Page 1

Module 4: disaster recovery

Hurricane Harvey was one of the most costly hurricanes in recent history, causing $125 billion worth of damage. Days of heavy rainfall resulted in extensive flooding and the displacement of thousands of residents. It had been 9 years since the last major disaster event, Hurricane Ike, and some Houston residents were still in the process of replacing their homes and being made whole. This module will explore the stages of recovery, types of recovery housing, and who is involved in the disaster response and recovery process.

What is a Disaster Event? A disaster is a sudden, destructive event that disrupts the functions of a community or society, ultimately contributing to human, material, property, economic, and environmental losses that exceed a community’s ability to manage using its own resources. While most disasters are caused by nature, they can also be human- or industry-related. While disasters may feel rare, they are a constant and in many cases have a cycle of occurrence. To reflect our understanding of how to respond, recover, and prevent future risk, stages of disaster recovery have been developed. These phases help us understand the interconnected nature of disaster-related activities.












PREPAREDNESS Supporting an active disaster response through Pre-Disaster assessments, analysis, and planning. Preparedness also includes implementing mitigation plans, building community capacity and resiliency, building partnerships, and creating standards and training for those delivering services after a disaster.



RESPONSE (DAYS - WEEKS) The activation of first responders and disaster plans. During the first days the focus is on life safety, property preservation, stabilization of the incident, evacuation, and providing shelter and care. As the days pass, immediate infrastructure repairs will begin.


Federal Disaster Recovery Process


RECOVERY (MONTHS- YEARS) Initial recovery activities include debris removal, repairs (transit system, housing, public buildings), social services, and immediate recovery case management. Once an area is stable, recovery transition to long-term activities like permanent housing, rebuilding infrastructure, economic revitalization, and ongoing counseling and case MITIGATION (YEARS) Actions to reduce or eliminate longterm risk to people and property from disaster events. This includes conducting Vulnerability Assessments and taking action to reduce the risks faced by particular communities.

What Happens after a Disaster?


FEMA is the first to respond after a disaster, along with local entities. FEMA divides their assistance programs into individual and public assistance. Cities, counties, nonprofits, and VOAD groups may also offer assistance.


Preliminary damage assessments estimate the extent of the damage, and can impact what areas receive funding. Individual damage assessments impact your ability to qualify for assistance. Deferred maintenance can cause problems at this phase.


Individual assistance includes IHP, case management, counseling, unemployment assistance, etc. Public assistance covers debris removal, facility repairs, and infrastructure. SBA offers low-interest loans.


For areas that need additional assistance, HUD CDBG-DR funds may be available. CDBG-DR are special spending bills, approved by Congress. Local jurisdictions can use the funds on home & multifamily repair, replacement, etc.

How does post-disaster housing work? Access to housing relates directly to job and education opportunities, our social networks, and our general wellbeing. After the passage of a major natural disaster, housing becomes the cornerstone to the whole community’s recovery. It dictates how fast residents can go back to their usual routine, how fast businesses can open and keep open their doors, and which areas are able to recover more efficiently than others. As anyone who has experienced a disaster knows, the road back to permanent housing is long. The separation of funding for the provision of housing at the different stages of disaster recovery creates a significant barrier to implement a streamlined housing recovery effort.

EMERGENCY HOUSING Emergency shelter provides protection from a disaster during its course or in its immediate aftermath. Examples include: churches, schools, recreation centers, and other public facilities.

TRANSITIONAL HOUSING Transitional Housing provides shelter for those who cannot return home immediately after a disaster, and those for whom temporary housing is not yet available. Hotels, motels, converted arenas, or convention centers to can provide transitional shelter. This is meant to be for a short period of time after disaster.

TEMPORARY HOUSING For disaster victims who lost their housing, or whose housing requires longer to repair, temporary housing is arranged. Temporary housing is typically more private and facilitates individuals’ and families’ ability to reestablish daily routines. Households will typically begin the recovery process during this period and regain a sense of normalcy. After some disaster events the temporary housing phase dragged on for many years.

LONG-TERM HOUSING Permanent housing is the final phase where a household is fully recovered. This is the goal for communities and households. Ideally, permanent housing meets the daily needs of residents, is better able to withstand a future disaster event, and is delivered as soon as possible after a disaster.

Where am I? H O T E L





Disaster Recovery Housing Funding


Emergency shelters are a part of your local emergency management planning and are funded by your local city and/or county. Local nonprofits, community organizations, and churches are common providers of emergency shelter and immediate disaster relief.


Transitional/Temporary housing is funded primarily through FEMA. They will organize transitional shelters, provide vouchers to pay for housing, provide homeowners temporary mobile homes, or fund the development of group sites. Up to 18 months is the standard time period for FEMA-funded temporary housing. However, extensions can be granted when necessary.


It is the hope that long-term housing or home repair can be funded through homeowners insurance. For those who do not have home insurance, FEMA housing assistance can fund repairs or help you purchase a new home. FEMA fund can not be used to build a new home. Additional assistance may be available through Community Development Block Grant - Disaster Recovery funds. These funds have to be approved by congress through a individual spending bill.

Obstacles to Recovery

Areas of Advocacy

PARTICIPATORY DECISION-MAKING: After a disaster, the urgency of recovery can become a barrier to typical participatory processes. Time constraints can lead to community input being abbreviated or ignored altogether, contributing to decisions that anger or exclude some stakeholders, and ultimately lead to a breakdown in community cohesion and/or political upheaval.

PRE-DISASTER RECOVERY PLANNING: Plan for disaster recovery, not just response, resulting in a faster, smoother, and more community-informed recovery. Incorporating disaster recovery into city/ neighborhood plans and policies allows residents to voice their priorities before a disaster event and ensures that greater transparency.

DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS: How damage assessments are conducted can affect the equitability of recovery. The lack of available or qualified assessors can result in inconsistent and inappropriate assessments. Another concern is the use of aggregated assessments in determining disaster funding or allocation. Damage assessments may be done for different purposes and can be used individually. Aggregating these assessments for community-level reporting can exacerbate pre-disaster inequities and make funding political.

ADEQUATE & EQUITABLE DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS: Improve methods for damage assessment. Additionally, local jurisdictions and community organizations should document damage and conditions at the neighborhood level to ensure that conditions are reported appropriately, particularly in high-risk areas. Pushing for damage assessments that rely on or incorporate “on the ground” information, as opposed to only using satellite data only, will support more accurate recovery fund allocations and reduce the potential for furthering pre-existing inequities.

NAVIGATING DISASTER ASSISTANCE: The disaster recovery process can last years and involve multiple organizations. Case Managers are essential to navigating disaster assistance—they balance applicants’ needs with the limitations of the system. Unfortunately, a singular case manager may not be able to guide an applicant through to the end. It’s not uncommon for them to hand off an applicant to a new agency, causing some applicants to get lost in the transitions between the different agencies or organizations.

DISASTER RECOVERY “NAVIGATOR”: Create a “Navigator” role for the disaster recovery outreach and eligibility process. “Navigators” are paired with applicants to guide them through the entire process. As the sole case manager from start to finish, the Navigator has a holistic view of a family’s case, is a knowledgeable advocate during the rehousing process, and can be a valuable troubleshooter when problems arise. Navigators help families as needed with transportation, document collection, and translation.

LOCAL CAPACITY: Many communities lack the capacity to handle the pace of disaster recovery. Help from outside experts and volunteer organizations is often necessary. This support can overlook local insight, culture, and stakeholders. Resulting in a recovery that is uneven, incomplete, culturally insensitive, or locally unsatisfactory.

LOCAL SERVICE/COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS: Create opportunities for local community organizations to inform, support, and oversee disaster recovery efforts. Engage and educate vulnerable communities so they are prepared in the event of a disaster. Provide support in gathering/attaining the necessary document required for disaster programs.

RESTORATION VS. RESILIENCE: Many communities lack the capacity to handle the pace of disaster recovery. Help from outside experts and volunteer organizations is often necessary. This support can overlook local insight, culture, and stakeholders,resulting in a recovery that is uneven, incomplete, culturally insensitive, or locally unsatisfactory.

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN HOUSING DESIGN: Support neighborhood recovery through the creation of a readily-usable catalogue of home designs informed by the community. Developing home designs prior to a disaster can speed up housing recovery while preserving the existing neighborhood character. Furthermore, a catalogue can be resource for City housing programs, non-profit, and even for-profit housing developers.

Who is involved? Super Neighborhood Groups & Community Organizations: Your Super Neighborhood group or Community Organizations like TOP can play a role in disaster mitigation and recovery. Through their neighborhood plans, these groups can play a role in identifying risks prior to a disaster. During the recovery period, super neighborhood groups can help advocate when residents or projects are not getting the support they need.


Your Household: Just like a city prepares for a disaster, so can your household. Gathering necessary documents, creating a disaster plan, having the needed insurance, and clearing up title/ownership documentation can go a long way in easing the recovery process.

Houston Office of Emergency Management (OEM): The OEM does planning and programing that supports residents and city departments in preparing for, coping with, and recovering from disaster events. City/County Department: Local departments are often responsible for administering different recovery activities or response. Typical departments include: housing, transportation, stormwater management, emergency management, permitting, and Mayor/City Manager.


Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO): NGOs play an active role in emergency response and recovery. Particularly in the weeks immediately after a disaster, NGOs provide food and supplies. During recovery, NGOs are contracted to support in the effort.

Governor: The Governor is responsible for declaring disaster events and directing Homeland Security within the State. They are ones who petition for Federal Disaster declarations. General Land Office (GLO): The GLO administers the CDBG-DR funds allocated by Congress. They work with local Councils of Government and Cities to develop recovery action plans, and oversee recovery programs.


Texas Division of Emergency Management (DPS): Manages the State’s emergency management program and assists cities, counties and agencies in implementing their own emergency management programs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA provides response support immediately after a disaster, as well as public and individual recovery support. FEMA does not build permanent housing. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): HUD administer CDBG-DR funds to local jurisdictions whose recovery needs exceed FEMA support.


U.S Small Business Administration (SBA): SBA offers low-interest loans to qualifying small businesses, homeowners, and renters. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): HHS provides support services to those affected including SNAP food benefits, TANF, Medicaid, or CHIP.

What should I know right now? After a disaster hits, what support is available for residents? In the months after a disaster, different types of support are offered to meet a variety of situations. EMERGENCY AID

Local, Voluntary, and Federal Agencies providing emergency shelter, food, clothing, and medical needs.


FEMA provides applicants with reimbursements for lodging expenses and/or rental assistance for up to 18 months.

HOME REPAIR & REPLACEMENT: FEMA: Owners can receive up to the max IHP cap for repairs or toward the purchase of a new home.

SBA: For those who qualify, owners can receive a low-interest loan to repair or replace their home.


For those with unmet needs, local CDBG-DR programs may be available to provide support. Programs include home replacement, additional home repair, home buyout and relocation, and mitigation planning.


Those that received the max amount of assistance and still had unmet needs may be referred to a voluntary agency for further support.


Get informed about hazards and emergencies.

Develop an emergency plan.

Collect and assemble disaster supplies kit.

Gather insurance documents, property documents, income verification and vital records.

Learn where to seek shelter from all types of hazards.

Know your evacuation route.


Pre-disaster recovery plans.

Leverage FEMA temporary housing funding to deliver improved long-term recovery solutions.

Recognize and prioritize investments in projects that will reduce vulnerability and increase resilience.

Establish a clear administrative structure for recovery to help community members navigate resources.

Use housing recovery to increase housing choice for vulnerable populations.

Encourage and support the development and maintenance of data that supports fact-based planning.

Flood insurance requirements For victims of a major disaster that received replacement housing assistance after a flood event, having flood insurance for the new home is a requirement. If the homeowner does not have flood insurance and the new home is damaged from another flooding disaster event, they will not be eligible for any recovery assistance.

Important concepts ACTION PLAN: After HUD publishes the Federal Register Notice for a congressional appropriation, the grantee (eligible

government) must develop and submit an Action Plan describing the needs, strategies and projected uses of the CDBG‐ DR funds. HUD must approve the Action Plan before funds are released. COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT-DISASTER RECOVERY (CDBG- DR): CDBG-DR funds are flexible grants

provided by HUD to help cities, counties, and states recover from Presidentially-declared disasters. They are primarily meant to support low-income areas, and made available through a supplemental appropriations by Congress. DEFERRED MAINTENANCE: Refers to the postponement of regular maintenance on a structure. After a disaster FEMA

may deny claims siting that the damage is the result of deferred maintenance and not the disaster.

DUPLICATION OF BENEFITS: Assistance provided from different sources for the same specific need. INDIVIDUALS AND HOUSEHOLDS PROGRAM (IHP): IHP provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and

households affected by a disasters who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs. IHP is not a substitute for insurance and cannot compensate for all losses caused by a disaster; it is intended to meet the survivor’s basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts. LOCAL CAPACITY: The ability of the local community, organizations, businesses, and local government to achieve


MANUFACTURED HOUSING UNIT (MHU) Commonly referred to as a mobile home, a MHU is a type of prefabricated

housing that is commonly put together in an factory and delivered to a site for use.

MITIGATION: Actions to reduce or eliminate long-term risk to people and property from disaster events. This includes

conducting Vulnerability Assessments and taking action to reduce the risks faced by particular communities. It can also include public education, and improvements to public infrastructure. FEMA PUBLIC ASSISTANCE: A federal grant program for local governments and certain nonprofit organizations after

a Presidential disaster declaration to support communities in responding and recovering quickly after a disaster event. Grant assistance includes debris removal, emergency protective measures, and the repair, replacement, or restoration of disaster-damaged publicly-owned facilities. REHABILITATION: The return of infrastructure damaged by a major disaster to a safe, sanitary, and habitable condition.

Rehabilitation costs does not exceed 75 percent of the value of the building before the change in use.

RESILIENCE: The ability of individuals, communities, organizations and states to adapt to and recover from hazards,

stresses, or disasters quickly without compromising long-term safety, vitality, equity, and growth. Housing Resilience refers to homes that can withstand storms, earthquakes, wildfire, flooding and other natural and man-made threats. RETROFITTING: Refers to the addition or installation of new elements or technologies that were not available or

necessary at the time of development into something previously manufactured or constructed.

RISK ASSESSMENT: A process of identifying potential hazards or risks inherent to an area and the actions, processes,

and regulations needed to reduce the potential impact of the risks.

UNMET DISASTER NEEDS: Needs created by a disaster event that have not been addressed by potential resources such

as FEMA, Home Insurance, SBA, CDBG-DR, or other non-profit organizations.

VULNERABILITY: The reduced capacity of an individual or group to prepare, cope with, and recover from a disaster

event or unexpected disruption.

WRAPAROUND SERVICES: Social services that seek to address the range of needs an individual or household may have

and “wraparound” them with support.

TOP’s platform for a fair recovery THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE: The right to choose is the promise of mobility, integration, and choice of where to live for

people of color.

THE RIGHT TO STAY: The right to stay guarantees against the involuntary displacement of low income people of color

through gentrification that diminishes their access to improved neighborhoods and that frustrates economic and racial integration. THE RIGHT TO EQUAL TREATMENT: The right to equal treatment demands that public services and facilities, along with

certain regulated private services like access to credit, are provided equitably in low income neighborhoods of color, at the same levels they are in privileged neighborhoods of whites. THE RIGHT TO HAVE A SAY: The right to have a say is a demand that government permit low income people of color

meaningful democratic participation in the decisions that affect their families and neighborhoods.


1. Cover Photo: Rio Grande Valley, TX after Hurricane Dolly. buildingcommunityWORKSHOP 2. FEMA-Local Response Photo: Far Rockaway, NY. Nov 18, 2012. Ryan Courtade/FEMA Photo Library. 3. Damage Assessment Photo: Lafayette, TN, February 8, 2008. George Armstrong/FEMA Photo Library. 4. Individual and Public Assistance: Carrollton, GA. September 28, 2009. George Armstong. 4. CDBG-DR Funding Photo: Dutchtown, MO. March 20, 2008. Jocelyn Augustino/FEMA Photo Library. 5. Emergency Housing Photo: Hurricane Sandy Assistance, October 29, 2012. The U.S. Army Master Sgt. Mark Olsen/108th Wing/U.S. Air Force. 6. Transitional/Temporary Housing Photo: Yazoo City, MS. May 14, 2010. George Armstrong/FEMA Photo Library 7. Permanent Housing photo: Congo Street . Sklyer Fike/buildingcommunityWORKSHOP.

The purpose of this series is to build an informed and engaged resident base, support organizing efforts and build the capacity of neighborhood leaders to impact disaster recovery planning and prioritize future development in 7 neighborhoods of Houston. Texas Organizing Project T TX 77004 24044 Caroline St, Houston, 832.582.0061

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP 708 S Main St, Houston, TX 77002 712.304.6277

Leadership Development Module: Disaster Recovery  
Leadership Development Module: Disaster Recovery