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Preserving Cultural Value in Resilience

Why practice Values-Based Emergency Management (#VBEM) or Values-Based Risk Management?

Consider this truly remarkable graph illustrating annual child traffic fatalities by day of the year.

We can't tackle the problem of the spike on this graph without seriously considering how those things we value as individuals and as societies dictate what we are willing to do to manage a risk.

By failing to consider values, the obvious solution is to end the behavior that leads to so many traffic deaths on day of the spike - namely, Halloween 'trick-or-treating'.

But how many parents would actually prohibit their kids from celebrating this cultural tradition? Maybe 1-2%? The other 98% will perceive the risk to be no different than any other day, and in fact it is most likely more a matter of increased exposure (more kids on the street) than of increased hazard consequence (i.e., the per-kid risk is the same as any other day).

Whatever the intervention, it needs to preserve value - in this case the ability to practice a cultural tradition. Options are thus assessed first and foremost on how they impact that highest-value factor, and only secondarily how they affect other things (e.g., ease of transportation, cost, difficulty).

While living in Hawaii, our community effectively managed this risk by completely limiting car traffic in a large neighborhood that has only two major traffic entrances. Police cruisers are posted at each entrance to ensure no cars come in or out, effectively enforcing the policy.

The result is that thousands of people from throughout the town come to this neighborhood to enjoy the safe space it offers. And it actually ADDS value in that it becomes a safe holiday atmosphere like nothing I've seen elsewhere. To address the increased burden of 'candy cost' for homeowners in that neighborhood, the community collects candy donations and provides them to households that need it.

Value is preserved (and increased), risk is managed, and kids (and parents) are happy!

(Graph source: Akhtar, Muizz. 2022. Forget Tainted Candy: The Scariest Thing on Halloween is Parked in Your Driveway. VOX. October 31.


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