Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters

1st Edition

By Lucy A. Arendt, Daniel J Alesch

CRC Press

312 pages | 47 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781466593022
pub: 2014-11-21
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pub: 2014-11-21
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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.


"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

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


About the Authors

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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disasters & Disaster Relief