Supporting Resilience and Recovery in the Community

Mass violence shatters the community as well as individual lives. Healing happens eventually but things are never the same again. Good leadership can prepare and guide residents in restoring faith in the future and each other.

The impact of mass violence ripples outward to …

  • Direct victims and survivors
  • Families, friends and loved ones
  • First responders
  • The local community
  • Larger communities of the nation and the world

These victims can be characterized as primary, secondary and tertiary.

The community itself is a co-victim of violence in that many social bonds may be ended through the death or injury of a family member, co-worker, or service provider. Businesses, schools, or community centers may be forever changed. Honoring and rebuilding that sense of community is vital to recovery.

Organizations and Businesses

Tragedy can also affect organizations.

  • Leaders may be absent and employees may not be able to return to work right away.
  • Services may be delayed or not restored.
  • Employees, service populations and communities are also affected.
Sign in a storefront that reads, ''Sorry we’re closed''

Interpersonal Community

Mass violence incidents can fracture our sense of interpersonal community.

  • Mistrust, suspicion and anger may invade formerly diverse yet friendly neighborhoods.
  • Ask yourself: How would your community bounce back from a mass violence incident?

What is Community Resilience?

Community resilience is the sustained ability of the community to use available local and governmental resources to restore and even improve their town or city. Resilience is about surviving and thriving, regardless of the challenge.

Social Ties

Social connections and relationships are a critical aspect of resilience.

  • Neighbors and nearby strangers who are closest to victims are often the first people to help, before first responders and family members can arrive.
  • People in tight knit communities are more likely to volunteer to help each other.
  • Communities having strong social bonds are able to withstand disasters better and recover faster.
  • Strong social ties directly correspond to lower death rates, better mental health, and more stable and active communities post-disaster.
  • Families, neighbors, local business people, and members of social groups help each other in the immediate crisis as well as in the months and years it takes for the community to recover.

Community Leaders

Community leaders can cultivate the crucial social bonds that contribute to cooperative action.

Take positive action to:

Involve community organizations in planning activities and include existing services as the foundation of emergency response.

Develop and maintain formal or informal institutions that bring people together

Cultivate strong social bonds that provide a greater sense of belonging, which translates into a greater helpful response on the part of citizens.

All Hands on Deck

All social, economic, and governmental organizations are needed. This includes:

  • Businesses
  • Civic and volunteer groups
  • Faith-based organizations
  • First responders
  • Hospitals, health clinics and other health agencies
  • Local government agencies
  • Mental health providers
  • Nonprofit agencies
  • Private citizens
  • Public health departments
  • Schools and universities

Lesson Learned

Strong and resilient communities are better equipped to recover from a mass violence incident. Think about who you’d rely on if you were in need, and who would need help from you. We can all be first responders. The importance of building community resilience has never been greater.

Resources on Community Resilience

PrepTalks: Social Capital in Disaster Mitigation and Recovery

In this FEMA Prep Talk, Dr. Daniel Aldrich explains how social ties are the critical aspect of resilience in immediate survival, mental health and community recovery.


Community Conversations and Other Efforts to Strengthen Police-Community Relations in 49 Cities

A compilation of the steps that mayors in 49 cities in 30 states have taken to build community trust and keep people safe by involving their peers, law enforcement officials, the faith community, civil rights leaders and activists.


Boston Community Policing and Community Engagement

The Boston Police Department’s model of community policing includes extensive community engagement to build trust, connecting youth and families in need to services and supports.


Resiliency after Violence

In the wake of the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Harvard School of Education offers resources for to help educators and parents begin to build resilience in their families and school.


Building Resilient Communities:

This self-guided online training from the Rand Corporation shows organizations and communities how to strengthen their resilience through videos, articles and specific action lists.


Community Resilience Toolkits

This tool kit provides tips, games and information for involving non-governmental agencies, community members and teens in building community resilience.


RAND Community Resilience Portal

Here you can find resilience-building activities to integrate the non-profit and for-profit sectors in public health and emergency preparedness and the development of economic recovery programs.


Tips for Newly Elected Officials (Media Relations)


Articles on Community Resilience


Measuring Capacities for Community Resilience


American Behavioral Scientist

Social Capital and Community Resilience


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