Less than half of local governments and communities say they have sustainability or resilience plans in the wake of disasters. That’s according to a recent survey by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
ICMA conducted a survey with over 900 respondents of which a majority had experienced a federally-declared disaster in the last five years. It found that 90% of communities have hazard mitigation plans and short-term, stand-alone operation continuity plans. Yet 31% indicated having long-term sustainability/resilience strategic plans, and only 16% of communities said they were developing one.
The complexities of disaster response suggest that an integrated strategy needs to be undertaken, combining disaster preparedness and resilience plans with broader community development strategies. Having a strategic plan in place is vital to a community so that stakeholders can act swiftly and efficiently.
The IEDC’s toolkit for economic recovery and resiliency is a vital resource tool for public and private stakeholders to plan for resiliency and economic recovery efforts before and after disasters. The IEDC has identified 6 core areas of resiliency that can provide a framework for a long-term, strategic recovery plan:
- Business Community Engagement
- Business Financing
- Business Re-Entry
- Capacity Building for Economic Recovery
- Redevelopment and Reuse
- Workforce Planning
Pre-disaster preparation can seem like an overwhelming task when there are many elements involved, however RestoreYourEconomy.org has steps, actions and guidelines that a community can take to kick-start the process:
- Identify a primary actor who will coordinate and consolidate all actors and plans involved in the recovery process. The ICMA survey reveals that half of respondents did not have a single designated person or interdepartmental body to coordinate post-disaster recovery, which can lead to inefficiencies, miscommunication, and disorganization if a disaster occurs.
- Host meetings with the business and community stakeholders to determine their respective roles and resources they can contribute to recovery planning.
- Strategically assess how a disaster could impact the community using various assessment tools such as a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis and scenario planning.
- Devise an action plan based on the steps that can be taken to enhance the 6 areas of resiliency
- Compile a communication strategy – this involves creating a contacts database, forming an information dissemination plan, and contingency measures for when vital communication infrastructure goes down.
- Identify funding sources and the timelines which these funds could be available. The ICMA findings revealed that the top three funding sources are , insurance, and departmental funds.
- Follow-up, update, and implement.
While the ICMA survey indicates that communities are undertaking some steps in this process, most have not tangibly measured the economic impact of a disaster. Only 36% of respondents have tried to estimate the financial impact of a disaster, indicating a significant weakness in the pre-disaster resilience planning phase.
While federal agencies such as FEMA will perform their own damage assessments, it is crucial for a community to conduct its own post-disaster economic impact study to have a more localized perspective. Metrics to consider in the damage assessment include tax revenue loss, cost of damage to infrastructure, business closures, impacts on investments etc.
The steps taken in the pre-disaster phase are similar to what needs to be done post-disaster:
- Conduct an impact assessment
- Identify an economic development organization to lead the economic recovery process. This entails identifying key economic stakeholders, key industries and hosting a series of kick-off meetings to discuss roles, resources, and responsibilities. A follow up from this is creating working groups with multiple stakeholders to gather the relevant data and information.
- Create a plan with action strategies that are implemented in phases (with timelines). This will be informed by the information gathered, and integrated with overarching economic priorities that communities may already have formed. A communication strategy is crucial to implementation, resource mobilization, and to avoid any efficiencies.