Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters  book cover
1st Edition

Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters

ISBN 9781466593022
Published November 21, 2014 by CRC Press
312 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Today, governmental efforts at long-term community recovery from a natural disaster consist primarily of rebuilding the physical artifact of the community. This entails reestablishing vital community services and infrastructure and creating housing to replace that which has been lost. While restoring the built environment of a disaster area is essential, alone it is not sufficient to achieve complete recovery.

Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters presents what the authors have learned over two decades from more than two dozen community disasters in and outside the United States. Based on their experiences, they provide a set of practical, cost-effective steps for both reducing the consequences of extreme natural hazard events on communities and for facilitating community recovery.

To achieve long-term recovery, it is essential that we understand how communities develop and/or decay in the absence of an extreme natural hazard event. Then, by recognizing how these events disrupt "normal" development and change, we can determine which parts of the community have to become reestablished or made more functional so that the community can achieve long-term viability. The authors explain how this appreciation of community dynamics and the consequences of extreme natural hazard events enables us to identify those critical points for policy intervention at appropriate levels of government. The combined practical and philosophical insight presented in this book will be valuable not only to policy makers but to scholars as well.

Table of Contents

The Problem
Purpose and Approach
A Basic Consideration
Two Vignettes: The Makings of a Disaster
From Extreme Natural Hazard Event to Community Disaster
Social Definitions, Experiential Congruence, and Initial Consequences
Metrics and Extreme Natural Hazard Events
What, Then, Is an Extreme Natural Hazard Event?
Communities as Complex, Open, and Self-Organizing Social Systems
Meaning of "Complex," "Open," and "Self-Organizing"
And Then, a Great Disturbance
Categorizing Consequences
Real Problems for Real People in Real Places
Postdisruption: Real Problems for Real People in Real Places
The Local Economy May Unravel
Housing and Rebuilding Issues
Postevent Demographic Changes
Social and Psychological Consequences
Impacts on Local Government
Workload and Employee Stress
The Building Department as an Example
Unmet Expectations and New Roles
Conflicting Demands between Home and Work
Consequences of Employee Stress
Diminished Revenue Base
Expenses and Shortages
Funding for Long-Term Recovery
Community Disaster Recovery: Definition, Processes, and Obstacles
What Constitutes Community Recovery?
Community Recovery Processes
Will It, Can It, Ever Be the Same?
Variables That Impede or Facilitate Recovery
Facilitating Recovery
Who’s in Charge?
First Things First
Assessing the Nature and Extent of the Consequences
Ensure That Local Government Is Up to the Demands That Will Be Placed on It
Devise a Local Recovery Strategy
Ensure Two-Way Communication
A Recovery Starting Point
Shaping the Postevent Community Trajectory: Rebuilding or Restoring the Economy
Seven Strategies
Pitfalls to Avoid
What to Do before the Next Disaster
Prerequisites for Taking Precautions against Risks Associated with Extreme Natural Hazard Events
Other Concerns: Moral Hazard, Learned Helplessness or Dependency, and Political Opportunism
Goals and Means for Mitigating the Risks Associated with Extreme Natural Hazard Events
Things to Do Now, before the Next Disaster

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A professor of management, Lucy A. Arendt’s research into planning and decision making spans more than two decades. Her interest in decision making in the wake of extreme natural hazard events led to a conviction that the best way to facilitate recovery is to engage in pre-disaster planning that engages a diversity of stakeholders and that builds collective efficacy and yields action intended to mitigate the consequences of disaster. This book integrates her thinking and research on human action and inaction when faced with the devastating consequences that result from the collision of extreme natural hazard events and human decisions.

A former senior social scientist with RAND, where he focused on urban phenomena, and, more recently, as a professor of public administration and planning, Daniel J. Alesch has become a seasoned, skilled student and analyst of disasters, disaster recovery, and disaster mitigation strategies and policies. In this book, he brings what he has learned over more than three decades of field experience, including multi-year analyses of each of more than two-dozen communities as they struggled with the immediate and long term consequences of an extreme natural hazard event.


"Typical books on disaster response focus on rebuilding the infrastructure of a city. This unique book draws on the authors’ experience with over two dozen community disasters to design a holistic approach to not just rebuilding, but recovering from an extreme natural hazard. The authors examine the normal development of communities, and then consider the ways in which a natural disaster interferes with this development. This enables readers to identify the specific issues that require policy intervention and devise a plan that recruits the appropriate branches of government. Specific topics include workload and employee stress, the effect on the local economy, and the starting point of recovery."
Ringgold, Inc. Book News, February 2015