Remember that disasters are not natural

I am eager to share about who we met in Puerto Rico and what we learned, but first, I want to stress that investing in preparedness only makes sense if there is an understanding of how disasters happen. There is no such thing as a “natural disaster.”

Disasters occur when a natural hazard, such as a hurricane, interacts with the physical, economic, environmental or social characteristics that make people and communities vulnerable.

If disasters are not “natural” events that we have no control over but rather result from choices we make as individuals and as a society, it means we can take steps to be better prepared. We learned in Puerto Rico that effective preparedness comes from investing in and, most importantly, trusting local organizations rooted in community and addressing pre-existing vulnerabilities.

Key takeaways and a call to action

What became clear during our time in Puerto Rico is that communities are not waiting for government or outside assistance but instead are actively working to embed preparedness efforts in their operations and programs. Another key takeaway is the critical role that women-led and feminist organizations play in providing services that address underlying vulnerabilities and helping communities prepare for disasters.

With its financial resources, position of power and ability to be flexible, philanthropy is well-positioned to have a tremendous impact in Puerto Rico. Waiting to act until the next hurricane or disaster event is irresponsible and ineffective. National Hurricane Preparedness Week is here, and while awareness is essential, so is action. Again, disasters are not natural, and that means we can do something about them.

Join CDP in providing flexible funding to local organizations in Puerto Rico and trusting them to deliver culturally-appropriate programming that is responsive to priority needs and addresses the drivers of disaster risk. As we learned, and as you can see from the examples shared here, local organizations know how to help communities prepare for disasters and just need your investment and partnership.