Review of “Leading in Disaster Recovery Recovery; A Companion Through the Chaos”

Guest Blogger: Barbara Word

Review of the recent publication titled: Leading in Disaster Recovery; A Companion Through the Chaos by E. McNaughton et al. NZ Red Cross; no date. (42 pp)

I found this guide very refreshing and a reminder to all of us involved in response or recovery, to take heed from the perspective of another country, New Zealand.

New Zealand is a special place for me, since members of my family live there. Being able to visit accorded me a whole different perspective on how we, here in the States, respond and recover from disasters, be it a single family home to large scale disaster.

New Zealanders value their time off and realize that downtime seems to create better productivity and creativity. I know many European nations operate this way as well. I feel the document reflects on how important it is in recognizing our breaking points and that stress and exhaustion lead to poorer performance.

I’ve been involved with the American Red Cross in leadership for 14 years and worked such diverse communities from four hurricanes in FL, Malibu fires (a wealthy area in CA), to the poorest of the poor in Appalachia. Each disaster had its own set of cultural norms to deal with disasters, both large and small.

The authors cover communities and stake holders. We need to know or get to know the affected community and its culture.

What is universal is the look of loss, disbelief and confusion in the eyes of an individual, a government worker and the private sector. At times, finding joy in the smallest thing is encouragement enough. For instance, in walking through the 9th Ward in New Orleans, a woman had been looking in the debris on the curb of what had been the whole of her household belongings. She found a baby picture; framed and in perfect condition of her son as an infant. Tears ran down her face. That picture was more important than any of her furniture.

We need to remember there are small triumphs and not give up, ever!!!

I think this guide covers so many aspects of leadership, and also help to an aspiring volunteer to be able to manage in the most inspiring way. It adds a new perspective to recovery assistance.

In the States we seem to feel we need to follow all the rules and regulations. We sometimes stress our decisions, or what others might think if we don’t follow directions. What we need to do in a disaster is sometimes fly by the seat of our pants. This recovery document supports that. As mentioned in the guide, the important qualities and or guidelines are; a noble purpose, ethics, intention, decision making, perspective, empathy, innovation, support of team, and prioritizing self-care. All of these are explained well in the document. Each topic reminds us in a stimulating way by supporting what most do, but perhaps don’t realize.

Finally, all of the topics were delivered in an interesting way, and in a format that didn’t appear to be a lecture or a motivational speech. It felt like a good friend giving me great advice in a safe environment.


If you have comments or questions, the author can be reached at:

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