Skip to content

Book Review: Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters

​In an unusual approach, the authors of this work, Long-Term Community Recovery from Natural Disasters, chose to study the impact of natural disasters on communities by working backwards. Therefore, they examine the hazards themselves and their aftermath. They describe these events as being physically, psychologically, socially, and economically devastating to the communities and people that are impacted. 

It is the insight into the changed environments that exist after the flood water has receded, the winds have stopped, and the dust truly settles that forms the true substance of this book. The authors define a variety of impacts from social experiential congruence, (the collective experience of people undergoing a natural hazard event) to the effect on a community when it is no longer able to perform critical functions such as policing and provision of healthcare and utilities. 

The consequences are not just the physical impacts of the natural hazard itself, but also the immediate, systemic, and lasting effects on the community. This part of the book explains the situational evolution of the circumstances and the complex and disruptive nature of the situation now imposed on the entire community.

A chapter describing post-disruption recovery or “Real Problems for Real People in Real Places” helps the reader understand the economic, housing, demographic, and social/physiological/psychological environments during and after a disaster. 

How does a community recover? The latter part of the book is a cornucopia of distinctions, definitions, processes, lessons, warnings, and recommendations that will aid understanding of that complex and emotive problem. For example, the authors posit that establishing who is in charge must be accomplished right at the beginning of the recovery period.

Once the recovery has started, the penultimate part of this excellent work is to shape the potential post-event recovery scene using observed and understood strategies. Ranging in subject from doing what has always been done to a total transformation of the community, each strategy is discussed to ascertain what really works best. A final look at what to do as prerequisites to be undertaken before the next natural hazard event completes what is a comprehensive and well-constructed tool that will assist anyone who is involved in emergency preparedness.

Reviewer: Paul Stanley, CPP, is a senior security advisor for BC Hydro in Vancouver, Canada. He serves on the ASIS International Utilities Security Council.