GEOG 858
Spatial Data Science for Emergency Management

Recovering from Disasters


Stages of Disaster Recovery

Recovery is a difficult process and involves the coordination of a range of actors with different levels of decision-making power and resources. This is illustrated by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) which seeks to address and find a way to operate given this complexity:

The National Disaster Recovery Framework is a guide that enables effective recovery support to disaster-impacted States, Tribes, Territorial and local jurisdictions. It provides a flexible structure that enables disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. It also focuses on how best to restore, redevelop and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural and environmental fabric of the community and build a more resilient Nation.

The framework document includes some nice visualizations of disaster recovery as a process that plays out over time (and space!). Take a moment to consider this diagram and the listed examples of activities in the short, intermediate, and long term. Who are some of the actors responsible for undertaking these activities? Where do spatial data and analysis come in?

stages of Disaster Recovery. See link in caption for details
Stages of Disaster Recovery described in the FEMA National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF)

Click here to see a text description.

Stages of Disaster Recovery described in the FEMA 

This image shows that Preparedness happens before the disaster. Once the disaster hits, short-term recovery commences, followed by intermediate and long-term recovery. This is not a strictly linear progression as one phase begins before the previous one's end. See the lists below for examples.

Preparedness (Pre-disaster Preparedness) is ongoing. Some examples include:
  • Pre-disaster recovery planning
  • Mitigation planning and implementation
  • Community capacity and resilience building
  • Conducting disaster preparedness exercises
  • Partnership building
  • Articulating protocols in disaster plans for services to meet the emotional and health care needs of adults and children
Short-Term Recovery (days after the disaster)
  • Mass Care/Sheltering: Provide accessible interim housing solutions
  • Debris: Clear primary transportation routes
  • Business
    • Establish temporary or interim infrastructure to support business re-openings
    • Reestablish cash flow
  • Emotional/Psychological: Identify adults and children who benefit from counseling or behavioral health services and begin treatment
  • Public Health and Health Care: Provide emergency and temporary medical care and establish appropriate surveillance protocols
  • Mitigation Activities: Assess and understand risks and vulnerabilities
Intermediate Recovery (weeks to months after the disaster)
  • Housing: Provide accessible interim housing solutions
  • Debris/Infrastructure
    • Initiate debris removal
    • Plan immediate infrastructure repair and restoration
  • Business
    • Support reestablishment of businesses where appropriate
    • Support the establishment of business recovery one-stop centers.
  • Emotional/Psychological: Engage support networks for ongoing care
  • Public Health and Health Care: Ensure continuity of care through temporary facilities
  • Mitigation Activities: Inform community members of opportunities to build back stronger
Long-Term Recovery (months to years after the disaster)
  • Housing: Develop permanent housing solutions
  • Infrastructure: Rebuild infrastructure to meet future community needs
  • Business
    • Implement economic revitalization strategies
    • Facilitate funding to business rebuilding 
  • Emotional/Psychological: Follow-up for ongoing counseling, behavioral health, and case management services
  • Public Health Care and Health Care: Reestablishment of disrupted health care facilities
  • Mitigation Activities: Implement mitigation strategies

Credit: FEMA

The next image, again from FEMA, seeks to illustrate how recovery efforts are related to one another but also play out differently in different contexts. For example, recovery in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria has, in many ways, been a slower process than what has happened over the last year in Texas and Florida. Resources can be stretched thin when so many events occur around the same time (Note that in addition to the hurricanes, there were also major wildfires in the Western USA occurring around the same time in 2017). Moreover, some places never fully recover as they are repeatedly subject to disaster events. We will explore the recovery process in the next section on Hurricane Sandy, and you will also consider a few case studies in later lessons on events in Nepal and Indonesia.

Stages of Disaster Recovery - 2017 USA hurricanes. Key concepts explained in paragraph above.
Disaster Recovery for Select Events in the United States during 2017. Overlapping disasters create unique challenges for recovery efforts.

Black Summer in Australia

The 2019-20 Bushfire season was catastrophic for much of Australia and National Bushfire Recovery Agency was created to coordinate the recovery effort. Take some time to look at this site and think about the range of activities underway and who they are targeted for.