Creating a Post-Disaster Recovery Plan

Volunteers with the American Red Cross in Meridian serve meals to Gustav evacuees in the Frank Cochran Center Monday. (AP Photo/The Meridian Star, Paula Merritt)

Volunteers with the American Red Cross in Meridian serve meals to Gustav evacuees in the Frank Cochran Center Monday. (AP Photo/The Meridian Star, Paula Merritt)

Having a post-disaster plan ready before a major storm event can help a community recover as quickly as possible, and promote sound redevelopment. Everyone wants to get “back to normal”—but “normal” should not mean continuing to expose structures, facilities, and infrastructure to the same storm damage and flooding hazards (or perhaps even greater risk than before if erosion has reduced protection to some areas).

Immediately following a disaster is the optimal time to remove or retrofit damaged buildings, since disaster assistance and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mitigation funds are most available, as is willingness to adopt new technology and accept smarter reconstruction and repair options. Working collaboratively before a disaster to identify appropriate buildings to target for removal or retrofit will make this easier.

Communities should be aware that substantially damaged buildings will need to be brought up to current National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) code. FEMA’s Increased Cost of Compliance Coverage program is designed to help cover the cost of this work (providing up to $30,000 per building).

You may wish to send your businesses to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s “Getting Back To Business” PDF.

FEMA has collaborated with the American Planning Association to write Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction. While the specifics of a post-disaster plan are community specific, the following components should be considered:

  • Conduct habitability inspections (in addition to safety issues, this is important in determining temporary housing needs).
  • Determine which structures are substantially damaged.
  • Regulate reconstruction to ensure that the repaired structures meet all code requirements for future loss reduction (see the planning for outside help page).
  • Consult technical experts regarding the best alternatives for reducing the potential for future damages from storms.
  • Conduct a public information effort to advise residents about available funding and mitigation measures they can incorporate into their reconstruction plans to avoid future damage.
  • Evaluate damaged public facilities and incorporate mitigation measures during repairs. Remember FEMA’s Increased Cost of Compliance Coverage program and other potential funding sources.
  • Acquire substantially damaged or repetitive loss properties from willing sellers.
  • Prepare or update a long-term mitigation plan.

While not from Mississippi, the State of Florida has created a useful and comprehensive guidebook for creating post-disaster response plans: you can download Post-Disaster Redevelopment Planning: A Guide for Florida Communities here. To see a brief video on how one of the communities participating in the creation of the handbook is approaching creating a post-disaster recovery plan, watch the well-produced Post-Disaster Redevelopment Plan: Building Back for a Stronger Tomorrow, assembled by Florida’s Hillsborough County (note: it’s a WMV file, so may not work on all browsers).


* Your community needs only 500 points to qualify for reduced flood insurance premiums through the Community Rating System (CRS). For more information (including how to apply for the CRS program), see our Community Rating System (CRS) primer.

Notes from the folks at CRS:

“Post-disaster recovery and mitigation planning is credited under Activity 510, Floodplain Management Planning.”