Elements of local knowledge and practices used to contribute to disaster risk reduction should be listened to and reviewed by disaster managers. These include, for example, citizens’ local environmental knowledge and community memories carried on in stories of dangers and past events.
To integrate local knowledge into disaster management, both scientific and citizens’ local knowledge should be combined for hazard mapping and other disaster risk assessments, including the consultation of affected citizens regarding safe locations.
To aid the process of (re-)constructing a shared sense of place that can both improve disaster preparedness and foster recovery after a disaster has struck, the following should be encouraged: (a) community gatherings to share information about customs and traditions; (b) local events where older community members share stories with the younger generation to help preserve communities’ cultural and social identity; and/or (c) collective identification of local support networks.
Individuals should be encouraged to move from the role of a “common”/passive citizen to that of actor/active citizens in the disaster management process. This can be achieved by drawing on collective memories and re-enacting roles adopted in previous disasters, e.g. in community-based disaster simulations (both physical and virtual).
Town planners should respect pre-disaster local identities when re-designing and re-building disaster-struck localities. Reconstructing a “place” to its prior state can help survivors reconstruct their own sense of it and mitigate or avoid a loss of cultural identity. Preservation of the urban landscape can, thus, be a form of resilience.
Individuals with a strong attachment to place, who may also be more willing to become proactive, should be identified and involved in the recovery process, since their sentiment is likely to foster greater efforts in community revitalisation, general altruism and higher community spirit.
Family values, skills and qualities, e.g. open communication, clear roles and boundaries, the ability to express and respond to feelings and emotions, and collective problem-solving capacities should be called upon and used as a resource to empower individuals and communities in disaster situations.
Re-building community integrity after a disaster is strongly dependent on the sustainable recovery of families, especially in cultures, where the family unit is as important as the individual.
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