Community Disaster Recovery Success Series Coordinating and Supporting Recovery Functions and Assessing Community Impact
The severity and impacts of a disaster, as well as the disaster-experience, capability, capacity, and perspective of the affected individuals and groups, will have profound effect in how recovery is defined and activities are prioritized. Similar to other operational phases of emergency management (i.e., preparedness, response, and mitigation), recovery does not exist within a defined boundary of activities or timeframe. Recovery is a complex process in which pre-disaster emergency management practices, community cultures, and bureaucratic systems can have profound influence on the recovery process.
There is not a defined transition from response to recovery, and therefore the most daunting challenges faced during response such as debris removal, sheltering/temporary housing, and restoration of critical lifeline infrastructures often carry over into disaster recovery operations. In essence, the ability to effectively manage and deliver vital short-term needs and to understand the challenges of recovery prior to the event have a direct effect on communities’ ability to focus on broader sustained long-term recovery objectives and influence long-term recovery decisions.
There are litanies of disaster recovery activities that will be led or supported by various community organizations. Identifying these disaster recovery actions and aligning them to local organizations that have the capabilities, capacities, and resources before the disaster will elevate a community’s resiliency and help expedite a successful recovery process.
One of the most immediate, and critical, operational needs for community disaster recovery is the timely and accurate assessment of post-disaster community needs that is incorporated into community recovery strategy. A timely impact analysis and accurate needs assessment sets the operational tempo for the long-term community recovery. It also provides the necessary intelligence about the severity of the impacts to local, regional, state and federal partners.
A community's impact assessment process should be comprised of three stages:
1) community impact profiles
2) community cross-sector impact analysis
3) impact assessment and analysis.
This information will be used not only to justify the necessity of a disaster declaration and initiating your disaster recovery strategies, but it will also provide an operational framework in which disaster management leadership and local community stakeholders are afforded a visionary perspective of potential disaster recovery issues. Most importantly, these assessments provide communities with a strategic perspective that extends beyond tactical operations of delivering immediate community needs and provides a framework for the management of sustained long-term recovery operations.
There has been growing attention on the importance of thoroughly understanding pre-disaster vulnerabilities and their association with understanding potential disaster impacts. Evidence has demonstrated that large-scale hazard events exacerbate the preexisting conditions of a community. This finding provides clarity that a community’s threat and hazard risks are a function not only of a community’s core capabilities and potential hazard impacts but also provides support that consideration must be made to evaluate the community’s pre-disaster conditions that either heighten or reduce its vulnerability to disaster.
When disasters happen, they have a cascading impact on a community and its residents, essential services, and critical assets. Understanding the ways a community is vulnerable before the disaster can assist in coordinating support functions and conducting a timely and accurate assessment of community hazard impacts.