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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
New report looks at Linn, Cedar Rapids response, recovery from derecho
City, county plan ‘community conversation’ at two-year mark of disaster
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County and Cedar Rapids are planning a “community conversation” about resiliency and disaster recovery to mark the two-year anniversary of the devastating derecho that hit Iowa on Aug. 10, 2020.
Details on that event will be released once they are finalized.
The conversation will follow the release of the Community Resilience Project’s final report put together by the Collective Clarity consulting firm, which aimed to capture “critical learning” from the derecho and improve the recovery process after a disaster.
One of the most significant barriers, the report stated, is “the limited bandwidth of staff across jurisdictions and institutions.”
“The 2020 derecho was a complex, multijurisdictional event, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, that highlighted the need for new capabilities and more robust communication and information sharing,” the report stated.
It also pointed to the need for strong partnerships beyond the initial response to a disaster and into recovery, noting, “Events tested and stretched capabilities not previously required at this scope and intensity.”
The report stated follow-up reports from communities hit by the derecho noted similar themes, including the need for more training, drilling, communication, connection, assessment and planning.
Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker said the report “was groundbreaking in many ways, particularly surrounding the meaningful commitments made by major stakeholders, including Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids among others, in an effort to prioritize resilience and disaster recovery in our community.”
He said the process to compile the report “was far-reaching and inclusive and highlights our commitment to broad community engagement. I am proud of the end product and look forward to seeing the realization of these recommendations, which will strengthen our community through resilience and sustainability efforts.”
The report noted smaller communities had no experience handling a natural disaster the size of the derecho.
Cedar Rapids, because of its “size and visibility,” tended to attract more resources and attention even though “the scope of the need” was likely the same in the smaller communities.
“Small jurisdictions found that their bare-bones disaster plans were either too limited or too out of date to be useful,” the report stated. “They need living plans that stay fresh and relevant and tools that work in an all-hands-on-deck situation.”
The report found the elderly and those with health conditions were among the highly vulnerable populations and that the pandemic increased that vulnerability.
The report recommended creating a position that would plan and coordinate disaster recovery. It also recommended enhancing pre-disaster recovery planning by sharing resources; and making better use of existing resources by integrating plans, data, experts and communication.
Various jurisdictions have made “short-term commitments” toward improving the response to and recovery from natural disasters, the report stated. Among those commitments:
• Cedar Rapids will assist with coordinating emergency response drills and share mapping tools.
• It will develop recovery workshops for smaller communities with the East Central Iowa Council of Governments.
• The city will present the Neighborhood Prepare, Act, Communicate, Train (PACT) emergency preparedness program and work with Linn County’s Emergency Management Agency to identify threats and hazards and to assess risks.
• Linn County will develop best practices, with an emphasis on marginalized and vulnerable communities, to identify sustainable solutions, cultivate ways to reach residents, participate in emergency response drills, and assist smaller communities in developing strategies to handle natural disasters.
The full report can be read on the county and city websites.
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