Strengthening communities at challenging times

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We are all feeling the impact of Covid-19, but some people are at greater risk than others. How can communities identify those who are vulnerable and ensure they get the help they need? Structured guidance on how to do that can provide a lifeline to communities already stretched to their limits.

Few of us were prepared for the current pandemic, but it’s clear that some are more vulnerable than others, whether it be due to their current state of physical or mental health or their social situation. As with any kind of crisis, exactly who is most vulnerable depends on what the crisis entails, but what is certain is that those people need specific kinds of assistance.

Internationally agreed guidance for any organization charged with assisting the more vulnerable members of our community, including governments, associations, emergency services and community groups, can help put in place strategies at a much faster rate, ensuring no one is left behind.

Standards such as ISO 22395, Security and resilience – Community resilience – Guidelines for supporting vulnerable persons in an emergency, are useful as they assist relevant organizations, such as local governments or community groups, in doing just that.

Identifying who is vulnerable and most at risk is the first big challenge, from which suitable strategies can be developed to establish what these people need and prepare them to actually be helped – and help themselves. This could include the types of information they require to reduce their levels of anxiety and be more receptive to the help on offer.

What’s more, effectively assisting vulnerable people is not about giving handouts. The most important thing is being able to see what capacities they currently have and how they can help themselves – not an easy task, but essential when resources are stretched. 

Times like these also call for greater mobilization of volunteers, yet organizing people who have the will, but not necessarily the skills or experience to help, is a challenge in itself. Community resilience is essential in this regard because the potential difference that volunteers can make is enormous. The variety of skills on offer, as well as local knowledge and contacts, is vital when all hands are needed on deck.

Guidance contained in ISO 22319, Security and resilience – Community resilience – Guidelines for planning the involvement of spontaneous volunteers, can aid those organizations involved in coordinating help to manage the process of mobilizing volunteers and integrating them effectively into response activities.

Togetherness is the key to survival in times of crisis and reinforcing the resilience of communities through well-thought-out plans and checklists can make the difference.

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