Government agencies, let’s ask ourselves a question - how exactly are we investing in recovery? You partner with FEMA and local responders to coordinate simulated responses for everything from hurricane evacuations to a zombie apocalypse, but how are we bringing our communities back to normal after the first responders leave? How will our homes be repaired? Who rebuilds our schools? And, the lingering question - how do we pay for it?
Your emergency managers, police officers, and fire departments are all aptly trained to manage crisis and disaster, but are our agencies trained to improve long-term recovery? Thankfully, many states have gone more than a decade without experiencing a major natural disaster. Are states prepared to coordinate the multiple funding streams and complex projects required to recover their communities? Do they have systems in place to manage compliance and data? Who will lead the effort and have they been trained to maximize the funding opportunity to build our communities back better than before?
We are seeing efforts being made to improve recovery for the long haul. HUD’s National Disaster Resilience Competition and the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities are both working to build resilience capacity in governments. What we are learning through that process is that resilience planning can protect community investments. But, resilience planning is a deliberate and developed skill set that takes time and coordination with multiple stakeholders. Waiting until after an event to employ resilience and recovery planning, when the political pressure to recover and act quickly is at its peak, proves a huge challenge for most jurisdictions strapped for qualified resources.
Recovery is a complex process that demands a trained response. Our nation has worked through recovery efforts enough times. We should document and share best practices to all jurisdictions, not just those standing in the rubble. Preemptive recovery guidelines and training could help jurisdictions define their vision and build capacity and competence now, before the next big event hits.