Disaster Planning for Economic Preparedness
The pre-disaster economic preparedness plan functions to prepare a community for disaster situations with a focus on the business community and the local economy. The plan defines roles and action steps for economic recovery stakeholders should a disaster occur. Having a plan in place before a disaster will enable a community to act more quickly and efficiently and spur the recovery process.
This economic preparedness plan should work in conjunction within a larger, comprehensive community planning framework led by the local government for a disaster situation. It should coordinate with issues such as land use, infrastructure and housing. Florida counties currently are spearheading disaster-related comprehensive planning efforts with strong economic components.
The steps listed below for pre-disaster economic preparedness planning should be used to complement and inform any existing disaster plans.
Step 1: Identify a lead economic development organization
Developing a pre-disaster economic preparedness plan requires a dedicated and in-depth process led by a committed organization that can bring together all stakeholders. This organization will need to galvanize wide-ranging support for the project and align the resources needed to get the project off the ground. The economic preparedness plan should coordinate with and eventually feed into a larger, comprehensive pre-disaster preparedness plan.
Step 2: Hold a kick-off meeting with all economic recovery stakeholders
Step 2a: Create stakeholder groups
- Involve a diverse and dynamic group of stakeholders, including public and private actors, elected officials, and other key community stakeholders. A list of potential economic recovery stakeholders can be found on page 8 of the Pinellas County PDRP Update. Representation from industries that are economic drivers in the community will be important. This stakeholder group could also serve as the post-disaster economic recovery team.
- Divide the stakeholders into subgroups that will focus on specific topics to be covered in the plan. Planning for post-disaster situations can be a complicated, challenging and controversial process.
- All stakeholders should be made aware of this at the kick-off meeting and agree to work through the decision-making process.
- See what planning efforts have already been done by these stakeholders and combine resources.
Step 2b: Establish clear goals for the planning process
- Ensure that adequate time is given to the planning process. Establish a regular meeting schedule for subgroups and the group as a whole.
- Establish clear timeframes for each step. This will ensure that the process continues to move forward, keeping the stakeholder groups on target and notifying the public that though this is a lengthy process, it is finite.
Step 3: Think strategically about how a disaster could affect economic development
Step 3a: Identify the community’s economic assets
An inventory of current assets and economic drivers will help the community determine its economic vulnerabilities as well as the resources to harness in the event of a disaster. Current information for this effort may be available in existing strategic plans and economic analysis. The assessment should include a strong understanding of:
- Key industries and/or clusters
- Labor and workforce characteristics
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis
- Local policy framework (e.g., building codes, local and state incentives and regulations, environmental mitigation policy, etc.)
Step 3b: Perform an economic vulnerability analysis
An economic vulnerability analysis should be conducted for each disaster type. The economic analysis performed in the previous step should be coordinated with analysis from hazard mitigation and land-use planners to see what companies, industries, or industry clusters are more vulnerable to disasters. An example of this can be found on page 33 of the Polk County Post Disaster Redevelopment Plan.
Step 3c: Conduct scenario planning for community redevelopment
Evaluate the community’s cluster industries and economic assets and how they relate to specific disaster possibilities.
Steps to scenario planning:
- Define the disaster context (i.e. what kind of disaster the community is facing).
- Identify factors that could impact the community by leading key stakeholders through scenario exercises.
- Ask stakeholders to identify what local community and economic assets are most vulnerable to these factors.
- Work through plausible futures by combining all of the recognized forces from the above steps. Develop scenarios of what the community could do in terms of redevelopment or mitigation to protect these community and economic assets. This is part of a process for generating and evaluating the community’s strategic options when it comes to community redevelopment after a disaster.
Step 4: Propose action strategies and steps
Based on different disaster scenarios, action strategies and steps should be established with enough detail to indicate who leads what strategy/step and the resources needed to complete the effort.
These should be proposed for all stakeholders for both pre-disaster preparation and post-disaster economic recovery (short-term and long-term). This key step will increase efficiencies once a disaster strikes, as well as help stakeholders make smart post-disaster recovery decisions. An example of this can be found on page 35 of the Palm Beach County Post Disaster Redevelopment Plan (PDRP).
Suggestion: Create an implementation timeline that lists which steps should occur when after a disaster. This will ensure that the recovery process continues to move along once a disaster hits. A timeline example can be found from Sarasota County’s PDRP.
Step 5: Compile contact information
Develop a contact list of key stakeholders throughout the region and state. The lead organization can use this list to coordinate information-gathering and economic analysis in the event of a disaster. A communications plan should be established to facilitate this. See the section on Developing a Communication Strategy for more detailed information.
Step 6: Develop a list of possible funding sources
Potential funding sources for disaster recovery and redevelopment should be identified, including federal, state, and local sources. See the section on Navigating the Federal System for federal funding possibilities.
Step 7: Follow up with the plan
Ensure that the pre-disaster economic preparedness plan is adopted by the community and that collaborations remain by taking the following steps.
Step 7a: Integrate the plan with other relevant plans
Though the pre-disaster economic preparedness plan is part of the larger, comprehensive disaster planning effort, it should also be linked with other community plans to reconcile inconsistencies. Local government leadership should adopt the plan to increase awareness and ensure implementation. See page 23 of the Panama City Post Disaster Redevelopment Plan (PDRP) for a guide to integrating these plans.
Step 7b: Monitor, evaluate, and update the plan
The pre-disaster economic preparedness plan should be revisited annually. One of the greatest benefits of the planning process is the collaborations and relationships created among stakeholders. These connections should be fostered by convening stakeholders annually to evaluate and update the plan. An example of this can be found on page 79 of the Palm Beach County Post Disaster Redevelopment Plan.
- The Post-Disaster Redevelopment Planning (PDRP) in Florida identifies policies, operational strategies, and roles and responsibilities for implementation that will guide decisions that affect long-term recovery and redevelopment of the community after a disaster. Issues include housing recovery, financial administration, environmental restoration, health and social services, and economic redevelopment. Pilot communities that have developed the plan include: Hillsborough County, Manatee County, Nassau County, Panama City, Polk County, and Sarasota County
- Other PDRP plans: Alachua County, Palm Beach County, Pinellas County
- Post-Disaster Recovery Planning Forum: How-To Guide (2007) from the Partnership for Disaster Resilience is a guide to provide a process for communities to start a pre-planning for catastrophic events by engaging partners in identifying the critical issues the community will face in a post-disaster environment.
- Economic Development When Rebuilding — Fostering Growth after a Disaster (1999) by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences gives brief direction on both pre- and post-disaster planning.
- FEMA’s Emergency Support Function #14’s Long-Term Recovery Annex identifies and facilitates the use of recovery funding, and provides technical assistance (such as impact analyses) for community recovery and recovery planning support.
- Experiences from Past Disasters Offer Insights for Effective Collaboration after Catastrophic Events from the Government Accounting Office (GAO), July 2009, reviews five catastrophic disasters : the Loma Prieta earthquake (1989), Hurricane Andrew (1992), the Northridge earthquake (1994), the Kobe earthquake (1995), and the Grand Forks flood (1997)—to identify recovery lessons and make some recommendations to the federal government.
- Long-Term Disaster Recovery Planning by Local Governments in the San Francisco Bay Area has a business recovery chapter, which looks at how land use and the economy are tied together, demonstrating the need to plan for where businesses will build back.
- Louisiana Speaks: Long-term Community Recovery Planning tool provides pre- and post-disaster planning resources for the folks in Southern Louisiana and beyond.