p>The National Governor’s Association designed a phase of disaster model to help emergency managers prepare for and respond to a disaster, also known as the ‘life cycle’ of comprehensive emergency management. The four phases of disaster: 1) mitigation; 2) preparedness; 3) response; and 4) recovery.

The model helps frame issues related to disaster preparedness as well as economic and business recovery after a disaster. Each phase has particular needs, requires distinct tools, strategies, and resources and faces different challenges. The issues addressed below relate to the resiliency and recovery of the local economy and business community before and after a major disaster.


Pre-Disaster Mitigation Efforts


Education, Outreach and Training

Business Continuity & Emergency Management Planning


Immediate Response to Stakeholders

Establish Business Recovery Center


Post-Disaster Economic Recovery Plan


The issues addressed below relate to the resiliency and recovery of the local economy and business community before and after a major disaster.

Phases of Disaster


Mitigation involves steps to reduce vulnerability to disaster impacts such as injuries and loss of life and property. This might involve changes in local building codes to fortify buildings; revised zoning and land use management; strengthening of public infrastructure; and other efforts to make the community more resilient to a catastrophic event.


Preparedness focuses on understanding how a disaster might impact the community and how education, outreach and training can build capacity to respond to and recover from a disaster. This may include engaging the business community, pre-disaster strategic planning, and other logistical readiness activities. The disaster preparedness activities guide provides more information on how to better prepare an organization and the business community for a disaster.


Response addresses immediate threats presented by the disaster, including saving lives, meeting humanitarian needs (food, shelter, clothing, public health and safety), cleanup, damage assessment, and the start of resource distribution. As the response period progresses, focus shifts from dealing with immediate emergency issues to conducting repairs, restoring utilities, establishing operations for public services (including permitting), and finishing the cleanup process.


  • Triage efforts assess and deal with the most pressing emergency issues. This period is often marked by some level of chaos, which can last a month or more, depending on the nature of the disaster and the extent of damage. Federal resources, such as action from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (in the case of a major disaster declaration) and non-profit resources such as the Red Cross are deployed immediately
  • Business re-entry into the economy begins during this phase. Businesses initially may face issues with access to their site, preliminary damage assessment, and communications with staff, vendors, suppliers and customers. Ongoing issues may include access to capital and workers, the repair of damaged property or inventory, and a diminished customer base. It is in this phase that long-term future of a region’s business base will be saved or lost.
  • Business Recovery Centers are quickly set up in a community to centralize small business recovery resources (e.g. SBA, SBDC, SCORE, CDFI, etc), local bank officers, technical assistance providers, and other critical assistance for maintaining business continuity and/or get businesses up and running.
  • Federal resources from SBA, FEMA, HUD, EDA, USDA, etc., as well as state programs, start to arrive; temporary housing goes up; and the planning for the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, facilities, and areas begins. The response phase typically continues through the sixth month, again depending on the nature of the disaster.

It is not uncommon for disasters to reveal a weakened economic development landscape, with significant gaps in organizational capacity, staff and resources. Thus, economic development agencies and stakeholders may need additional staff, capacity building assistance, and training.


Recovery is the fourth phase of disaster and is the restoration of all aspects of the disaster’s impact on a community and the return of the local economy to some sense of normalcy. By this time, the impacted region has achieved a degree of physical, environmental, economic and social stability.

The recovery phase of disaster can be broken into two periods. The short-term phase typically lasts from six months to at least one year and involves delivering immediate services to businesses. The long-term phase, which can range up to decades, requires thoughtful strategic planning and action to address more serious or permanent impacts of a disaster. Investment in economic development capacity building becomes essential to foster economic diversification, attain new resources, build new partnerships and implement effective recovery strategies and tactics. Communities must access and deploy a range of public and private resources to enable long-term economic recovery.


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