Past Event

Disasters Roundtable Workshop 34: Integrating Disaster Recovery: What Should Long-Term Disaster Recovery Look Like?

Roundtable Meeting
March 21, 2012

The Pew DC Conference Center, Americas Room, 2nd Floor
901 E Street, NW Washington DC 20004

Recovery from a disaster requires a host of actions to restore the physical, economic and social functions of a community, including the restoration of critical infrastructure; re-establishment of educational, civic and commercial services; and replacement of displaced persons. As such, long-term recovery touches on many sectors including emergency management, public health, housing, mental health and the environment. Currently, many post-disaster recovery efforts take place in silos and lack coordination, with emphasis placed on the physical replacement or repair of the constructed environment. However, collaboration among all areas affected by a disaster is critical for the successful recovery of any community.

To address some of the many issues related to integrated disaster recovery, the Disasters Roundtable held a one day workshop, Integrated Disaster Recovery: What Should Long-Term Disaster Recovery Look Like? to explore strategies to integrate disaster recovery across disciplines, sectors and jurisdictions.

The objectives of this workshop were to address:

1) What is integrated long-term recovery?
2) How is progress of recovery measured?
3) What gaps currently exist that need to be overcome in disaster recovery?
4) How to design and implement an integrative recovery strategy?

The workshop included evidence-based sets of expert presentations and panel discussions to illuminate approaches to integrate disaster recovery to both in-person and video webcast participants.

Questions and topics that were addressed during the workshop included:
(1) What are measures of successful recovery and how does a city gauge progress?
(2) How can the interface of Local, State, and National agencies change to improve recovery?
(3) What are new and innovative data tools and techniques that can be utilized before, during, and/or after a disaster to inform recovery planning, prioritization, and assessment?
(4) What are examples of successful integrated disaster recovery strategies?

Key areas included: housing, education, economics, as well as the environment.

Click here to download the meeting agenda.

Click here to register to view the video webcast of this workshop.

Breakout sessions at the event produced three Powerpoint presentations summarizing their conclusions:

Bottom-Up Group summary slides (PDF)

Top-down Bottom-up Hybrid Group summary slides (PDF)

Top-down Group summary slides (PDF)

Many of the participants in the day's discussions spoke about their presentations and the larger theme of disaster recovery.

Frederick "Skip" Burkle

Although good strategic and tactical planning has existed for decades, there are significant shortcomings and gaps in addressing the needs of the local community under current top-down approaches to recovery. Dr. Burkle emphasizes that the community, including community leaders, must become an essential component of the disaster cycle and suggests the following practices for disaster recovery professionals: (A) to not assume the community lacks expertise; (B) admit uncertainty, act transparently, issue guidance on protection and disseminate information as soon as possible; (C) recognize the myriad of inter-linked community networks; and (D) recognize the capacity of capable, non-expert caregivers and community organizers.

Mary Comerio

Housing recovery is a core component for any disaster recovery effort. For individuals who have lost or experienced damage to their homes, Dr. Comerio explains, knowing what happens next is crucial to decision making. Those affected are not just concerned about their homes, but also their jobs, children’s schools, health care and other services. To make good decisions about the future of their houses, people need: 1) good public information, 2) to know what is happening with other services (i.e. health services, schools, etc.) and 3) to understand how to finance their expenditures--these are all critical to the integration of disaster recovery.

Arrietta Chakos

It is important for communities to be ready for a disaster and to have an understanding of how to recover. Ms. Chakos invites everybody in a community to be responsible for understanding the risk their community faces and to help prepare oneself, one's family and the broader community so that everybody is better able to bounce back from a disaster when it happens.

Craig Van Dyke

There is a need to break down silos in medicine, especially between physical and mental health care. Following a disaster, psychological responses such as feelings of loss and uncertainty about the future are common. Responding to the needs of people that experience these problems, explains Dr. Van Dyke, requires a system of care that is sustainable and scalable. To address these issues, medical professionals are now focusing on a team-based approach to bring mental health services into the primary care system.

Laurie Johnson

Dr. Johnson moderated the workshop session on progress towards recovery, in which panelists at the federal and local levels discussed U.S. efforts towards recovery. Following Katrina, FEMA made advances in recovery with the release of the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), which aims to coordinate recovery activities across multiple federal agencies. Key aspects of the NDRF include the call for local and state officials to assume the primary leadership roles after a disaster and the recognition of the need for recovery coordinators to integrate recovery organizations and professionals into the process. In the aftermath of very large scale disasters, the Housing and Urban Development has an important role in providing additional assistance to states and local communities and filling gaps in assistance that standard federal programs may not cover, particularly in the areas of housing, business and community recovery. Disasters professionals at the local level shared lessons learned from their experiences following earthquakes and severe floods, emphasizing the work that is being implemented to improve the physical environment, improve governance, empower communities and build networks. Local officials also reiterated the importance of developing leadership at the local level and cautioned about the challenges that politics may bring to the recovery process.

Deborah Ingram

The National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) provides a framework for how to manage disaster recovery. While the traditional focus has been on disaster response, which is critical to saving lives and protecting property from further damage, Ms. Ingram emphasizes the importance of recovery to help communities return to a sense of normality as soon as possible.  The NDRF has three key concepts to assist in recovery – pre-disaster and post-disaster recovery planning; developing leadership at all levels; and recovery support functions that help with organizing the recovery process.

Jesse Handforth Kome

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) plays a role in large-scale disasters when Congress appropriates supplemental funding for disaster recovery. Ms. Handforth Kome explains that HUD takes a long-term view of recovery to help communities' position themselves for the future, to not only rebuild but to recover in ways that are sustainable and disaster resilient. To expedite recovery, there is a need to engage in resilience planning in advance, communicate professionally, set public expectations realistically and use metrics to monitor success.

Linda Langston

After a disaster, local officials often face challenges in integrating top down and community based approaches to recovery. To implement successful recovery efforts, Ms. Langston explains, requires a trusting relationship between people at all levels and sectors; ongoing communication between elected and other officials and citizens; and the need for local officials to anticipate disasters. Langston adds that the National Disaster Recovery Framework is a real step forward as a way to map the recovery process, and concludes on the encouraging note that when a good plan is in place, there is a much better opportunity for successful recovery.

Chris Poland

Mr. Poland and The San Francisco Urban Planning and Research Association (SPUR) are working together to help San Francisco become a more resilient city by developing policies that focus on increasing the community’s understanding of what may happen in a disaster and how they should respond. According to Mr. Poland, the goal of a resilient city is to save people, neighborhoods, and their cultural heritage and local economy. A resilient city includes planning before and during the disaster, response and recovery phases. Mr. Poland echoes many others in that he said there is a need to develop a holistic implementation plan that includes public education, governance and mitigation.

Lori Peek

Dr. Peek moderated the workshop session on information needs for disaster recovery, which brought together panelists from several different sectors to discuss the role of information and technology in disaster response and recovery. The panel discussed information needs at different phases of the disaster cycle, focusing on the planning phase before an event – how do you understand and predict what the needs will be; during an event – how do you capture real time information and use it in the immediate aftermath; and after a disaster – how do you assess what worked and use it to prepare for the next time.

Lessly Field

The use of information in recovering lifelines, such as gas, water, electricity, wastewater and telecom utilities, is critical before, during and after a disaster. Ms. Field stresses practices and recommendations for information recovery to improve access of utility workers to disaster sites, opportunities to expand the integration of utilities into state and local operating centers, and forming lifeline recovery councils that plan for the long-term and address recovery far in advance of a disaster occurring.

Ron Eguchi

Mr. Eguchi notes that the recovery process is complex, long and resource intensive, and that it is necessary to focus on how to track, monitor and measure information to better understand how recovery occurs in communities. Little is known about how to systematically measure and evaluate recovery. To help solve this problem, recovery should be broken into different dimensions: the degree of recovery, the quality of recovery, sustainability and the extent of change of recovery over time. If these components can be measured, models can be utilized to make projections about how communities recover and the drivers of recovery can be illuminated so that opportunities to accelerate recovery are identified.

David Abramson

Dr. Abramson focuses on the population impact of long-term recovery, noting "we need a long-term recovery outcome to help us address questions like how do we know the community has healed?" He emphasizes three key messages: 1) values matter, and how populations are affected is a critical part of thinking through how you want a community to recover; 2) a public health framework can be a useful model for disaster recovery when it addresses how social systems and structures affect an individual or population's health; and 3) it is important to measure how people, at the collective, group and individual level, are doing over time. This data can tell you whether or not recovery is occurring, how fast recovery is taking place and whether you are addressing the needs of the population.

Mark Prutsalis

There is a trend in urban population growth and increased concentrations of people in cities vulnerable to disasters, which has lead to the potential for more people to be impacted and large increases in spending on disaster relief and recovery. Disaster professionals now have new opportunities to design more resilient systems to help people recover from disasters. Mr. Prutsalis highlights three 'best practices' from working with disasters such as the Haiti and Sendai earthquakes: 1) building information systems according to known open data standards so that information can be shared between systems following a disaster; 2) the importance of establishing information sharing agreements in advance; and 3) evaluating and integrating public information sources, such as social media, into response plans in advance.

William Seaman 

Dr. Seaman notes some of the consistent themes that have emerged from the discussions between participants at the workshop, including community involvement, communication and the need for integration between top-down approaches at the federal levels with the bottom-up approaches at the individual level.

Brent Woodworth

The primary stakeholders for disaster preparedness - the community and the government – need to engage in collaborative efforts for community preparedness. Mr. Woodworth explains that the top-down approach relies on the government for guidance, while the community-based approach occurs when the community and its residents drive the recovery process. To bring the efforts together requires planning, task assignments and implementation. He suggests the use of a third, neutral party as a way for the two sectors to work in a more unified manner and to facilitate the exchange of information within and between sectors and city government officials. Mr. Woodworth talks about a total collaboration and introduces break through approaches that are being tried to focus on community and national preparedness.

Doug Ahlers

Mr. Ahlers introduces a case management approach to integrate disaster recovery, which is designed to meet the needs of an individual by marrying together top down and community-based approaches. One problem with disaster recovery is that silos can exist between assistance programs, organizations and agencies that provide response and recovery services, and individuals are often left to navigate the maze of programs on their own. In the case management approach, a case manager works with 35 - 40 residents to help disaster stricken individuals get assistance from the government, non-profits and other organizations. The case manager works across all of a household’s requirements rather than focusing specifically on one area of recovery.