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.