Media Release – Successful Disaster Recovery Hinges on Community Participation: Frontier Centre study argues centralized planning creates “yellow tape” for first responders

Press Release, Regulation, Frontier Centre

Winnipeg/Toronto– The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released Weathering the Worst-case Scenario. The study explores varying approaches to disaster response and mitigation, demonstrating that organically organized, decentralized groups of communities and individuals are best able to prepare for and rebuild after natural disasters occur. 

“Disaster relief is most successful when government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) communicate with one another and act in a way that does not impede the grassroots efforts that are often the most- effective first responders,” says study author Meredith Lilly, an intern at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Centralized agencies are found to be ill equipped to respond to disasters for a number of reasons. Economically, they are insulated from the hard budget constraints and profit incentives that motivate private enterprise to prepare for the worst to ensure their own survival. Institutionally, their complex networks of decision-making that allow for democratic input in the best of times, stall communication during the worst. “In cases where neighbourhoods fail to mobilize, it is rarely because of complete ignorance. More often, it is resistance to the government’s methods of communication.”

In North America, insufficient aid is rarely an issue of scarce resources. More pressing are problems of distribution and coordination. “For governments, there is no easy way to ensure that funds will be used responsibly once they are dispersed,” so they sit unused. Only local individuals have the requisite knowledge needed to create effective pipelines to those in need.

Lilly cites examples from Canada and the United States to argue that individual action communicated through markets is crucial to allocating people and goods effectively, especially in extreme scenarios. Strong communities, responsive organizations and a clear communication of risk are all essential to facilitating successful disaster recovery.


For more information please contact:

Meredith Lilly



Marco Navarro-Genie

Director of research



A copy of Successful Disaster Recovery Hinges on Community Participation can be downloaded HERE.


About the Author:

Meredith Lilly is an intern at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts degree in political theory at the University of Calgary where she studies totalitarianism and bureaucracy. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts (Hon.) in political science. She has worked as an intern at the Fraser Institute and the Prairie Policy Centre and has supplemented her education with many seminars and colloquiums.