Allison G. S. Knox


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

One of the problematic phases of emergency management is the recovery and rebuilding phase after a disaster. For instance, recovery and rebuilding is a lengthy process.

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Emergency management scholars Kathleen Tierney and Anthony Oliver-Smith also note that recovery and rebuilding efforts are complicated. This is due to numerous societal issues, including social equity and disparities, within a community.

Considering the complex nature and lengthy process of recovery and rebuilding efforts, do American emergency management organizations need specialized offices to effectively manage these efforts? Should there be a separate office to focus on rebuilding a community? New Jersey Governor Chris Christie created such an office in New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.

Managing Community Risks versus Budget Justification for Recovery and Rebuilding Offices

Emergency management is largely funded and justified with the aid of risk management. Emergency managers commonly assess their communities to figure out what the risks are and develop mitigation and preparedness plans to handle those risks.

In many respects, this strategy works well. But if a community created a dedicated, year-round recovery and rebuilding office that would provide aid in the event that a major disaster occurred, the cost of this office would be very difficult to justify, considering that many local budgets throughout the United States are already strained.

Recovery Phases Are Complex and Extend over Several Years

The complexities of the recovery phase after a disaster are apparent. For instance, some people argue that New Orleans still has not recovered from Hurricane Katrina, 14 years after the hurricane made landfall. Hurricane Dorian recently left the Bahamas uninhabitable; it will take that country years to recover from such a catastrophic storm.

Many also feel that the recovery phase falls into an ambiguous period, because there are often so many components to rebuilding a community. In addition, there are many other factors at stake, such as safety and security, that contribute to the complexities of the recovery phase.

Dedicated disaster recovery and rebuilding offices would bring all of the emergency management players together to effectively create the collaboration between agencies that’s needed for the recovery phase. Although the existence of this office may be difficult to justify, especially in local jurisdictions where major disaster events may only occur once in a lifetime, they are a viable option for communities to explore.