OVERVIEW – Planners and Disaster Recovery

Overview – Planners and Disaster Recovery As described in a separate post at this website, APA is requested to assist its Louisiana Chapter in recovery.  Viewers are asked to comment […]

Overview – Planners and Disaster Recovery

As described in a separate post at this website, APA is requested to assist its Louisiana Chapter in recovery.  Viewers are asked to comment on what our HMDR Division should do in conjunction with APA to be of benefit to Louisiana and other states currently dealing with disasters.  APA is guided by its research and that of others.  This knowledge of disasters and mitigation is embodied in reports of APA’s Planning Advisory Service, particularly PAS 576 and PAS 560.  Listed below are factors that affect recovery planning.  This list will be augmented and revised based on comments received.

  1. Any initiatives of HMDR must be collaborative with APA management and the Hazards Planning Center in particular.
  2. APA typically offers guidebooks and a variety of information resources to states and communities dealing with disaster recovery. Assistance is offered in the form of workshops, seminars, webinars – and occasionally deployment of on-site volunteer teams.  Hazard mitigation is a necessary companion to any recovery strategy.
  3. In some disasters APA has arranged Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) projects to bring volunteer planners into a post-disaster situation for short-term help to develop recovery recommendations. Two recent examples are Lyons, CO, and Franklin, TN.
  4. HMDR is currently organizing a free webinar about disaster recovery, with special invitations to representatives of affected communities in Louisiana and those in other states now dealing with disasters.
  5. Due to its history of prior disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana has special expertise and experience of planning departments, other agencies and consulting firms in preparing plans for recovery, administering grants and developing long-term protection strategies.
  6. The lists of HMDR members and friends include employees of state and federal agencies with official responsibilities in circumstances similar to Louisiana, and other states affected by recent disasters. It will be helpful to draw upon this base of knowledge and talent.
  7. Evidence suggests there is no substitute for a disaster impacted community undertaking preparation of a recovery plan, one that is tailored to specific needs and opportunities in the affected area and its population. Synergy with pre-disaster community initiatives and revitalization programs is essential, including socioeconomic objectives of workforce development, employment and services, recognizing the importance of persistent, long-term attention to community needs.
  8. Recovery funding is a complex matter, posing special challenges in scheduling projects of capital investments and program enhancements. APA recommends preparation of a detailed recovery plan (see PAS 576) as a means to organize diverse initiatives and optimize outcomes for the community, its residents and businesses.  This is the business case for managing recovery wisely but there is often post-disaster pressure to rebuild quickly and reluctance to wait for a planning process to be completed.
  9. Effective recovery planning necessitates integration of multiple policy documents such as the comprehensive plan, hazard mitigation plan, community development action plans, area studies, neighborhood revitalization plans and capital improvement programs. (see PAS 576 and PAS 560, both of which include case studies)
  10. APA, aided by the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawaii, has produced a video about a comprehensive approach to recovery in Cedar Rapids, IA, after an unprecedented flood. See https://youtu.be/qFb4gF8a4ds
  11. Universities contribute substantially to disaster recovery policy development. Louisiana State University operates a sustainability studio. The University of New Orleans has the Center for Hazards Assessment, Response & Technology (CHART).  Tulane University researchers have studied recovery and mitigation policy extensively.  Nationally, many universities have similar endeavors and faculty members are active in publications such as the Journal of APA (JAPA) fall 2014 issue devoted entirely to disaster recovery.
  12. Planning for recovery depends entirely on the nature of the disaster and the nature of the affected area. Recently Ellicott City, MD, was hit by an unprecedented flood.  Damage was extreme but it occurred in a small area of a large metropolitan county, 300,000 population.  Not all disasters are declared eligible for federal assistance, determined by a formula that includes statewide population.
  13. Community leaders may or may not feel they have sufficient resources to pay for preparation of a recovery plan. If Congress appropriates special funds via HUD’s Community Development Block Grant, it usually includes both a mandate for planning and the money to pay for it.  FEMA often funds infrastructure repair projects and mitigation projects to protect against future disasters but typically allows those funds to be used only for project design, not planning.
  14. Mitigation against future floods is especially complicated. Choices involve structural solutions versus land use policy, plus mandates for elevating vulnerable buildings, all accompanied by highly technical issues of predicting future floods.  In unprecedented events such as the recent storms in Louisiana, most affected properties are not covered by flood insurance, so financial burdens are heavy.

Do you agree with this overview?  Is there something you would add or modify?  Please comment below.