Volume 18 Issue 1, 2003

Communities and their Experience of Emergencies

Mark Sullivan

Peer-reviewed Article

Archived Article


When the Great Flood of 1993 impacted the North American Midwest, it was said that the heartland rediscovered its heart (Guillory, 1996). Midwesterners united to bring the community back from its knees and collectively engaged in the long process of recovery. On the other side of the World, in 1998, the East Gippsland region on Victoria in Southeastern Australia was also impacted by flood. However, a report prepared by the Victorian Department of Natural Resources (DNRE), et al. (1999) suggests that the residents of East Gippsland showed less evidence of the united and self-sustained approach to recovery exemplified by the American Midwesterners in 1993. These two examples serve to highlight the difference in the ways that communities can react to emergencies, particularly in terms of recovery. Indeed, the very nature of what comprises a community and its pre-emergency functioning can have significant implications in terms of the predicted reaction of communities to emergencies. Accordingly, in order to gain a realistic understanding of communities’ experiences of emergencies and their recovery from emergencies, it is important to agree upon what it is that actually defines a community. Moreover, such a definition of communities should be along lines of a number of criteria. Not only would this form the basis of categorising communities but could serve as the basis of a description of the interaction between emergencies and communities. This paper will provide such a description. To this end, a working definition of community is explored, along with a number of defining criteria. From there, the experience of emergencies in terms of recovery, and from the perspective of communities, is explored and described.