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Daniel J. Alesch, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor BCLC Forum: Next Steps for Improving Local, State, and National Disaster Recovery Strategies January, 2009 Boca Raton, Florida State government has an extremely important role in community disaster mitigation, response, and recovery. Some states are much more prepared to perform their role than others. Major disaster relief donors want assurance that their aid will make a lasting difference. The BCLC asked us for our help in identifying the “top ten” policies every state should have in place to facilitate recovery. No fair just sitting in our offices thinking about what might be our favorite “top ten”. The conclusions would have to flow from what has been learned from field research in real disasters in real communities and real recovery efforts from across America and from abroad. Since 1995, doing on-site disaster research in a dozen states from ocean to ocean and north to south. Studied more than two dozen communities that suffered one or more extreme events. Seen almost every kind of natural hazard event. Made repeated visits to each of them over the years. Conducted hundreds of interviews with victims, officials, community leaders, and observers. Premise: it is not the extreme event that is the disaster; the disaster is when bad consequences follow the event. To know how to intervene to facilitate community recovery, we have to understand recovery processes. But, to understand recovery processes, we have to understand how extreme events result in community disasters. Initial effects on the community depend on: The event itself Exposure of the parts of the community Vulnerability of the exposed parts. Housing Damaged or Destroyed Business and Industrial Property Damaged or Destroyed Extreme Event of Structures and Significant Natural Areas Magnitude, Exposed and Public Infrastructure Duration, and Vulnerable Damaged or Destroyed Proximity People Injured or Killed Livestock and Crops Damaged or Destroyed Natural Ecosystems Damaged or Destroyed Figure 1. Illustrative Direct Consequences of an Extreme Event, Given Highly Exposed and Vulnerable Structures. It is messy, costly, and inconvenient, and painful, but Given sufficient resources, it can be rebuilt and continue to operate. The real disaster comes when adverse consequences cascade through the community and the community system itself suffers major damage. Housing Damaged or Emotional and Destroyed Psychological Problems Migration From the Area Business and Industrial Property Damaged or Changed Local Market Destroyed Demand Public Infrastructure Extensive Losses of Damaged or Destroyed Uninsured Assets Business Closures and People Injured or Loss of Employment Killed Reduction in Local Government Revenues Livestock and Crops Damaged or Destroyed Increased Costs to Local Government Natural Ecosystems Increased Risk of Damaged or Destroyed Subsequent Events Figure 2. Consequences That May Cascade From Immediate Consequences of an Extreme Event Recovery is never guaranteed. The more initial damage, the more likely there will be cascading consequences. The more cascading consequences, the more difficult recovery is. Thus, the very best way to “recover” is not to suffer a disaster. Or, only suffer a mini-disaster. It makes sense to make communities more disaster-resistant But, we can never be entirely disaster-resistant , so response and recovery are essential. Those two conclusions essentially define the breadth of the States’ roles in helping with community recovery. REDUCE EXPOSURE TO EXTREME EVENTS. REDUCE VULNERABILITY TO EXTREME EVENTS PROTECT PEOPLE DURING THE EMERGENCY PERIOD ENSURE ADEQUATE INSURANCE PROTECTION HELP ALL AFFECTED LOCAL GOVERNMENT CONINUE OPERATIONS PROVIDE STAFF SUPPORT AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE EXPEDITE PERMITTING AND LICENSING LOOK ACROSS THE LOCAL BOUNDARIES TO MAP OUT REGIONAL RECOVERY “SEED” LOCAL RECOVERY WITH TIMELY REPAIRS AND INVESTMENTS HELP BUILD RESISTANCE AND RESILIENCY INTO THE COMMUNITY
"Slide 1 - Disaster Recovery Resources"