We’ve seen it play out over and over again in cities across the world: a disaster occurs, like a tornado, hurricane, or flood, and we witness members of that community rally around each other. Neighbors take in people who’ve lost their homes, businesses provide meals, and some even risk their own lives to save those of others. Stories and videos shared on social media provide a bright spot in the middle of tragedy.
Government organizations and processes play a vital role in making sure a community is further supported by ensuring procedures are put into place before, during, and after a disaster that will help the community recover and rebuild.
Our everyday decisions are governed by processes and routines that assist us in identifying the problem, determining strategies to resolve the problem, evaluating those alternatives, choosing the best one, and then implementing the resolution. These procedures and routines are carried out by organizations that offer consistency, commitment, and confidence in the decision-making process.
After a disaster, these processes and routines may be disrupted or may not be set up to adequately handle the litany of complex post-disaster recovery issues. A defined and shared pre-disaster process for managing disaster recovery activities, along with coordinating with local, regional, state and federal partners, is paramount to community recovery success.
Unlike the tactical incident strategies that are paramount to managing information and resources during the response phase, community disaster recovery is an organic and inductive process. It should foster community unity and an open autonomy that promotes effective decision-making that benefits the majority.
A united community will have a number of both short and long-term benefits.
Committed and structured governance would result in a rational system for efficient and effective long-term community recovery. A defined and open decision-making process will provide organizational legitimacy and improve the quality of decisions being made. Decisions will be made in a timely manner and based on a well-informed organization and public. Independent decisions may appear quick and easy, but often they meet public resistance causing increased cost and project implementation delays, if not project termination.
A committed and structured long-term community recovery structure will prevent uninformed and unilateral decisions and provide an open forum to discuss potential regulatory and budgetary challenges to implementing a project. The organization, as well as the public, take ownership in the decision and ultimately increase the ease of implementing the project.
When these elements come together, a community can recover from a disaster more efficiently and in a way that benefits the community as a whole.
Community Disaster Recovery Success Series: The Importance of Organizational Networks and Outreach and Coordination
The effectiveness of a community’s response and its ability to spearhead recovery after a disaster is often confounded by a number of factors. The severity and impacts of the event, past disaster experiences, organizational capability and capacity, and the social capital of the affected individuals and groups all factor into how a community is able to respond.
Successful community disaster recovery operations reinforce the importance of FEMA’s ‘Whole Community Approach’ and must leverage all of the resources of the community, from government to businesses to its citizens. In addition, outreach and coordination between all players should be a top priority.
Many organizations and networks are involved in the community recovery process. But the emergency management and public safety professional is still an integral component of community recovery operations. By understanding the potential impacts and possible cascading effects of different disaster types, the emergency management community can proactively identify community organizational networks that will have vital roles and responsibilities, identify organizational gaps in key recovery issues, identify strategies to build organizational capacity where needed, and incorporate these community organizational networks into the broader community recovery strategy.
A successful community recovery strategy must also consider methods and mechanisms to engage the public in important recovery decision-making processes. In a post-disaster environment, social trust in government becomes a symbolic token to a community, can extend the period of a united community, and facilitates an effective community recovery decision-making process that is supported by an established governance structure and an open decision-making process that involves the community.
The result will be a more effective recovery strategy that:
A successful public engagement is not simply measured by the number of public forums or the number of attendees. Instead, it is a more organic strategy that involves the pre-disaster engagement of key organizational networks (identified in step 2) to understand their collective roles and responsibilities in the community recovery strategy. In a post-disaster environment, the objective of the outreach and coordination strategy should be to influence key community organizations and community leaders to generate a momentum for sustained long-term community recovery that is inclusive of the community and void of individual agendas.
This post-disaster objective should be aligned with a public participation strategy that creates a new direct link between the public and the community and governmental decision makers, ensuring that those who make decisions that affect the lives of others enter into dialogue with those affected before making those decisions. Successful public outreach must provide opportunity for interested public and affected stakeholders to participate and voice opposition, support, perspectives, and opinions as the community recovery process evolves.
The inclusion of the community and emergency management professionals into future community recovery planning efforts will result in more informed community stakeholders and the reinforcement of the emergency manager’s coordination role during all phases of emergency management, including community disaster recovery. Understanding these orbits of organizational networks and their community reach will be an important element of the coordination strategy and involving these critical partners in the decision-making process.
Federal disaster recovery and reimbursement is a complex process. Past disaster recovery operations have demonstrated the need for disaster grant management systems to easily and effectively manage and track the disaster recovery funds that a community receives.
For this reason, ISC has developed a web-based tool to manage data and track the grant management process. The Odysseus™|Grant Management Tool (GMT) is a feature of the Odysseus™ Enterprise Management System, which is revolutionizing how the industry is managing its comprehensive emergency management programs. Odysseus™ is a cloud-based system that offers a suite of tools and systems designed and dedicated to the efficient management of comprehensive disaster and emergency management programs. Odysseus™ utilizes a suite of applications to promote increased participation, collaboration, transparency, and compliance—including our Grant Management Tool.
GMT provides users with a ready-to-use or customized grant management system that allows the organization to track, administer, and report grant funding. GMT serves as a centralized location to collaborate on projects and automates workflow to increase efficiency. Personalized dashboards highlight pending tasks and can help gauge the overall progress of the disaster and funding. This database is customizable to meet our clients’ needs and can easily integrate with a web-based application to increase accuracy in data reporting as well as transparency and compliance across your organization.
Here are just a few features of the Odysseus GMT.
GMT can be integrated into current client processes and systems to help drive workload, track performance, monitor funding queues, create reports, monitor compliance, and audit requirements. Personalized dashboards highlight pending tasks and can help gauge the overall progress of the disaster and funding. This database is customizable to meet our clients’ needs and can easily integrate with a web-based application to increase accuracy in data reporting.
ISC’s Disaster Grant Management Tool has been integrated into our Odysseus™ Planning and Program Management System, providing a comprehensive platform to manage preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation/resiliency activities across a shared and integrated system. For more information or to schedule a free demo, visit www.odysseus-solutions.com.
The United States is currently in the midst of its annual spring flood season, and as such, jurisdictions around the country have been ramping up efforts to improve their response capabilities to this threat.
While the impact thus far in 2020 has been down compared to last year, the National Weather Service states that the chance of riverine is still 10% to 30% higher than average. By the agency’s estimation, over 128 million Americans will see some level of flooding throughout the spring. Of these individuals, 1.2 million, primarily located in the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains, have an elevated risk of experiencing “major” flooding.
Flooding is oftentimes an underrated risk throughout the United States. However, it accounts for over 100 deaths and $50 billion in damages each year. The American Rivers Foundation has stated that the following areas are at the highest risk of flooding:
Integrated Solutions Consulting has been supporting flood response and recovery operations since 2006, working to ensure that jurisdictions across the nation have the resources necessary to support their residents. In 2019, ISC worked to respond to flooding throughout the Midwest region, including the introduction of drone and 3D imagery to track and inspect flood levels and damage.
Utilizing this technology in Alton, Illinois, ISC was able to track the Mississippi River flood levels as they rose and fell along the downtown Alton riverfront and levees. ISC is proud to offer this service to jurisdictions across the nation, as it can be utilized to help document and track infrastructure damages for Public Assistance reimbursement.
If you have any questions or would like to see this technology implemented in your area, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hospitals need to increase capacity through temporary medical care facilities and alternate housing needs to be identified to shelter the displaced. By all accounts we are in the preliminary stage of the outbreak and it is predicted that the worst is yet to come.
No one person or entity can combat this crisis. Although the United States is still in the acceleration pandemic stage, our government has taken a proactive step in releasing trillions of dollars to support our Nation, to include measures to respond and recover to COVID-19.
Under the President’s March 13 emergency declaration, and subsequent major disaster declarations, state, local, tribal, and territorial government entities and certain private non-profit (PNP) organizations are eligible to apply for public assistance, increasing federal support to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Eligible emergency protective measures taken to respond to the COVID-19 emergency at the direction or guidance of public health officials may be reimbursed under the PA program.
Due to the complexity of federal disaster reimbursement and the burden it places on entities, ISC has developed a Grants Management Tool to help track disaster grants and gauge the progress of recovery across FEMA, HHS, CDC, and other federal disaster assistance funding sources.
For more information, visit our COVID-19 Innovation & Resources page to access Recovery Fact Sheets and see how FEMA may be of assistance to you and your organization.
Lauren serves as the Director of Controls & Quality for ISC and led a team of architects in the development of ISC’s Odysseus™ | Grant Management Tool (GMT). Lauren Martin has over a decade of emergency management experience and has supported the response and recovery efforts for some of our nation's most catastrophic events. She possess intimate programmatic knowledge in Federal disaster assistance programs, which has enabled her in past disaster operations to successfully represent clients and negotiate with key officials on controversial issues.
In the world of disasters, you are always learning something new. Vital to me when analyzing the potential impacts of a disaster, is understanding a disaster impact as not an isolated event but an event that exists in a complex system that will have multiple triggers and multiple short- and long-term effects. The more I can learn about the complexity of a disaster, the better I can assist communities in developing mitigation actions. Coastal flooding is a very complex disaster that has and will continue to be studied. Lakeshore flooding is an understudied topic. Unlike coastal flooding from a sea, lake water is freshwater. Freshwater makes up only 3% of the water in the world and is utilized for drinking water. While freshwater can be extracted from the ground and through desalination and reverse osmosis saltwater can be converted to freshwater, conserving fresh water is essential to sustaining life. Freshwater flooding onto land is attributed to both higher water levels and increased storms. While higher lake levels would suggest an increase in available freshwater, the evidence also demonstrates that higher water levels significantly increase flooding and erosion. Like coastal flooding and runoff from a storm, lakeshore flooding can contaminate lake water (e.g., non-point source pollution).
The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater body in the world, and lake levels have always fluctuated. The NOAA Storm Event database indicates that from 1996 to 2019, 206 lakeshore flood events have been recorded in the United States. In total, these events caused $104,024,000 in property damage with 110 of the 206 events reporting property damage. 136 of the 206 events were recorded in 2019. Lakeshore flooding is not the only disaster associated with a lake. There is also seiche, which is defined as a standing wave in an enclosed body of water caused by high winds and changes in atmospheric pressure, and a meteotsunami, which is a sizeable propagating wave caused by a moving atmospheric disturbance.
While the science behind each of these hazards is essential, so are the impacts on the environment and community that live near and depend on the Great Lake. Analyzing hazards requires a methodologically sound consequence analysis. When I develop formulas for a consequence analysis, I go back to the notion that disasters are not isolated events, and each community is unique. As the growing number of recorded lakeshore flooding events suggests, understanding the complexity of lake-related hazards is a necessity. As a consultant, I know I cannot eliminate lake-related disasters. Still, I do have the responsibility to support my clients in understanding the complex nature of these disasters, potential impacts on the community for future disasters, and assessing preparedness levels for these disasters.
Betsy is a consultant for ISC, specializing in hazard mitigation, resiliency, and climate action planning for clients across the Nation. As a native and life-long resident of coastal Louisiana, Betsy Lopez is driven to support communities meet the current and future challenges associated with climate change while retaining and supporting the various cultures and uniqueness of each community. Her interdisciplinary work spans the fields of social service, environment science, art, and disaster mitigation, which allows Ms. Lopez to connect with the community to identify root causes followed by tailored adaptation solutions.
to do actual repairs, restoration, replacement, and mitigation measures would be well under way. In this situation, however, very few permanent works projects have begun after over two years and the disaster recovery specialists are feeling the pressure to get things going.
Why? That is the multi-billion-dollar question. And the answer, to a large extent, is a lack of documented processes. You see, there are some common threads that have run through all national level disaster recovery efforts through the years:
The solution. Utilizing the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) process, the analysis revealed a severe lack of documented processes. Through analyzing the processes currently in place (Define, Measure and Analyze), we find ways to Improve and document the processes. Here’s how documenting the processes impacts the recovery operation:
Using this world-renowned Six Sigma process improvement methodology, we can quickly bring any problem under control and improve any process. We’ll continue to discuss process improvement in this series, and hopefully you’ll find these tips useful in your everyday work.
Tim is a Disaster Planning and Recovery operations and technology innovator for Integrated Solutions Consulting. He recently supported Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria disaster recovery operations in developing and implementing operational improvements with FEMA's Public Assistance Program and the processing of billions of dollars in disaster recovery projects.
The importance of a school in a community and the vitality it offers to the community’s recovery efforts cannot be overestimated. Research has taught us that second only to family, school is the most important stabilizing force in the lives of young people and a community.
School systems are a socializing agent that affects all of the community's residents, regardless if they have children in the school system or not. A community's school educates its children, provides employment, is a demonstration of its morality and values, guides the next generation of residents, and can often be an indicator of a community's resilience and strength.
After a natural disaster such as a tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake, there are many decisions communities may need to consider based on the extent of damage and needs of the community. Of course, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program will pay to repair or rebuild a school damaged by a disaster to its pre-existing condition and capacity. However, when the damage is extensive, there will be pressure to get schools opened as quickly as possible. FEMA’s Public Assistance Program will also pay for temporary facilities and to temporary relocate schools.
In past disasters, partially damaged schools have used modular trailers to add additional classrooms as the repairs commence. Completely destroyed schools have temporarily relocated to vacant department stores while the school is rebuilt.
On May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado struck the town of Joplin, Missouri, causing extensive damage, including the destruction of Joplin High School.
The temporary use of facilities is a great way for communities to get children back in school while also giving community leaders time to evaluate their current and future educational needs. FEMA’s Alternative and Improved Project options, as well as the Section 428 Alternative Procedures, gives communities opportunities to rebuild for the future.
We look forward to continuing our Community Disaster Recovery Success Series!
As the profession continues to evolve in the new decade, our ability to reflect on the past allows us to see the path forward. In November 2019, ISC leadership held a summit to do just that; take time to reflect on our business and industry over the past twenty years so that we may progress and move forward into the decade to come.
Let’s take a few minutes to have an honest reflection of the industry we serve…
September 11th was a changing moment for the country, our industry, and many of us in the profession. The event highlighted our risk to the homeland, the necessity to invest in preparedness, and the recognition to prepare for unnatural disasters. More importantly, 9/11 was the catalyst for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the realignment of FEMA, and the growth of the industry. The event also stimulated a massive amount of funding. However, in retrospect this period also highlights that we, as a profession, could have been better stewards of these fiscal investments and to build a foundation for preparing the future. On the flip side, the insurgence of funding spurred the rebirth of the profession through academic programs offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in the vocation.
A few years later, we got a not-so-subtle reminder with Hurricane Katrina and the other 2004/2005 hurricane events, that we must not disregard the power of Mother Nature and the necessity to prepare for all hazards. Hurricane Katrina also reminded us that all disasters are local and that politics in disaster are not only a reality but can negatively influence our ability to manage the event. Despite the opportunity to learn from Katrina, Hurricane Sandy was yet another reminder of the vulnerabilities that exist to our social and built environments. Most importantly, Hurricane Sandy was a reminder that despite the huge investments, we are still behind in preparing our communities for disaster.
Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy also served as sparks for the first of many legislative movements to improve the profession and disaster recovery. The Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2007 and the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2012 that followed six years later, serve as just a couple samples of many legislative attempts to help fix what’s wrong. These attempts to fix what’s wrong and developing programs to improve what we are doing also serve as examples of what all too often plagues the discipline. Our profession has too often relied on the wet-noodle approach (throw it on the wall and see if it sticks) to make decisions, improvements, and enhancements. However, over the past several years we have seen a growing appreciation of evidence-based research and how the application of scientific methods can inform decisions and actions. These investments in research will also help to build our scientific knowledge base and serve as a foundation to further the profession and build its integrity.
Over the past two decades we also saw the exponential growth of existing and new threats. From active shooter events to wildfires to public health emergencies, our communities have had to adapt to new hazard threats. For example, from 2000 to 2018 more than 2,500 people have been killed in the US from 277 active shooter incidents as defined by the FBI. Similarly, we also saw an exponential growth in wildfires and in 2017 and 2018 alone and over 18 million acres burned resulting in over $44 billion in insured and uninsured loss. Additionally, we witnessed several devastating public health outbreaks with the 2009 H1N1, the 2014 Ebola, and the growing threat of the Zika virus. These are just a few of the countless number of examples of why the industry must continue to evolve and adapt to address emerging threats and the effects of climate change.
The second decade closed out with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and yet another reminder of our communities’ vulnerabilities and an honest test of our industry’s true capacity to effectively manage multiple simultaneous large disasters. There were also several examples of how the integrity and credibility of the profession is severely damaged when misappropriated with waste, fraud, unlawful violations, and mismanagement. The end of the decade also highlighted the necessity for the profession to uphold a high-level of ethics and professionalism and hold those that violate this accountable.
We at ISC have learned a lot over the past two decades from our clients and partners and we are excited to leverage this in the decade to come. We have seen ISC grow and adapt to the changing markets, and are excited to realign our services, talents and innovations to best meet our client needs and the markets we serve. We have also been very proud to lead in the industry in the application of evidence-based research to create new strategies and innovations, as well as maintaining a high standard of ethics and integrity with our customers, partners, and industry stakeholders.
We are excited to tackle the challenges and develop solutions as we embark into a new decade.