facilitate and not stymie the efforts of others to increase disaster resilience, they said. Government also has a responsibility to disseminate information about hazards and disasters so that people can be prepared and know what to do when a disaster occurs. Government officials themselves need education about hazard mitigation and risk management if they are to do their jobs effectively.
The panel discussion on social capital—a term the committee used to refer to the “social infrastructure” of a community—raised an often overlooked point regarding disasters. Several participants noted that while disasters can be extremely destructive, they also can provide opportunities to create much higher levels of resilience than existed before a disaster. Infrastructure can be rebuilt to higher standards. The disruption of services can give organizations a chance to reassess the needs of their clients and how to meet those needs. This re-visioning of services often means moving toward greater flexibility and decentralization. Some nongovernmental organizations emerge from disasters stronger than before, often because they have strong leaders and ties to agencies and people outside an area. Resilience can even spread beyond the area where a disaster occurred, when other organizations emulate the steps being taken by organizations that are rebuilding after a disaster.
HEALTHY POPULATIONS AND RESPONSIVE INSTITUTIONS
Partnerships are essential among institutions that provide public health, medical, and mental health services, said presenters during the final discussion panel. Disasters often cause the dislocation of individuals and populations, requiring that systems be available to access information about individuals even when they are seeking services from a new organization. For example, health care providers need to quickly access medication, diagnoses, special medical needs, and other information to provide the best possible care, which requires that this information be available electronically. Health care providers may themselves require health and mental health services, again emphasizing the human dimension of resilience. Partnerships with multiple entities can provide redundancy and needed resources. A number of discussants noted that the federal and state governments have an important role to play in providing resources that transcend those available locally.