What is Disaster Recovery?

What is Disaster Recovery? This is a question that is asked by many in the community and one that is little understood. The first three phases of the response to a disaster are the Emergency Response, Mid-Term Response and Long-Term Recovery. Long-term Recovery or just “recovery” begins after the shelters and distribution centers have closed, after the debris piles have been picked up, and when much of the community begins to look and feel like things are going back to normal. This is when the hard work of recovery begins and when it is more important than ever for the community to come together to support those families affect by Harvey.

Recovery is the long process of physically rebuilding the community and restoring lives to their pre-disaster condition. This long process can take years as is evidenced by the continuing recovery work in New York on the five-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy.

Disaster recovery efforts, and those organizations conducting them, do not replace or duplicate any on-going services being provided to the under-resourced before a disaster strikes. In other words, recovery efforts do not replace the local food pantry or jobs program, they instead focus on disaster-related unmet needs. These needs are such things as temporary housing and home repair or rebuilding.

There is a sequence of assistance that is provided to the survivors of disasters by government agencies, non-profit agencies, faith communities, and businesses. This assistance is given through all stages of the response to a disaster. During the emergency stage, survivors are provided safety, rescue, food, shelter, clothing, medical services, and any immediate and emergency needs. This initial response is when volunteer teams are mucking out flooded homes and safeguarding survivors’ assets from further damage.

During Mid-Term Response, survivors are receiving FEMA grants for short-term housing and clean-up efforts are underway. Volunteer teams and local agencies are helping survivors with needs that these agencies regularly address in the community as well. These are on-going services such as food pantries and rental assistance programs that will help survivors get back on their feet.

Mid-Term Response is the time that local governments start their Long-Term Recovery Groups (LTRG) to build the collection of agencies that will guide the community through the next phase, recovery. These LTRGs consist of government agencies, volunteer organizations, faith communities, and disaster recovery organizations that will be on the ground guiding survivors throughout the recovery process. These groups also help to distribute recovery funds and eliminate any duplication of efforts through public information campaigns, collaboration, and coalition building. The LTRG in Harris County is the Harris County Long-Term Recovery Committee.

During this time, the affected families also begin to make their plans for moving forward. If a family’s recovery plan will take more resources than they have, then the Long-Term Recovery phase begins for them.

Families that reach the Long-Term Recovery phase have exhausted local agency help, personal resources, insurance proceeds, FEMA grants, and SBA loans and still have unmet needs. House repairs and rebuilding are the largest and most common of these needs but they also include resource accessibility, spiritual and emotion care, and material donations for household and personal items lost in the disaster. During recovery, local agencies and recovery groups begin to provide case management services for these affected families. The Cy-Hope Disaster Recovery Network is providing these case management services for the Cy-Fair community as a member of the Harris County Long-Term Recovery Committee.

As we enter the recovery phase in Cy-Fair it is more important than ever that the community come together to support those families rebuilding their homes and lives.

Families that are in need of recovery help can call 2 1 1 and tell the operator that they have Harvey Unmet Needs or email DisasterRecovery@cy-hope.org. More information about the network is available on their website, www.chdrn.org, as well as on their Facebook page (@CyHopeDRN). Organizations interested in becoming members can email DisasterRecovery@cy-hope.org.