Answer these two questions and write at least two paragraphs for each question.1. What role does community and economic development play in recovery?2. Recovery is an essential part of disaster management. However, it is not well supported. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Provide your thoughts on this topic and substantiate your opinion.
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Disasters wreak havoc on the living, on built structures, and on the environment, but preparedness
and mitigation reduce vulnerability to disasters, and response minimizes the loss of life and property.
However, even with the best mitigation, preparedness, and response, there will almost always be some
level of environmental damage, destruction of property and infrastructure, disruptions of social and economic systems, and other physical and psychological health consequences. The process by which all of
these are rebuilt, reconstructed, repaired, and returned to a functional condition is called recovery.
This chapter explains what the recovery function is and what actions are taken to fulfill the
recovery needs of communities affected by disasters.
Overview of Recovery
Disaster recovery is the emergency management function by which countries, communities, families,
and individuals repair, reconstruct, or regain what has been lost as result of a disaster and, ideally,
reduce the risk of similar catastrophe in the future. In a comprehensive emergency management system, which includes pre-disaster planning, mitigation, and preparedness actions, recovery actions
may begin as early as during the planning processes and activities, long before a disaster occurs. Once
the disaster strikes, planned and unplanned recovery actions are implemented and may extend for
weeks, months, or even years.
The actions associated with disaster recovery are the most diverse of all the disaster management
functions. The range of individuals, organizations, and groups that are involved is also greater than in
any other function (although these participants are much more loosely affiliated than in other disaster
management functions). Because of the spectacular nature of disaster events and because disaster consequences affect so many peoples lives, recovery generates the greatest amount of interest and attention from the world community as a whole. In relation to the other disaster management functions, it
is by far the most costly. Disaster recovery is also the least studied and least organized of all of the disaster management functions, and therefore the most haphazardly performed.
The most visible activity associated with the recovery function manifests at about the same time
that formal emergency response measures are declared complete. Having taken the appropriate actions
to save as many lives possible and having limited any further damage to the environment and to property, communities must face the long process to regain what was lost. But, as this chapter shows,
recovery involves much more than simply replacing what once existed. It is a complex process, closely
INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT
intertwined with the other three phases of emergency management, and requires great amounts of
planning, coordination, and funding.
Actions and activities commonly performed in the recovery period of a disaster include:
Ongoing communication with the public
Provision of temporary housing or long-term shelter
Assessment of damages and needs
Demolition of damaged structures
Clearance, removal, and disposal of debris
Rehabilitation of infrastructure
Inspection of damaged structures
Repair of damaged structures
Social rehabilitation programs
Creation of employment opportunities
Reimbursement for property losses
Rehabilitation of the injured
Reassessment of hazard risk
The Effects of Disasters on Society
Disasters disrupt society in many ways. Most people are familiar with disaster statistics that relate to
people killed and injured, buildings damaged and destroyed, and the monetary values of property loss.
News media focus on images of destroyed homes, flooded streets, and downed trees, among other
physical manifestations of the disaster. However, disaster consequences have a much greater effect
on victims overall quality of life than these statistics, pictures, and videos can show. This is because
communities develop sociocultural mechanisms that allow them to function, and the countless individual components of these systems steadily become dependent on each other. Thus, the loss of any one
component may affect many others.
When minor incidents occur in which people are killed or injured, buildings or infrastructure are
destroyed, and lifelines are cut, components of society can break down on a small scale, but the community is likely to have the capacity to contain the loss and withstand any greater impact. During disasters, however, these damaging effects are spread across a much greater geographical range, affecting
more people, more structures, more industries, and many more interconnected societal components.
The secondary effects affect not only the disaster area but also can extend far beyond the actual physical range of the disaster and result in much wider logistical and economic impacts.
Examples of disaster consequences that disrupt the community and reduce the quality of life of
individuals in that community include:
A reduced ability to move or travel due to damaged or destroyed transportation infrastructure
Interrupted educational opportunities due to damages to schools, loss or injury of teachers,
student injuries, or inability to attend school because of added pressures of recovery
Chapter 7 Recovery
Loss of cultural heritage, religious facilities, and communal resources
Economic losses due to the loss of customers, employees, facilities, inventory, or utilities
Communications difficulties due to infrastructure damage or loss
Homelessness caused by housing and property losses
Hunger and starvation due to breaks in the food supply chain that cause shortages and price
Unemployment due to job cuts, damage to place of work, or conflicting recovery needs (loss of
day care services, for instance)
Loss of community tax base
Environmental loss, damage, and pollution
The primary goal of the recovery process is to reverse these damaging effects and, in doing so,
restore victims lives. Clearly, this is a monumental task.
Pre-disaster Recovery Actions
Like response, recovery is a process that is performed within a time-constrained setting and on which
victims lives directly depend. To be performed well, recovery and response require special skills,
equipment, resources, and personnel. Unlike response, however, disaster planning very rarely includes
disaster recovery operations.
The recovery period follows the emergency phase of a disaster and is one in which confusion is
likely to reign. There may be people displaced from their homes, business owners anxious to resume
operations, and government offices that must restart service provision, among other pressures. As
described in the following sections, to ensure that overall vulnerability is reduced, rebuilding without
considering the disasters effects as well as any new hazards is unwise and irresponsible. Unfortunately,
decisions are often made with little or no planning or analysis, and opportunities for improvement can
In the planning process, described in previous chapters, disaster managers identify hazards, analyze risk, and determine ways to reduce those risks. In doing so, they gain a much greater understanding about how each of those hazards would affect the community if one were to strike. This
information can be effective if used to plan the communitys recovery from a disaster.
Pre-disaster planningsometimes referred to as Pre-Event Planning for Post-Event Recovery
(PEPPER)can reduce the risk of haphazard rebuilding. Although nobody can predict exactly how
a disaster will affect a community, many processes are common to all disaster types (e.g., hurricanes),
and they may be identified and studied in advance. Many decisions will have long-term repercussions
and, as such, are better made in the relaxed, rational environment that only exists before the disaster
Examples of recovery decisions that may be made before a disaster include:
The site selection for long-term temporary housing (which is often maintained for a period much
longer than originally expected)
The site selection for temporary business activity
The site selection for the disposal of debris
INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Contractors from around the country that could be called upon to assist in infrastructure and
housing repair and reconstruction
Coordination mechanisms, including leadership, membership, and information sharing
Volunteer and donations management
Mitigation measures and other hazard reduction actions that may be too expensive or unfeasible
before a disaster, but may be more opportune if existing structures were damaged or destroyed
(such as relocating power lines underground)
It has been postulated that disaster recovery based upon pre-disaster planning is much more
organized, is more likely to result in community improvement, and is more likely to result in a reduction of future disaster losses. Because nobody knows for sure exactly how and where the disaster consequences will manifest themselves, recovery plans are hypothetical, focusing more on broad goals and
ideals than on specific actions and procedures. For instance, they may include Reduce vulnerability to
electrical transmission wires or Revise building codes to address new seismicity estimates. During
much of the actual recovery period, many decisions will require split-second action, with little or no
time for analysis. A plan outlining overarching goals and objectives can help guide those decisions.
Decisions made without considering these goals can drastically limit opportunities to rebuild the community to be more resilient and disaster resistant.
Through the hazard identification and analysis process, communities that have performed adequate hazards risk planning will have determined what consequences they should expect to occur.
Using this information, they will have created a mitigation plan outlining the possible options for disaster risk reduction. In the post-disaster recovery period, when many decisions are made about construction and repair of structures, zoning of land, and new development, this mitigation plan can be
used to ensure that proper action is taken to minimize risk. For example, if the community had
explored strengthening building codes, those codes would be likely to pass in light of the recent disaster, and all new construction could be required to follow the new codes. Planners may find that many
of the measures deemed unfundable or impossible before the disaster are now perfectly acceptable.
Short- and Long-Term Recovery
Recovery can be divided into two distinct phases, each with very different activities: short-term and
long-term. The specific conditions and consequences surrounding the disaster aftermath, the capabilities of the affected government(s), and the capabilities and resources of the participating agencies
all determine how quickly recovery can transition from the short- to the long-term phase.
The short-term recovery phase immediately follows the hazard event, beginning while emergency
response operations are ongoing. Short-term recovery activities seek to stabilize the lives of the
affected people in order to prepare them for the long road toward rebuilding their lives. These actions,
which are often considered response actions or termed relief, include the provision of temporary
housing, distribution of emergency food and water, restoration of critical infrastructure, and clearance
(but not removal or disposal) of debris. Short-term recovery actions tend to be temporary and often do
not directly contribute to the communitys actual long-term development. Short-term recovery operations also tend to be guided by response plans and are often uncoordinated.
Long-term recovery, on the other hand, does not begin in earnest until after the emergency phase
of the disaster has ended. In long-term recovery, the community or country begins to rebuild and
Chapter 7 Recovery
rehabilitate. For major disasters, it lasts for years. The economic renewal of a community or country
may take even longer, making a return to pre-disaster conditions a challenge. In many cases, the community will need to be reinvented, accommodating the new information about the disaster while maintaining as much of its original culture and pre-disaster composure as possible. The greatest
opportunities for projects addressing vulnerability reduction are possible during long-term recovery.
More funding is dedicated to recovery than to any other emergency management phase (for a given
disaster), and more players from all sectors are involved. Long-term recovery operations thus require
a significant amount of coordination and planning if they are to be successful.
Components of RecoveryWhat Is Needed, and Where Does It
The long-lasting period of recovery following major disasters requires a tremendous supply of
resources. Each resource category is dependent on the others, and thus a short supply of one resource
could impact the others. Over time and with experience, the recovery function has become more
practiced, more systematic, and better able to work toward the goal of setting the affected population
back upon their own two feet, although that goal may not always be reached.
The following section details the general components of disaster response.
Although pre-disaster planning is logical, relatively easy to perform, and costs very little, most
communities will likely have done little or nothing to directly prepare for recovery after a disaster.
Post-disaster planning, as it is called, while entirely necessary, is performed in a much different
environment from pre-disaster planningone that is less favorable to success. Disaster managers in
California addressing the aftermath of an earthquake described the differences between pre- and
post-disaster recovery planning as follows:
After a disaster, planning for rebuilding is a high-speed version of normal planning, as well as a
dynamic cyclical process. Local communities faced with disaster recovery will not have the
luxury of following normal procedures for development review and approval.
After a disaster, planning for rebuilding is more sharply focused. This is not the time to begin a
regional planning process.
After a disaster, planning for rebuilding is more realistic. Planners must avoid raising false
expectations by unrealistic planning schemes and, instead, strive to build public consensus
behind appropriate redevelopment approaches. Comprehensive evaluation of funding sources
for implementation is essential. (Spangle & Associates, 1991)
Most important when planning for recovery from a disaster is that as little construction or other
action that could affect the long-term sustainability of the community is performed before being considered by the planning process. Several options can assist disaster managers with this, such as
imposing a moratorium on new construction. However, the public and business owners place a lot
of pressure on disaster managers and politicians to rebuild as quickly as possible. Demands will
increase as victims grow impatient with temporary relief provisions (shelter, food, etc.) and businesses
INTRODUCTION TO INTERNATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT
begin to fail. Recovery organizations add to this stress because of their workers needs and donors
expectations to initiate and complete their projects as soon as possible. Without rapid and proper coordination mechanisms, many projects will begin on their own, irrespective of any central plans drawn
to guide the recovery.
Several different activities may (and should) be initiated during the planning period. Many of
these activities will already have begun due to their interconnectedness with response, such as the
repair and recovery of critical infrastructure, the site selection for temporary housing, medical facilities
and hospitals, the resumption of education, and the clearance of debris. William Spangle, author of
several texts on post-disaster recovery, described two lessons that planners should consider during
the planning process:
1. Planning and rebuilding can occur simultaneously; some rebuilding takes place before master
plans are completed. Although building moratoria may be appropriate after a disaster,
streamlined decision-making procedures for those land-use questions that can be resolved
quickly might help demonstrate good faith on the part of local officials. As soon as possible,
local officials need to determine areas of the community that can be rebuilt under existing
plans and regulations and provide for rapid processing of permits for repairs and rebuilding in
those areas. In the other, more problematic areas, clear procedures and time schedules for
planning, making decisions, and getting information are needed. In this higher speed version of
normal planning, decisions might be phased so that planning and rebuilding can proceed in
2. Defining urban expansion areas helps. After a disaster, planners usually have the information
needed to plan for urban expansion while avoiding clearly unsafe ground. By quickly defining
such areas, planners can speed up the relocation of people and businesses from heavily damaged
areas that may be a long time in rebuilding. (Spangle & Associates, 1991)
Luckily, even if most disaster managers are facing the post-disaster recovery period without any
recovery plans, they may not need to start from scratch (Patterson, 1999). Existing plans and regulations may be acceptable for many parts of the city, especially where buildings failed because they were
not designed or built to modern codes (as opposed to having failed despite being up to code). Additionally, despite managers best efforts to conduct planning as quickly as possible, some construction is
likely to begin immediately. Existing building and development plans, zoning regulations, and land
use regulations can all help to guide the fragmented groups of players involved.
Coordination during the recovery phase is extremely difficult to achieve, but it is vital to successful
accomplishment of its goals and, more important, in achieving reduced risk. Although a majority of
the actual recovery actions taken are likely to occur at the local level, managed by local officials,
regional or national coordination mechanisms will be required to ensure proper distribution of the
many resources, technical assistance, internal and external financial assistance, and other special programs that will fuel the process. Recovery of major disasters is a patchwork of local level efforts feeding from and guided by larger, centralized resources.
The success of post-disaster recovery coordination depends on planners ability to achieve wide
representation within the coordination structure. For the recovery plans to address the communitys
Chapter 7 Recovery
demographic and sociocultural needs and preferences, all representative community groups must be
involved including businesses, religious and civil society organizations, emergency managers, representatives from various government agencies, public advocacy groups, and the media. There may be considerable interaction between local and regional or national levels throughout the recovery process as
well, so inclusion of these outside groups is vital. By involving all of these stakeholders, a highly
organized recovery operation is possible that ensures lessons learned, best practices, and efficiency
of labor are maximized. In the absence of full coordination and communications, recovery assistance
likely will not be able to meet the needs at the local level (Patterson, 1999).
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