in the recovery process. Post-disaster recovery plans aid in identifying unmet needs and align recovery actions to address those needs through available funding streams. The plans should aim to ensure anticipated or actual recovery processes are resilience-focused and uphold the community’s vision and values. Though good planning will not resolve all issues a community will face in a disaster, effective pre- and post-disaster plans and efforts lessen the impact on communities and its people.

Community Resilience in Action

COVID-19 is a current, ongoing threat, but communities can still take action to mitigate its impact, incorporating resilience-focused activities into their recovery. Just two weeks after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, individuals, communities, and businesses across the US have taken action to make sure that we all stand resilient in the midst of this disaster. Examples that may serve as strategies to maintain resilience during your community’s recovery can be found below. While not exhaustive, these real-world examples teach us how to be resilient in the face of a pandemic, as well as other types of disasters, and take care of each other in our greatest times of need.

1) Pause Utility Disconnections

From Seattle, Washington to Statesboro, Georgia, utility companies in cities and states across the nation have suspended utility disconnections during the COVID-19 disaster. Some utility companies are also reconnecting previously disconnected utilities for health, sanitation, and safety reasons, as well as suspending the accrual of late fees during this time.

2) Suspend Evictions

San Francisco, Nebraska, and New York are suspending evictions to protect their citizens from becoming homeless because of an inability to pay rent due to COVID-19 (e.g., on forced unpaid leave from work, fired from job). The State of New York is also suspending mortgage payments for those out of work or working part-time for 90 days.

3) Continue Meal Services

Schools and senior centers — critical facilities that provide everyday key services to individuals such as access to meals — are temporarily closing to limit the spread of COVID-19. However, this does not mean that the need disappears or that they have to discontinue providing food. Austin Independent School District has kept its kitchens operating and is allowing families to get food at certain curbside pick-up and meal delivery sites. Additionally, food banks remain open and are working hard to serve those in need despite their resources dwindling as COVID-19 spreads.

4) Discount Telehealth Services

As technology continues to advance, health needs that normally required an in-person visit have transitioned to online platforms including preventative check-ups and mental health services. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about mental distress for many. With social distancing, affordable telehealth options will allow concerned individuals to describe their symptoms to a trained medical professional, who can then determine if the individual needs treatment or further testing. One example of a community meeting this need is the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital offering free telehealth screenings for children showing symptoms of COVID-19.

5) Waive Administrative Requirements

In a pandemic, it is a major risk for individuals to gather in close proximity. This is not limited to concerts and parades; these activities are optional. However, renewing plate stickers and driver’s licenses, for example, are not. Consider finding online alternatives, or temporarily loosening requirements, where possible. Texas, for example, has waived certain vehicle regulations, while Florida has issued an Emergency Order extending all Florida driver licenses that were set to expire in the near future.

6) Engage with the Private Sector

In response to COVID-19, several private sector businesses have supported community resilience. Uber Eats is waiving delivery fees for any orders from local restaurants. Many distilleries and breweries are stepping up to fill gaps by creating hand sanitizer to address the shortages in recent weeks, while automobile giants around the world like Ford, Tesla, and Nissan have begun crafting medical supplies such as ventilators and masks. Numerous fashion and beauty companies are contributing by leveraging production facilities to create masks and other protective medical equipment.

Hagerty is here to help you respond quickly and recover stronger — whether it be from COVID-19, an active threat situation, or a natural disaster. Hagerty’s approach to robust recovery planning with an emphasis on resiliency can be a key to long-term recovery. Hagerty maintains vast experience managing response and recovery for “atypical” disasters and can leverage almost two decades of transferable lessons-learned from helping rebuild communities. The Hagerty Team will continue to provide information and updates on current events and disasters impacting the nation.



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