Recovery is the most complicated, lengthier, expensive and least appreciated phase of emergency management. Some recoveries can take years, and communities will never be able to go back to normal levels. In fact, it is not realistic to create a false image that things will go back to “normal”. Long-term recovery also has a toll on the people in charge of the process. Experiences across the country include cities with administrators and staff who have a difficult time handling the external pressures. After the floods of 2015, some cities in North and South Carolina saw half of their department heads resign in a three-year span, and a turnover of three to four City Managers in the same time period.
As recommended by FEMA’s “Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Guide for Local Governments (February, 2017)”, a Recovery Plan helps avoid confusion and improvisation. Having a plan in place improves capabilities prior to a disaster by helping city governments to:
- Establish clear leadership roles, including the Mayor’s office, City Council, and City Manager’s office, for more decisive and early leadership.
- Improve public confidence in leadership through early, ongoing, and consistent communication of short- and long-term priorities.
- Avoid the often difficult, ad hoc process of post-disaster discovery of new roles, resources, and roadblocks.
- Gain support from whole-community partnerships necessary to support individuals, businesses, and organizations.
- Improve stakeholder and disaster survivor involvement after the disaster through a definition of outreach resources and two-way communication methods the city and key organizations will employ.
- Maximize Federal, State, private-sector, and nongovernmental dollars through early and more defined local priorities and post-disaster planning activity.
- Provide for more rapid and effective access to Federal and State resources through better understanding of funding resources and requirements ahead of time.
- Enable local leadership to bring to bear all capability and more easily identify gaps through a coordination structure and defined roles.
- Better leverage and apply limited State and nongovernment resources when there is no Federal disaster declaration.
- Maximize opportunities to build resilience and risk reduction into all aspects of rebuilding.
- Speed identification of local recovery needs and resources and ultimately reduce costs and disruption that result from chaotic, ad hoc, or inefficient allocation of resources.
- Improve capability and continuity through pre identification of when, where, and how the local government will employ and seek support for post-disaster planning, city operations, recovery management, and technical assistance.
- Proactively confront recovery and redevelopment policy choices in the deliberative and less contentious predisaster environment.
- Improve the ability to interface with State and Federal Recovery Support Function structure.
A pre-disaster recovery plan provides a local-level framework for leading, operating, organizing, and managing resources for post-disaster recovery activities. The plan can then be used to implement the post-disaster recovery process and carry out post-disaster planning and management of recovery activities, such as restoring housing, rebuilding government facilities, schools, child care services, recovering businesses, identifying resources for rebuilding projects, returning social stability, and coordinating other community planning processes. By working in advance to develop an understanding of needs and vulnerabilities, identify leaders, form partnerships, establish resources, and reach consensus on goals and policies, the community will be prepared to begin recovery immediately rather than struggle through a planning process in the wake of a disaster.
Media & Emergency Management Specialist