1st Edition

Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters

By Lucy A. Arendt, Daniel J Alesch Copyright 2015
    312 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations
    by CRC Press

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    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.

    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


    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