The National Disaster Recovery Framework, released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in September 2011, offers a flexible structure enabling disaster recovery managers to operate in a unified and collaborative manner. Not only does it consider disaster prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery; it also:

  • defines core recovery principles;
  • outlines various roles and responsibilities for recovery coordinators and other stakeholders;
  • offers a coordinating structure for planning across the disaster life cycle; and
  • establishes an overall process “by which communities can capitalize on opportunities to rebuild stronger, smarter, and safer.”

In essence, the Framework demonstrates that the federal government values what the private community brings to the table in disaster recovery. It also encourages innovation from the private sector in meeting the needs of affected communities. A series of stakeholder forums were planned for the months following the release of the Framework, but it should be noted that FEMA considers the Framework a living document, with updates to be made as needed. (Beyond the forums, FEMA invites discussion at the FEMA Think Tank, www.fema.gov/thinktank/.)

Also of note: The Framework is yet to be truly operationalized, and funding for development remains an issue. Even so, the Framework offers a method for talking about recovery in a way that advances a common agenda.   

What You Should Know

  • The NDRF is guided by nine core principles aimed at maximizing the opportunities for success in recovery:
    • individual and family empowerment;
    • leadership and local primacy;
    • pre-disaster recovery planning;
    • partnerships and inclusiveness;
    • public information;
    • unity of effort;
    • timeliness and flexibility;
    • resilience and sustainability; and
    • psychological and emotional recovery.
  • Successful recovery means more than simply returning a community to its pre-disaster state. Rather, the community may determine changes are necessary to reduce future vulnerabilities.
  • The NDRF encourages greater partnership with the whole of the community, especially in terms of innovative pre-disaster recovery planning efforts. Collaboration with surrounding governments, foundations, universities, nonprofit organizations, and private sector entities is recommended.
  • The NDRF recognizes the importance of public-private partnerships—in addition to broad and diverse funding sources—for successful recovery. Nonprofits help fill gaps that otherwise cannot be filled with government authority and resources. 
  • Vulnerable populations must be considered and included. According to the Framework, “partnerships and inclusiveness are vital for ensuring that all voices are heard from all parties involved in disaster recovery and that all available resources are brought to the table.” Those with disabilities, access/functional needs and limited English proficiency, seniors, members of underserved populations, and those who advocate for children must be part of the recovery picture.
  • The private sector plays a great part in establishing post-disaster public confidence. Having a recovery plan in place can greatly help increase optimism that the community could successfully recover from any disaster. In addition, much of the country’s critical infrastructure is privately owned and operated; businesses such as power companies and telecommunications systems providers play crucial roles in recovery.

How You Can Help

The National Disaster Recovery Framework highlights the importance of community involvement in disaster preparedness and long-term recovery. Donors can employ the following strategies to complement existing federal assistance programs:

  • Support training and coordination of leadership from all levels of government and sectors of society, throughout all phases of the recovery process. NDRF strongly recommends the appointment of Local Disaster Recovery Managers in addition to State/Tribal Disaster Recovery Coordinators to spearhead disaster recovery activities. These leaders must be able to speak on behalf of their respective chief executives, and also will serve as the primary contact for the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator should a catastrophe require federal assistance.
  • Help ensure vulnerable populations are represented. Disaster plans must ensure that services reach those who need them most. For that to happen, accurate metrics and understanding of unique needs must be present.
  • Fund innovative efforts in pre-disaster planning. This might entail training, establishment of contacts, organizational development, leadership capacity building, evaluation, and other factors.
  • Fund community assessments that can highlight unique risk to hazards and strengthen the area’s ability to withstand and recover from future disasters. Such assessments not only identify limitations in recovery capacity, but also may uncover areas of potential financial challenges.
  • Support the widespread dissemination of information and strategy. On the list: business and community pre- and post-disaster checklists, as well as public information campaigns for preparedness on an individual level.

NDRF offers much-needed guidance, structure, and support for more effective recovery as a nation. But it can only be effective when known, understood, and put into use.

Learn More

National Disaster Recovery Framework