The disaster management cycle involves four key phases – mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. The recovery phase begins after the immediate threat of the disaster has passed and focuses on restoring affected communities and rebuilding damaged infrastructure. Effective recovery efforts help communities return to normalcy and prevent future disasters. Some examples of recovery efforts in the disaster management cycle include:
Rebuilding roads, bridges, buildings, power lines, and other critical infrastructure damaged in the disaster is a key recovery task. Local and national governments work with construction companies, utilities providers, and other partners to repair and replace damaged infrastructure. For example, after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico’s power grid in 2017, recovery efforts focused on restoring electricity to the island through rebuilding power plants, substations, and distribution lines.
Providing Temporary Housing
When disasters like floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes destroy homes, temporary housing like shelters, mobile homes, and rental assistance provides interim living arrangements while permanent rebuilding occurs. After wildfires in California destroyed thousands of homes, FEMA provided travel trailers as temporary housing for displaced survivors.
Offering Health Services
Disasters often result in physical injuries, spread of illness, and increased mental stress. Recovery efforts ensure access to health services through temporary clinics, mobile health units, and expanded mental health support. For example, counselors were dispatched to provide mental health aid after the shooting at Virginia Tech University. Public health campaigns about disease prevention are also launched.
Remains of damaged buildings, downed trees, washed up material, and other disaster debris poses safety risks and impedes recovery efforts. Government agencies and debris removal companies work to sort, collect, recycle, and properly dispose of debris. For instance, after Hurricane Katrina over 100 million cubic yards of debris was cleared from Louisiana and Mississippi.
Providing Financial Assistance
Disasters often result in widespread economic losses for families, businesses, and communities. Recovery efforts include financial assistance like unemployment benefits, low interest business loans, and grants that help offset costs of damage repair, lost income, and other expenses. The Japanese government provided $235 billion in bailout funds during the financial crisis caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Holding Local Planning Meetings
Community meetings allow residents, officials, and recovery experts to discuss needs, provide input, and make collaborative decisions about rebuilding efforts. This facilitates community-led planning and helps rebuild in an effective, resilient manner. For example, the Rebuild by Design initiative held local meetings across regions impacted by Hurricane Sandy to develop rebuilding plans.
Launching Public Awareness Campaigns
Public awareness campaigns on disaster recovery resources, health and safety guidance, preparedness tips, and more help communities rebound and get back on their feet. For instance, Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency led the “Esta Pasando” campaign after Hurricane Maria to inform and empower the public during recovery.
Providing Business Assistance
Recovering economies after disasters depends on helping businesses rebuild, reconnect with customers, and cover financial losses. Programs provide low interest loans, marketing support, employee training, tax relief, and other assistance to impacted businesses. For example, the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan program offered over $1.3 billion in assistance after Hurricane Sandy.
Supporting Livelihoods & Employment
Creating employment opportunities and income sources helps affected individuals and families get back on their feet financially. Cash-for-work programs that pay for debris removal or rebuilding work are arranged. Job training, microenterprise grants, and unemployment assistance are also provided. For instance, recovery efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake included cash-for-work clean-up programs.
Getting water, power, sewage, gas and other utilities fully operational again is critical for communities to function after disasters. Utility crews work extended hours to repair, replace, and restore infrastructure like pipelines, transmission lines, and utility poles. For example, after Hurricane Ike over 9,000 crew members worked to restore electricity in Texas within weeks.
Removing Hazardous Waste
Disasters often spread hazardous materials like chemicals, oil, asbestos, and medical waste that require proper disposal. Environmental agencies oversee waste removal to ensure public health. Experts tested air quality, removed hazardous debris, and drained flooded homes containing oil after Hurricane Katrina. Proper waste disposal facilitates a cleaner, safer recovery.
Getting school infrastructure repaired and education restored is vital for both children and broader community recovery. From reopening damaged schools to setting up temporary classrooms, efforts focus on resuming normal education as quickly as possible. For instance, rebuilding schools was a major focus after earthquakes devastated schools in Nepal in 2015.
Reviving Local Economies
Tourism, ports, manufacturing, small businesses, and other drivers of local economies are often impacted after disasters. Marketing campaigns, infrastructure rebuilding, temporary tax incentives, and other initiatives aim to revive economic activity and growth. New Orleans launched the “Comeback” campaign to bring back conventions, events and tourists after Hurricane Katrina.
Detailed assessments by emergency management experts analyze damage, losses, and community needs. This data helps coordinate effective recovery programs and allocate resources most efficiently. Teams conducted house-to-house assessments after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to quantify impact and identify those requiring urgent aid.
Excess floodwater can persist for weeks after events like hurricanes, impacting homes, transport and health. Draining and pumping out floodwater is a first step in recovery. Responders create drainage channels, clear storm drains, and utilize pumps to help dry out flooded areas. After Hurricane Harvey, Houston established Addicks and Barker reservoir spillways to drain floodwaters.
Stabilizing Riverbanks & Landslides
Landslides and erosion along unstable hills and rivers often occur during disasters. Stabilization measures like installing retaining walls, anchors, drainage pipes, and vegetation help prevent further land loss. For example, riverbank stabilization efforts took place after landslides caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Levees, embankments and floodwalls are often breached during disasters, requiring repairs to prevent future flooding. Engineers patch breaches, replace drainage components, and strengthen weak sections through measures like widening bases or adding reinforcement. After levee failures during Hurricane Katrina, the Army Corps reinforced weakened New Orleans levees.
Replanting Trees & Vegetation
Replanting uprooted trees, grasses and natural vegetation helps stabilize soil and recover damaged habitats. Choices emphasize resilient native species. Volunteers often assist in large-scale replanting efforts. Over 5 million trees were replanted to help reforest areas affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Removing Debris From Waterways
Floodwaters often carry excessive debris like downed trees, wrecked structures, vehicles, and waste. Removing this debris prevents downstream accumulation, pollution and flooding. After the 2011 Japan tsunami, “Operation Kizuna” was launched to collect over 3 million tons of marine debris.
Recovering Lost Documents
Recovering damaged property records, birth certificates, insurance policies, bank documents, and other critical paperwork assists individuals in rebuilding lives after disasters. Increased staffing helps process replacements. Records recovery was prioritized after wildfires destroyed thousands of homes and vital records in Fort McMurray, Canada.
Providing Legal Services
Free legal assistance helps disaster survivors file insurance claims, apply for aid, and handle other critical paperwork associated with recovery. Law firms and legal aid groups often provide pro bono services. For example, the State Bar of California offered legal help to survivors after recent wildfires.
Distributing Aid Supplies
Getting food, water, clothing, medical supplies, hygiene items and other aid into affected communities meets urgent needs immediately after disasters. Supply distribution is coordinated through shelters, local churches, trucks, and neighborhood centers. The Red Cross distributed over 100,000 comfort kits with hygiene items after Hurricane Florence.
Blocked roads due to mudslides, debris, downed trees and power lines isolate communities after disasters. Clearing roads through debris removal, tree trimming, and drainage work helps restore transport and emergency access. California relied on inmate fire crews to clear trees and open access after recent wildfires.
Repairing Communication Networks
Downed phone and internet lines limit communications after disasters. Recovery efforts restore communications by repairing and reconnecting cables, wires, towers, broadband networks, radio systems, and other infrastructure. After Hurricane Irma, over 1500 network recovery technicians worked to reconnect Florida’s communications systems.
Recovery efforts aim to help rebuild safer, stronger communities after disasters. From repairing infrastructure to providing health services, financial aid, and community planning assistance, effective recovery facilitates both short and long-term community rebound. Careful coordination across government, businesses and volunteer groups helps optimize the recovery process.