Faith and Emergency Management

In today’s society we are all, for the most part, we align with some kind of faith in someway and capacity.

According to the Pew Research Center statistics on religion there are:

Christian70.6%
Non-Christian Faiths (Judaism, Muslim, HIndu, etc.)5.9%
Other Faiths1.5%
Nothing in Particular15.8%
Don’t Know0.6%

I have been thinking about this since I am a growing Orthodox Jew and a Anthropologist. So what can we do as Emergency Managers to help engage faith based communities of all kinds in the emergency preparedness, response, and recovery process.

Check out the January 2018 report by FEMA called Engaging Faith-based and Community Organizations for a good start.

Link: https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1528736429875-8fa08bed9d957cdc324c2b7f6a92903b/Engaging_Faith-based_and_Community_Organizations.pdf

I hope to post a little more about this in the future but the goal of this post just to get people thinking of what we can do on all sides to develop relationships, get out, and build a culture of preparedness.

What are your thoughts on this? What have you done to engage your faith-based organizations in your community? What lessons have you come across that can help others achieve good and open relationships with faith-based community partners?

Social Anthropology and Emergency Management

One concept I want to develop further with emergency management is social anthropology. In social anthropology we begin to understand that anthropology is well social and we are all part of a social tapestry. In emergency management it is no different that as society develops and changes so does emergency management, everything is fluid.

Let us start with one concept in cultural anthropology, participant observation. In this concept, “Anthropologists compare how people live in different societies at different times and places and come up with theories about why people behave in particular ways.” [1] We need to understand that in participant observation the ideas of anthropology can change and fluctuate like everything else. We compare and contrast society with what society is actually doing. In participant observation anthropologist participate in society, develop relationships, and further understand a “alien” society in a practical frame. I believe understanding a society intently means delving into it head first.

Participant observation came about in the 19th and 20th centuries especially by the work of Bronislaw Malinowski who did much fieldwork. Malinowski was born in Krakow Poland and is called the father of social anthropology. His research was ground breaking at the time. In 1914 he did four years of fieldwork in New Guinea. [2]

Bronislaw Malinowski

What does all this have to do with emergency management? Emergency Managers need to be active participants in their respective communities. According the the US Geological Survey the number of cities and towns in the United States equal about 35,000. I know not all but most have a emergency management office or a person designated to handle such. Sometimes I think a member of the community is a better emergency manager then otherwise. I say that not as a knock against the field but because they know the people. In small towns everyplace the person designated to be the emergency manager know the folks by name and already have developed relationships with them. When hiring outside the community it is almost like you are reinventing the wheel. That person has to come in and build trust with in the community. This outside person needs to be a participant observer with the community. She/He needs to develop those relationships and the only way to do it is to get your hands dirty and really be a part of your community.

To finish up just as I said earlier that participant observation is fluid so is emergency management and emergency managers, Sempre Gumby; Always Flexible. I believe that to be true.

So, My question to you all is what have you done to gain trust in your communities? Do you have a person-to-person relationship in your community? What advice can you give to other emergency managers on how to build relationships and gain new perspective within their communities?

Can’t wait to hear you thoughts!

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[1] What is Social Anthropology? (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2019, from https://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/social-anthropology/study/what-is-social-anthropology/

[2] https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1943.45.3.02a00090