Long-Term Community Recovery Planning Guidance

by Kay C. Goss

Preparedness planning is a large part of the foundation of emergency management. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Preparedness Report summarizes the building, sustaining, and delivering of the 31 core capabilities outlined in the National Preparedness Goal across all five mission areasentified in Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8): prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. In this format, FEMA provides a welcome opportunity to reflect on the progress that whole-community partners – including all levels of government, private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, communities, and individuals – have made in strengthening U.S. preparedness for all hazards, all risks, all stakeholders, on an interagency, interdisciplinary, and intergovernmental basis.

Interagency Operational Plans & Tools On 30 July 2014, FEMA released three of five Federal Interagency Operational Plans, which describe how the federal government aligns resources and delivers core capabilities to reach the shared overall National Preparedness Goal, for the mitigation, response, and recovery preparedness mission areas for all federal departments and agencies.

FEMA released the Resource Typing Library Tool and the Incident Resource Inventory System 5.0. Both tools are no cost, user friendly, and designed to assist communities in inventorying resources, a key part of community planning. As a first step in community recovery planning, it is crucial to discover the greatest risks and hazards. These federal frameworks supplement the updated Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 201 and the Threat and Hazardentification and Risk Assessment tool. The second edition of the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 201 provides communities additional guidance for conducting a Threat and Hazardentification and Risk Assessment. Bothentify capability targets and resource requirements necessary to address anticipated and unanticipated risks.

The five national planning frameworks outline how the whole community can work together to achieve national preparedness, through prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery preparedness mission areas. In an effort to provide a flexible structure to enable disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner, the recovery framework focuses on how best to restore, redevelop, and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural, and environmental fabric of the community and build a more resilient nation.

National Framework & Support Functions Called the National Disaster Recovery Framework, it is consistent with the vision set forth in PPD-8, National Preparedness, directing FEMA to work with interagency partners to publish a recovery framework. For the first time in the United States, the National Disaster Recovery Framework defined:

  • Core recovery principles;

  • Roles and responsibilities of recovery coordinators and other stakeholders;

  • A coordinating structure that facilitates communication and collaboration among all stakeholders, guidance for pre- and post-disaster recovery planning; and

  • The overall process by which communities can capitalize on opportunities to rebuild stronger, smarter, and safer.

The National Disaster Recovery Framework introduced six new recovery support functions, modeled along the traditional lines of the emergency support functions do for the response framework, providing a structure to facilitate problem solving, improve access to resources, and foster coordination among state and federal agencies, nongovernmental partners, and other stakeholders. Each recovery support function has coordinating and primary federal agencies and supporting organizations that operate together with local, state, and tribal government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector partners.

The National Disaster Recovery Framework presents three positions that provide focal points for incorporating recovery considerations into the decision-making process and monitoring the need for adjustments in assistance where necessary and feasible throughout the recovery process. These positions are the federal disaster recovery coordinator, state or tribal disaster recovery coordinators, and local disaster recovery managers.

Toolboxes & Social Media Building on this abundance of overall recovery guidance, the long-term community recovery process has been delineated in an empowering approach. FEMA has provided four key long-term, community recovery planning toolbox elements:

  • Communications Mapping Tool;

  • Decision-Making Tool;

  • Project Development Guide; and

  • Resource Guide.

Many states have successfully used these toolboxes and FEMA Region 7, as an example, has published the resource guides their states – Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri – have developed to build their long-term community planning. All are available on the FEMA website. A local government best practice is Greensburg, Kansas. For a copy of this model long-term community recovery plan, implemented after a devastating tornado practically destroyed its city, go to the City of Greensburg’s website.

Social media can play an important communications tool in the process. Communities also have used Facebook to disseminate their recovery messages. For example, Hudson County’s Long-Term Recovery Committee page, includes plans, comments, public input, ongoing information, but is still working on its county recovery planning for Hurricane Sandy more than two years after the storm.


Kay C. Goss, CEM®, is executive in residence at the University of Arkansas and the chief executive officer for GC Barnes Group, LLC. Previous positions include: president at World Disaster Management, LLC (2011-2013); senior principal and senior advisor of emergency management and continuity programs at SRA International (2007-2011); senior advisor of emergency management, homeland security, and business security at Electronic Data Systems (2001-2007); associate Federal Emergency Management Agency director in charge of national preparedness, training, and exercises, appointed by President William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001); senior assistant to the governor for intergovernmental relations, Governor William Jefferson Clinton (1982-1993); chief deputy state auditor at the Arkansas State Capitol (1981-1982); project director at the Association of Arkansas Counties (1979-1981); research director at the Arkansas State Constitutional Convention, Arkansas State Capitol (1979); project director of the Educational Finance Study Commission, Arkansas General Assembly, Arkansas State Capitol (1977-1979).