The Dr. Lucy Jones Center, in partnership with the North Valley Community Foundation and with support from Wells Fargo, convened a series of “recovery to resilience” meetings across California in the beginning of May. With the goals of identifying and reducing risk, building community resilience, and increasing connections across disciplines, seismologist Lucy Jones, social scientists Susan Cutter (University of South Carolina) and Alex Greer (SUNY Albany), and fire ecologist Alexandra Syphard (Conservation Biology Institute) met with community leaders and recovery collaborative groups in Paradise, Berry Creek, Greenville, and Ventura, CA. The program ended with a panel at Caltech for policymakers in Southern California, sharing recovery insights from Northern California having recently experienced the devastation of the Camp, Bear (North Complex), and Dixie fires.
Jovanni Tricerri, vice president for programs at NVCF, emphasized the importance of activating science and building interjurisdictional collaboration in his interview with the Chico based newspaper, the Enterprise-Record:
“With this trip, in Greenville and Paradise and Berry Creek, there was an excitement and eagerness to be in relationship with scientists who are looking at the data and translating that into some practical solutions…That’s what’s different about this group and this project. We’re trying to bridge the science and the recovery. The recovery process informs the science and the science informs the recovery process.”
Initial findings from these meetings revealed that building resilient communities starts with building relationships, disaster recovery is difficult, and it is the responsibility of community leaders and decision makers to support those most vulnerable in our communities.
In her interview with the Enterprise-Record, Dr. Jones reflected on the importance of relationships for building community resilience:
“We came here as a partnership with the North Valley Community Foundation and we had been working here for quite a while with all these people…And we were going through a process really of sharing our research results that might be useful here but also hearing about their experiences. The biggest takeaway for me would be how much the relationships between people matter, which is not surprising, it’s actually a big research result…It can take time, and the amount of time it takes to really form those connections can also affect the time it takes to recover….But it was clear in both Paradise and up in Greenville how much it’s affecting them, their ability to work together.”
In many of these communities, we saw people whose path to recovery was complicated by the government programs that were intended to help them, stretching their capacity and slowing their ability to recover. A more coherent process to support communities during disaster recovery is needed because the speed of recovery is closely tied to the success of recovery. As disasters become more common, this speed will be even more key to keep a community together. Moreover, the current recovery process is re-traumatizing to victims: they are first traumatized by the disaster and then again by the recovery. The disaster itself reduces flexibility and capacity at the same time that people are being asked to do more: more paperwork, more requests, more hurrying, more waiting just at the time that they have less capacity to do more of anything because of the disaster in the first place.
Disasters, including wildfires, are interjurisdictional, and this series of interaction will set the framework for what could become a statewide alliance to leverage federal funding, collaborate with and connect different sectors in the state, and institutionalize lessons-learned.
Read the full Enterprise-Record article, “Building a Bridge Between Science and Recovery”: https://www.chicoer.com/2023/05/23/building-a-bridge-between-science-and-recovery/
Read the NVCF newsletter on our series: https://mailchi.mp/nvcf.org/nvcf-digest-our-monthly-newsletter-4284040
Read the Ventura County Community Foundation recap of our meeting: https://vccf.org/vccf-hosts-dr-lucy-jones-event/
Learn how to support the small businesses in your community: https://drlucyjonescenter.org/news/recovery-to-resilience-guide/