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Tools for Change: Emergency Management for Women

Lynn Orstad, 2001. 8 pp. Presentation to the UN DAW Expert Working Group on gender and disaster. Available through UNDAW:

The paper outlines the rationale for working with and through women’s groups to increase community resilience to disaster and offers a step-by-step guide for developing, training and sustaining neighborhood-based women’s preparedness networks. As described by Orstad: “ The Women’s Neighborhood Team can provide an effective first response capability. Acting as individuals first, ensuring that their family is safe and then later as part of the women’s team, trained women can make life saving differences in a disaster. Trained women can “fan-out” in their neighborhoods, putting out small fires, performing light search and rescue, and rendering basic first aid. As each woman’s neighborhood team is formed, its members select a team leader, and alternate who will work with members and their families to prepare and respond to disasters. The team will identify an emergency meeting location for families to gather to reunite after a disaster.
Women who encounter no need in their immediate area will take on assigned roles based on the overall area need and will assist other women and their families who find themselves in a heavily affected location. The skills must be reinforced through follow-up training and repeated practice in order to ensure an effective response in the face of an emergency or disaster. This training provides valuable networking for women’s groups in the local area.”


Key words: Canada, grassroots, women's groups, preparedness, emergency response, community planning