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Recovery (finally)

It’s been a year since my last blog post. There is no good story behind the delay; I just prioritized other activities over this. It seems fitting though to have this be the last post in my resilience series, seeing as I have stuck with this.

For this last blog post in this series, we are going to focus on Recovery. Just to remind you of the emergency management cycle:

Two important points – this is a cycle, so everything is constantly feeding back in a circle; and it is likely that you will be in multiple, even all, of the steps at the same time as you deal with different disasters or events. This is as true for communities planning for and dealing with natural crises as for each of us in our own lives. The more I coach people, the more I find out that everyone is dealing with their own challenges.

Where responding is dealing with the immediate, recovery is about putting things back to, or even better than, what they were before. Based on the lessons you have learned from going through the response phase, recovery can include rebuilding with mitigation in mind. In the disaster field, this is when homes are built further back from a water source, or up on stilts. Learning from what has happened feeds into each step of the cycle – leading to better ways to avoid or deal with now-known risks and a better ability to deal with them if they recur.

The important point here is to learn something from what happened and then make informed decisions. Just like putting your hand on a hot stove teaches you not to do that again, sometimes we learn from disasters that we should not repeat behavior. Unfortunately, things like 100 year floods seem to happen a lot more often nowadays, and you have likely seen news reports where homes get flooded, rebuilt, and then flooded again. While technically they recovered from the first instance, I don’t think you can say they learned the right lesson. I admit that is judgment from afar which is not a good trait, but it can be hard to be sympathetic for people who seem to repeat mistakes over and over. I sure hope no one is judging me though!!

If you can deal with a problem though and learn from it, you are truly recovering. Life is a series of lessons if only we pay attention.

The mind, once stretched to a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether the recovery is from a true disaster like a fire, flood, or tornado – or more likely one of the unpleasant things that can happen in a life – part of this step involves mental recovery. That often includes dealing with loss or pain. This is a time to acknowledge your feelings, to rely on others, and to find strength through the process of recovery. We have all certainly seen people who lost their homes in a natural disaster but say something like “that can all be replaced; I am glad we are all still alive.” You don't have to wait to lose something though to focus on what is most important.

Whatever your situation, whatever you may have lost, you still have an opportunity to rebuild, recover, and move forward. This is the heart of resilience -- getting stronger, learning from mistakes and mishaps and disasters, and taking on each day knowing it may be wonderful or challenging or a mix.

"It's not about how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up."

I started this series because I think there are similarities in the emergency preparedness cycle and the kind of resilience that can help us as individuals deal with challenges in our lives. I will return to this topic in the future.

Next up I am going to start sharing some of the things that I see come up repeatedly as I coach others.

Glad to be back blogging -- Tom

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