Building Assets for the Rural Future
Prepare for Natural Disasters
Prepare for Natural Disasters
North Carolina is no stranger to the economic devastation that results from natural disasters. Disasters punish local economies with the destruction of homes, businesses, and infrastructure, and irreplaceable community assets can be lost when historic structures are damaged or destroyed. Rural communities may be particularly vulnerable, as they tend to be more isolated from resources for preparation, survival, and recovery. Low-income neighborhoods are often located in areas that are more vulnerable to disasters, such as floodplains, and residents on the economic margin have fewer resources to prepare for and recover from disasters. Low-income communities and residents in the U.S. Southeast are particularly at risk. Clusters of counties on the coast of Virginia and North Carolina are among the most vulnerable areas in the United States due to a combination of the coast’s physical characteristics and large populations in poverty.
Disaster planning typically does not reach rural residents on the economic margin, so there is a tremendous opportunity to make strides in asset preservation by expanding planning efforts to these groups. Preparedness takes many forms, including land use planning, funding for disaster preparation, and expansion of disaster insurance programs, but it begins by engaging community stakeholders in the process of disaster planning.
How the Tactic Is Applied
Conduct Disaster Planning with Populations on the Economic Margin
MDC, Inc. (North Carolina)
North Carolina-based MDC, Inc. worked in rural communities across the Southeast United States to incorporate low-income and minority populations in the disaster planning process for their communities. The effort was the result of a partnership between FEMA, local government officials, nonprofit organizations, and community groups in the selected communities. Community leaders, under the coaching of MDC staff, conducted door-to-door surveys, held community meetings, and brought residents and emergency management specialists together to identify barriers to disaster preparedness and to develop tailored response plans based on best practice research. As a result, participating communities developed local awareness campaigns and established citizen emergency councils. Additionally, they installed emergency infrastructure such as storage facilities for supplies, and they prepared vulnerability maps that identified at-risk areas and structures.
On the Internet
Before the Storm: MDC’s Emergency Preparedness Demonstration Connects Socially Vulnerable Communities With Help
 WRAL.com, Count down N.C.'s five most destructive hurricanes (July 31, 2008), http://www.wral.com/weather/hurricanes/story/3311088/ (last visited May 13, 2010).
 State Historic Preservation Office, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Hurricane Floyd Damage to Historic Structures (Nov. 15, 1999), available at http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/floyd1.htm (last visited May 13, 2010).
 Paul Sundet & Joanne Mermelstein, Predictors of Rural Community Survival After Natural Disaster: Implications for Social Work Practice, in Research on Social Work and Disasters 57, 58 (Calvin L. Streeter and Susan A. Murty eds., 1996)
 Betty Hearn Morrow, Identifying and Mapping Community Vulnerability, 23 Disasters 1, 3-4 (1999). See also Krishna S. Vatsa, Risk, Vulnerability, and Asset-Based Approach to Disaster Risk Management, 24 Internat’l J. Soc. and Soc. Pol’y 1, 14 (2004) (“Whereas upper and middle income-groups are vulnerable to the ‘event,’ the lower classes share both the ‘event’ and ‘consequence’ vulnerability.”)
 See Oxfam America, Exposed: Social Vulnerability and Climate Change in the US Southeast 14 (2009), available at http://www.oxfamamerica.org/static/oa3/files/Exposed-Social-Vulnerability-and-Climate-Change-in-the-US-Southeast.pdf (describing Southeastern rural counties as being areas of “extreme risk” for potential disaster and “climate impacts”); Morrow, above note 4, at 3-4. North Carolina’s eastern counties are at particularly high risk for disasters both in terms of physical vulnerability and social vulnerability. Bryan J. Boruff, Christopher Emrich, and Susan L. Cutter, Erosion Hazard Vulnerability of US Coastal Counties, 21 J. Coastal Res. 932, 936 (2005) (indicating that high risk counties are clustered in North Carolina and Virginia both because of the physical characteristics of the land and because of the higher percentages of residents living in poverty and minority populations).
 Bryan J. Boruff, Christopher Emrich, & Susan L. Cutter, Erosion Hazard Vulnerability of US Coastal Counties, 21 J. Coastal Res. 932, 936 (2005) (indicating that high risk counties are clustered in North Carolina and Virginia both because of the physical characteristics of the land and because of the higher percentages of minorities, female-headed households, and residents living in poverty).
 Morrow, above note 4, at 4; Sundet & Mermelstein, above note 3, at 65.
 MDC, Inc., Before the Storm: MDC’s Emergency Preparedness Demonstration Connects Socially Vulnerable Communities With Help (2009), available at http://www.mdcinc.org/sites/default/files/resources/Before%20the%20Storm_0.pdf
 Interview with John Cooper, Program Director, MDC, Inc. (Oct. 29, 2009).
 See MDC, Inc., above note 8.