Pre and Post-Disaster Recovery for Community Organizations and Local Government

For more information, questions or technical assistance with recovery planning and post-disaster recovery coordination, please contact Washington Emergency Management Division Human Services Program Manager Travis Linares-Hengen at


Human Services at a panel following the 2015wildfires with Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife Trudi.

Recovery basics:

Planning for recovery is planning for resilience

Thinking about recovery prior to any incident is central to preparedness and to building a resilient community. Pre-disaster recovery planning is planning for circumstances both foreseen and unforeseen by mitigation and emergency management plans. For example, disasters often trigger hazard mitigation action items, updated zoning codes, and new building regulations that may impact a community’s rebuilding effort. Acting quickly following an incident helps establish a pattern for success and avoid the tendency for a community to return to old routines before the recovery is even underway.

Disaster assistance programs triggered by an incident may also have short application windows. Communities with shovel-ready projects are positioned to receive more assistance. For example, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is activated statewide after a state Presidential Disaster Declaration, and any eligible project in the state can be funded, even if the project is not within the area impacted by the disaster.

The Washington Emergency Management Division (EMD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offer a variety of resources to communities to start thinking about recovery. Below are just a few key resources. For a more comprehensive list of recovery resources, including examples of existing plans and frameworks within Washington and beyond, please see:

Recovery is always done at the local level

The Washington Emergency Management Division can help your community with training, technical services and other forms of support. Several state agencies also administer grants, loans and other funds. Please see our Recovery Planning Resources (PDF) for more information.

As a home rule state, disaster recovery is the responsibility of local and tribal governments. It's possible that there will be no federal or state funding available for recovery. Much of the available federal funding is dependent upon a Presidential Disaster Declaration and declarations may only include parts of the Public Assistance (Infrastructure) or Individual Assistance (Individuals and Families) programs. Even with outside funding, local ownership of the recovery process is necessary for success.

Acting quickly to engage a long-term recovery organization is a key to organizing recovery, building local support and securing resources to support your community and fill unmet needs. For example, as FEMA reported in a 2009 press release:

The mission of a Long-Term Recovery Organization (LTRO) is to help those neighbors for whom federal and state disaster assistance will not be enough. An LTRO may serve as a clearinghouse and point of contact for volunteer efforts to repair damaged housing, mediating between homeowners in need and volunteer groups that come to do the repair work.

For example, in one county, an elderly, disabled man had extensive damage to his roof after the storms in January. He was able to receive help from FEMA for temporary housing, and he did have insurance to cover his expenses. But he needed help bringing it all together. While some volunteers from an LTRO agency helped the man complete his insurance claim forms and deal with the insurance company, other volunteers installed a tarp until a new roof could be built.

When applicants with disaster damage have exhausted all available FEMA/state assistance and still have serious unmet needs, they are referred by the state to an LTRO. The state will identify the agency with the appropriate resources to help, then will provide the applicant with the phone number of the county LTRO. The applicant then calls the LTRO.

"Recovering from natural disasters is the work of many hands, many agencies - government and private - and many dedicated individuals," said Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn. "FEMA programs are part of the recovery process, but people still have long-term needs that go beyond the scope of government assistance. Fortunately, Washington’s Long-Term Recovery Organizations are working now to provide that help."

Basic recovery planning is straightforward
The most essential elements of good recovery planning can be outlined through existing planning processes. We recommend developing five areas as first steps to recovery preparedness.

  1. Define your community’s recovery organizational structure. This is an organizational chart focused on who makes decisions and takes on what roles during the recovery phase of a disaster. Include your recovery organization chart in your Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
  2. Outline the structure and means of forming a local long-term recovery organization and engaging your community. Your Long-Term Recovery Organization can be the tool to engage the public, set recovery priorities, seek and coordinate resources and develop partnerships during the recovery process.
  3. Develop an ESF 14 (Long-Term Community Recovery) annex to your Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The ESF 14 can be your community’s recovery strategy and will help your community start thinking about recovery at the beginning of an incident.
  4. Discuss recovery in your hazard mitigation plan. Think about not just what will happen following a major event, but how you will recover. If your city is an annex to the county plan, make sure that the annex truly represents your goals and needs.
  5. Align your other existing plans (such as land use, housing, and parks plans) with your emergency management plans and include disaster recovery annexes in those plans.


There are many courses and training programs for individuals, organizations and governments that can help your community start planning for recovery. Some examples include:

  • The State Exercise Program offers many workshops and courses for responders, local government officials, and other stakeholders. Contact for more information and visit to find and register for courses and training opportunities.
  • FEMA Independent Study Courses are online classes in many different areas of preparedness, response, and recovery. Some highlights include:
    • IS-244.a, Developing and Managing Volunteers
    • IS-230.b, Fundamentals of Emergency Management
    • IS-2900, National Disaster Recovery Framework Overview
    • IS-558, Public Works and Disaster Recovery
    • IS-368, Including People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs
    • IS-288.a, The Role of Voluntary Organizations in Emergency Management
    • IS-505, Religious and Cultural Literacy and Competency in Disaster
    • IS-403, Introduction to Individual Assistance
    • IS-634, Introduction to FEMA’s Public Assistance Program
  • Map Your Neighborhood is a great place to start building resilience at the neighborhood level. Please contact for more information.
  • The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawaii offers courses on emergency management, response and recovery topics.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Recovery program training guide provides an overview on the SBA’s disaster recovery programs.

Grants and other resources for individuals, organizations, local jurisdictions and tribes
The Washington Emergency Management Division has compiled a selection of grants, loans, in-kind programs and other services that can be essential in restoring your community. This guide can help you find resources both before and after an incident. For more information on individual opportunities, please contact each program directly. For general questions about the guide, please contact EMD Recovery Coordinator Quinn Butler at

For more information on Emergency Management Division grants and services, please see:

For a more extensive list of available state-administered grants, loans and service programs, please see:

The Washington state Recovery Resource Guide (Excel)

The State of Washington’s role in recovery
As a home rule state, Washington’s local jurisdictions and tribes are responsible for disaster response and recovery. The state’s role in disaster recovery depends on the local jurisdictions capacity to manage recovery and the complexity of the incident. In general, the state will function as a coordinating entity for state and federal resources and to facilitate relationships between jurisdictions, agencies and private organizations. During larger incidents, the state will play a greater role in the recovery process. A full description of how the state supports recovery for most disasters will be published in the Washington Restoration Framework, currently under development.

Washington Restoration Framework (WRF)
The Washington Restoration Framework (WRF), currently under development, will contain the partnerships and organizational structures necessary to successfully manage recovery from natural disasters. The WRF will explain the local, state and tribal roles in the recovery process and act as a guide for how the state organizes for recovery based on existing roles and authorities. It will also clarify the state’s role in the recovery process and allow local jurisdictions and tribes to develop and update their recovery plans or frameworks in a way that improves coordination across multiple levels of government. Our partners in this project include the state departments of Commerce, Health, Agriculture, Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Social and Health Services, Ecology and other state, local, federal and voluntary organizations. The framework is being developed with flexibility and scalability in mind to address different disaster types and magnitudes.  Following the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) as a guiding tool, the WRF will contain eight Recovery Support Function (RSFs). Recovery Support Functions facilitate the local recovery process through better resource coordination and program delivery at the local level. Each RSF will contain the existing responsibilities and potential programs available of the state agencies and key organizations that play a role in the recovery process. Each RSF does not assign any new responsibilities or authorities, but rather captures the existing responsibilities and actions of each state agency as it relates to recovery. The RSFs contained within the WRF are as follows:

  1. Housing Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  2. Cultural and Historic Resources Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  3. Natural Resources Recovery Support Function
  4. Infrastructure Systems Recovery Support Function
  5. Economic Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  6. Health Services Recovery Support Function
  7. Social Services Recovery Support Function
  8. Community Planning and Capacity Building Recovery Support Function

The Washington Restoration Framework will coordinate actions between the WA Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and the State Hazard Mitigation Plan. The seven RSFs establish the objectives, roles, pre/post-disaster priorities and the programs available including funding sources to support local recovery efforts.


The NDRF is being used as a guiding tool in the development of the WRF. The above image is the “Recovery Continuum” that FEMA describes as “a sequence of interdependent and often concurrent activities that progressively advance a community toward its planned recovery outcomes.” SOURCE: FEMA 2011