Giving Compass' Take:

• Here are strategies that communities, nonprofits, and businesses can do right now to aid recovery and relief assistance for the Australian fires, and how to understand the future toll natural disasters will have on people. 

• Why should recovery plans include more forward-thinking relief efforts? What do proactive strategies to disaster relief look like?

• Learn more about disaster relief resources for Australia. 

As an Australian, I have watched with anguish as massive bushfires devastated wide swaths of my home country. As a researcher who studies community resilience, I can't help but think of how much blood, sweat, tears and money will be required to recover.

Now the Australian bushfires are consuming communities, flora, and fauna and releasing a smoke plume that is circling the globe. How will the people and places ever recover from such devastation?

We know from previous disaster research what government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and communities can do right now to enhance recovery and resilience.

  • Rally the resources for long-term support. Be prepared for different people to need different types of support and for those needs to change over time.
  • Help displaced people stay connected. The people who most need their social ties to family and friends often have the fewest resources to maintain those networks.
  • Stay flexible during recovery. Be clear about the national, state, and local visions, but also use adaptive management strategies to allow for course corrections as new information comes in or conditions change.
  • Engage local communities. New technologies can be helpful in high-level assessments of damages and needs, but they can't replace human insights. To develop and implement recovery plans that truly meet local needs, those communities have to be engaged from the outset.

To support decisions about where to put resources for maximum benefit, governments and communities need population surveys that are forward-looking rather than reactive. The surveys need to capture people's social, economic, and health experiences over time—before an emergency, through acute disaster phase, and during the extensive recovery.

Read the full article about Australia's fires by Melissa Finucane at RAND.