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Long-term volcanic activity at Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV), Montserrat (1995–ongoing) has created challenges for society and the resilience of the essential services (infrastructure) that support it. This paper explores the consequences, adaptations and resilience of essential services through interviews with their staff. We find that quick fixes for essential service reinstatement in the north of Montserrat have prevailed. Yet, the legacy of this approach inhibits functionality through inadequate facilities and the perception of sites as temporary, stalling investment. Emigration resulted in staff shortages, retraining requirements and challenges for the viability of specialist services. Low-impact hazards exacerbate shortcomings in essential services, causing power cuts, corrosion, and temporary closures of schools, clinics and the airport. Adaptations developed over time include changes to roofing materials, the addition of back-up systems, collaborative working and the development of contingency plans. Resilience of essential services has improved through decentralization, adaptations, and via strong community networks and tolerance of disruptions. Barriers to increasing resilience include the expense of some adaptations and the current reluctance to invest in essential services, hindering development. We offer some lessons for policy and practice to guide post-crisis redevelopment, through engagement with the community and by complementing community-level adaptations with investment to address long-term needs.

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