RNN Community Spotlight: July 2016

RNN Community Spotlight: Central Shenandoah Valley Region, Virginia

The Resilient Neighbors Network (RNN) is a co-mentoring network that offers ideas and feedback to FEMA and other federal partners on how the federal government can help increase community resilience to natural hazards. The RNN advocates and researches ways that communities can work on grassroots disaster resilience and sustainability.

We talked with RNN community member Rebecca Joyce on how being involved with the RNN community benefits her rural community in Virginia.

What community do you live in? 

Our community is the Central Shenandoah Valley Region which is in western Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains and is made up of 21 local jurisdictions – 5 Counties, 5 Cities, and 11 Towns. We are a rural area with cities that are urban centers.

How does your community embrace disaster risk reduction? 

Our Region has embraced disaster risk reduction out of necessity because we are vulnerable to many types of natural hazards and severe weather. We implement disaster risk reduction through three ways; education and public awareness, hazard mitigation planning, and hazard mitigation projects. We approach disaster risk reduction holistically and understand to create more resilient communities, we need to educate our citizens, plan for ways to reduce our vulnerabilities now and in the future, and implement projects that reduce our risks.

 Why did your community decide to join the RNN? 

The Central Shenandoah Valley Region decided to join the RNN because when we began our hazard mitigation work over twenty years ago, the field was relatively new and we didn’t have other communities that we could contact for assistance or information. As a Region, we were on our own in how we developed our program, gathered resources and knowledge, and implemented projects. We thought the RNN would be a great way to share our experiences and challenges to help other communities starting out with disaster risk reduction. Also, we have learned that this field is very complex and rapidly changing and we thought that we could learn much from the other RNN communities.

Has your community ever suffered from a natural disaster? 

Our Region’s most significant natural hazards are flooding and winter storms but we deal with a variety of natural hazards and severe weather. Our largest flood events have been associated with tropical systems and include Hurricane Camille in 1969, Hurricane Agnes in 1972, Hurricane Juan in 1985, Hurricane Fran in 1996, and Hurricane Isabel in 2003. In the last 5 years we have dealt with several winter storms that have dropped several feet of snow, tornadoes, a derecho, and most recently, a large wildfire in the Shenandoah National Park.

Rocky Mountain Fire Photo by Bob Adamek

Photo of the Rocky Mountain wildfire in April 2016 taken by Bob Adamek

If so, how did your community prepare/recover from it? 

The communities in our Region prepare for disasters through excellent planning such as Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs); Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Plans (HMERPs); and one community even has a Community Wildfire Preparedness Plan (CWPP). As a region, we also have an All Hazards Mitigation Plan that assesses risks and prioritizes mitigation projects. Shenandoah Valley Project Impact is our regional disaster preparedness and mitigation education program that educates on citizens how to protect their families, properties, and businesses. Because our Region is a rural area, the local jurisdictions have to work extremely well together because of limited personnel and resources. But it is the limited personnel and resources that can make recovery from a natural disaster difficult so anything we can do before a natural disaster to educate citizens, prepare communities, and reduce risk is essential.

What has your community learned from being a part of the RNN? 

RNN is truly a collaborative environment where communities can share and learn from each other. We have learned that the variety of locations, sizes, and types of RNN communities is a unique asset because it creates a broad base of knowledge that individual RNN communities can tap into when they need expertise to assist them with challenges they are facing in their individual community. All the RNN communities are always willing to assist fellow communities by providing information and connections to resources whenever they can.

How, in your opinion, can communities benefit from joining the RNN? 

Communities can benefit from joining the RNN because it gives them the chance to connect with peers in communities across the United States that are making strides in Disaster Risk Reduction. By joining the RNN, communities not only have access to the expertise of other RNN communities, they also have the ability to share their experiences and the challenges they face in their hazard mitigation and resiliency efforts. Participation in RNN gives a community access to resources and the opportunity to further the efforts of Disaster Risk Reduction throughout the U.S.

To learn more about the RNN and how it can help your community or to join, please visit our website at: http://resilientneighbors.com/