e11th hour...seeking solutionsabout usemail informationquestions? comments?submit an article for publicationregister for our free newslettersite map
disaster responseforeign policymediaregional securityresource directoryarchived articles
search for

recommended sites

recommended resources . post a comment . read comments
disaster response section entry . main directory

HOLISTIC DISASTER RECOVERY: Ideas for Building Local Sustainability
After a Natural Disaster

by The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center

8:00 a.m. January 15, 2003 PDT

The following handbook was produced by The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, with funding from the Public Entity Risk Institute.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the e11th hour editorial staff.


This is an all-purpose handbook on how to build sustainability into a community during the recovery period after a disaster. It has background information, practical descriptions, and ideas about what sustainability is, why it is a good for a community, and how it can be applied during disaster recovery to help create a better community. The book is intended to be used by local officials, staff, activists, and the disaster recovery experts who help the community during disaster recovery, including state planners, emergency management professionals, mitigation specialists, and others. It is geared mainly toward small to medium-sized communities.

Every locality is different, and every disaster is different. It would be impossible to tell precisely what should be done in every situation. Instead, the handbook illustrates a range of options for a number of hypothetical situations, gives basic information on a few ways to accomplish those options, presents examples of how other localities have handled certain situations, and lists places to get more information and help, locally and outside the community. It will engage managers and decision-makers in a variety of strategies for using the recovery period to help a community make itself a better place to live, protect its natural environment, improve its resilience in the face of disasters, be safer, be more attractive to business, better manage growth, and preserve its history and culture for its future residents. Whether a community is just getting over the emergency period after being stricken by a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or other disaster, or whether it is looking ahead and wants to know how to get ready to handle the aftermath of such an event, this handbook will provide ideas, guidance, examples, and places to look for more information.

The first chapter introduces the concept of sustainability, defines it in the context of recovery, and explains its usefulness. The second chapter explores the process and procedure of sustainable or holistic recovery. The next six chapters cover the fundamental principles of sustainability as applied to specific disaster recovery situations. Chapter 9 is a summary. At the end of each chapter is a list of information on that topic and places to get more. The chapters on the principles of sustainability (4 through 8) are presented so that a reader with interest in or need for ideas on a particular sustainability principle, say economic vitality, can turn directly to that chapter and obtain a fairly comprehensive picture of those issues in recovery. In order to make each of those chapters stand alone it was necessary to repeat some information in each of them.

At the end of the handbook is a glossary of terms. Throughout the chapters information is enclosed in boxes. The shadowed boxes summarize information contained in the text or give hints about holistic recovery. The boxes with the wide upper and lower borders give examples from the real world. Other graphics and tables are enclosed in boxes with a single-line border. This handbook is intended to complement other documents already available on recovery, reconstruction, planning, mitigation, and related local concerns. It does not cover all those issues comprehensively, even though they are all touched upon. Instead, it gives a collection of ideas and guidance for looking at disaster recovery in a new way, from a local government perspective and with the broad ideals of sustainability firmly in mind.

The full handbook may be downloaded from the Hazards Center's website at www.colorado.edu/hazards. You may also download a 12-page synopsis of the concept of holistic recovery as explored in this handbook, entitled Building Back Better (.pdf format), as published in Issue 3 of the Natural Hazards Center's periodical, the Natural Hazards Informer.


This guide was produced under a 20-month project funded by the Public Entity Risk Institute Entitled, A Project to Develop Guidance and Expertise on Sustainable Recovery from Disaster for Communities. The project developed out of the recognition that small- and medium-sized towns can have difficulty figuring what to do, or how to do it, when they are confronted with the need to recover from a disaster. The intent of this work was to try to consolidate what is known about sustainable recovery at the local level and to fill in the gaps by suggesting ways to do things in innovative ways. This handbook is one of the results of that work.

To produce this handbook, the Natural Hazards Center contracted with professionals with expertise in the various aspects of sustainability and recovery, asking each of them to draft a chapter on their specialty that would combined with others into a manual or handbook geared toward community leaders and decision-makers and the people who would advise them during recovery from a disaster. Those experts became the Contributing Authors to this handbook:
  • Charles Eadie, University of California, Santa Cruz, (Chapter 5. Economic Vitality)
  • Rod E. Emmer, R.E. Emmer & Associates (Chapter 7. Environmental Quality)
  • Ann-Margaret Esnard, Cornell University (Chapter 4. Quality of Life)
  • Sarah Michaels, University of Colorado, Boulder (Chapter 3. Participatory Process)
  • Jacquelyn Monday, University of Colorado, Boulder (Chapter 1. Introduction to Sustainability)
  • Clancy Philipsborn, The Mitigation Assistance Corporation (Chapter 2. The Disaster Recovery Process)
  • Brenda Phillips, Jacksonville State University (Chapter 6. Social and Intergenerational Equity)
  • David Salvesen, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Chapter 8. Disaster Resilience)
The Contributing Authors were critical to the process of generating this handbook and are to be highly commended for their willingness to stake out new territory and to participate in this group endeavor. After the Contributing Authors finished their work, however, the Natural Hazards Center compiled the materials into the present arrangement and format, and edited the content. Thus, credit goes to the contributors, but errors and omissions are the Center's own.

Many other people helped in various ways. Assistance on Chapter 4's case study searches was provided by Calah Young and Angus Jennings, City and Regional Planning graduate students. Helpful input on Chapter 3 was supplied by Duane Holmes, National Park Service; Bob Cox and Floyd Shoemaker, Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Brenda Phillips, Jacksonville State University. Finally, Jennifer Barnard Miller, graduate student at the University of Colorado, made invaluable editorial and substantive contributions throughout the volume.

The Natural Hazards Center is especially indebted to the many people who lent their time and expertise to repeated reviews of all of parts of the draft handbook. Thanks to Terry Baker, Stephen B. Baruch, Catherine Bauman, Arrietta Chakos, John E. Clouse, Bev Collings, Windell A. Curole, Mark Darienzo, Marjorie Greene, Bob Hart, George Houston, Ward Huffman, Laurie Johnson, Gene Juve, H. Felix Kloman, Kent Lim, Diana McClure, Deborah Needham, H. Philip Paradice, Eve Passerini, Ann Patton, Scott Porter, Darrin Punchard, Claire Rubin, Jeff Rubin, Patty Rueter, James W. Russell, Dennis Sigrist, Michelle Steinberg, Don Webber, and French Wetmore.

For an overview of the handbook, please see the table of contents below:

Preface . . . . . . ii
Acknowledgments . . . . . .iii
What Does Sustainability Mean for a Community? . . . . . .1-2
How a Community becomes Sustainable . . . . . .1-3
Why Sustainability? . . . . . 1-5
Considering Sustainability after a Disaster . . . . . .1-6
References . . . . . .1-11
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .1-11
Getting Started: Planning for Disaster Recovery . . . . . .2-2
Recognizing Short-term and Long-term Disaster Recovery . . . . . .2-4
Nine Obstacles to Holistic Disaster Recovery . . . . . .2-5
Seven Enablers for Holistic Disaster Recovery . . . . . .2-8
Planning for Holistic Recovery . . . . . .2-10
Making Sustainability Permanent . . . . . .2-12
References . . . . . .2-14
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .2-14
Introduction . . . . . .3-1
Undertaking a Participatory Approach . . . . . .3-1
Localities that have used a Participatory Process . . . . . .3-9
Words to the Wise about Public Involvement . . . . . .3-11
Conclusion . . . . . .3-12
References . . . . . .3-13
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .3-14
Introduction . . . . . .4-1
Recovery Strategies for Enhancing Quality of Life . . . . . .4-4
Pursuing Strategies to Improve Quality of Life . . . . . .4-9
Monitoring Quality of Life . . . . . .4-13
References . . . . . .4-15
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .4-15
Introduction . . . . . .5-1
Recovery Strategies for Building Economic Vitality . . . . . .5-4
Pursuing Strategies for Economic Vitality . . . . . .5-9
Examples of Success . . . . . .5-14
References . . . . . .5-20
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .5-20
Introduction . . . . . .6-1
Pursuing Strategies for Social and Intergenerational Equity . . . . . .6-10
Introduction . . . . . .6-1
Monitoring Social and Intergenerational Equity . . . . . .6-16
References . . . . . .6-19
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .6-19
Introduction . . . . . .7-1
Recovery Strategies for Protecting Environmental Quality . . . . . .7-2
Pursuing Strategies for Environmental Quality . . . . . .7-4
Monitoring Environmental Quality . . . . . .7-9
Tools for Implementing Environmental Projects or Programs . . . . . .7-9
Summary . . . . . .7-21
References . . . . . .7-23
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .7-23
Introduction . . . . . .8-1
Recovery Strategies to Build a Disaster-resilient Community . . . . . .8-3
Pursuing Strategies for Disaster Resilience . . . . . .8-12
Monitoring Disaster Resilience . . . . . .8-16
Conclusion . . . . . .8-16
References . . . . . .8-18
Where to Find More Information . . . . . .8-19
Sustainability . . . . . .9-1
Process . . . . . .9-2
A Final Word . . . . . .9-7
GLOSSARY . . . . . .10-1

For additional information, please contact:
Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center
University of Colorado
482 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309-0482

Handbook copyright The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center; all rights reserved
related resources

| r e a d i n g |

Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States; Kathleen J. Tierney, Michael K. Lindell, Ronald W. Perry; ISBN: 0309069998

Disaster Response: GIS for Public Safety; Gary Amdahl; ISBN: 1879102889

A Framework for Survival: Health, Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance in Conflicts and Disasters;Kevin M. Cahill, Kofi A. Annan; ISBN: 0415922356

Response to Disaster; Henry W. Fischer; ISBN: 0761811834

Response to Disaster: Psychosocial, Community, and Ecological Approaches (Series in Clinical and Community Psychology); Richard Gist, Bernard Lubin; ISBN: 0876309996

Psychological Assessment of Adult Posttraumatic States (Psychotherapy Practitioner Resource Book); John Briere; ISBN: 1557984034

Environmental Disaster and the Archaeology of Human Response (Anthropological Papers (Maxwell Museum of Anthropology), No. 7,); Garth Bawden, Richard Reycraft; ISBN: 0912535148

Preparing for Terrorism: An Emergency Services Guide; George Buck; ISBN: 0827383975

The EMS Incident Management System: Operations for Mass Casualty and High Impact Incidents; Hank T. Christen, Paul M. Maniscalco; ISBN: 0893039721

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Emergency Care; Robert A. De Lorenzo, Robert S. Porter; ISBN: 0130139238

Understanding Terrorism and Managing the Consequences; Paul M. Maniscalco, Hank T. Christen; ISBN: 0130212296

Business Handbook on Terrorism, Security and Survival: A Proactive Guide for Personal Security in Today's Business Environment; Gerry S. Thomas; ISBN: 0964057018

Disasters by Design: A Reassessment of Natural Hazards in the United States (Natural Hazards and Disasters); Dennis S. Mileti; ISBN: 0309063604

Disasters and Democracy: The Politics of Extreme Natural Events; Rutherford H. Platt, Miriam Gradie Anderson, Alexandra D. Dawson, Beth O'Donnell, David Scherf; ISBN: 1559636963

Normal Accidents; Charles Perrow; ISBN: 0691004129

Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response Compliance Manual (38-M); Dolly Miller; ISBN: 0934674868

Transportation Disaster Response Handbook; Jay Levinson, Hayim Granot; ISBN: 0124454860

Chemical and Biological Terrorism: Research and Development to Improve Civilian Medical Response; National Research Council; ISBN: 0309061954

21st Century Bioterrorism and Germ Weapons—U.S. Army Field Manual for the Treatment of Biological Warfare Agent Casualties (Anthrax, Smallpox, Plague, Viral Fevers, Toxins, Delivery Methods, Detection, Symptoms, Treatment, Equipment); Department of Defense; ISBN: 1931828105

Jane's Chem-Bio Handbook; Frederick R. Sidell; ISBN: 0710619235

First Responder Chem-Bio Handbook; Ben N. Venzke; ISBN: 096654370X

Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response; The Sphere Project; ISBN: 0855984627

Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response; Louise K. Comfort; ISBN: 0080432115

Hard Choices; Jonathan Moore; ISBN: 0847690318

Humanitarian Crises: The Medical and Public Health Response; Jennifer Leaning, Susan M. Briggs, Lincoln C. Chen; ISBN: 0674155157

| u s e n e tg r o u p s |












| w e b s i t e s |

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Rapid Response Information System (FEMA)

Mobile Emergency Response Support (FEMA)

American Red Cross

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Association of Contingency Planners

Disaster Recovery Information Exchange

Natural Hazards Center

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
EM-DAT: OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters)

The World Disasters Report (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies)

Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters, 1980-2001 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Extreme Weather Sourcebook 2001: Economic and Other Societal Impacts Related to Hurricanes, Floods, Tornadoes, Lightning, and Other U.S. Weather Phenomena (University of Colorado Boulder; NCAR, NOAA, USWRP, NSF, AMF)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Contingency Planning & Management Magazine

Disaster Recovery Journal

Rothstein Associates

(*see our resource directory for add'l resources)

privacy policy | editorial policy | disclaimer | terms & conditions
copyright © 2002 e11th-hour.org; all rights reserved.
questions? webmaster | design & development: creative license, ltd