Community recovery is often described as a journey rather than a destination. People affected by emergencies will often experience high and low emotional states throughout the recovery process.
Fluctuating moods, energy and ability to take control of their circumstances influence their understanding of the recovery tasks and their capacity to plan and undertake what is required. Morale and energy rise as they start to resume a self-reliant and independent life and dip as anxiety and stress are retriggered by practical setbacks and lingering grief.
The four-phase pathway to recovery that many people might travel is:
- reacting to the emergency
- coming to terms with what’s occurred
- restoration of some of life’s normalities, and
- re-establishment of life post the event.
People will not necessarily move through these stages at the same pace. For many, the process will be a challenging, uncertain and frustrating one that is neither reliable nor quick. For some recovery might take several years – or might never be fully attained. For these reasons, community recovery needs to be flexible, responsive and long-term.
When thinking about community recovery, it is useful to consider three distinct types of communities:
- communities of place (e.g. townships, regions)
- communities of interest (e.g. small business, tourism, primary industry, religion, cultural groups, recreational pursuits), and
- communities of impact (people who have been affected by an emergency but may not live in the same place or share any other characteristics).