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University researchers using FEMA grant to develop tool to measure disaster recovery

New York, NY – Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are creating a tool to measure how well communities recover from disasters.

The tool will be based on a set of benchmarks, known as healthy community recovery indicators, established by the research project. State and local officials such as emergency managers and planners, as well as federal long-term recovery workers in New York, will be able to use the tool.

The tool is scheduled to be ready for use by late 2014.

The $216,000 project is being funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This month, UNC researcher Jennifer Horney introduced the project in a presentation, “Healthy Community Recovery Indicators: NY Pilot Project,” before long-term recovery workers at the Joint Federal-State field office in Forest Hills, N.Y. Horney is manager of the Research and Evaluation Unit at UNC’s North Carolina Institute for Public Health and a research assistant professor in the epidemiology department and in the university’s Institute for the Environment.

She described the research that has been done so far as well as the work ahead; details of the indicators and the tool itself are still being worked out.

But what is known is that the indicators will be used to measure success in the eight areas related to the recovery mission area core capabilities described in the National Preparedness Goal and in the six recovery support functions of the National Disaster Recovery Framework. For example, one possible indicator could compare the number of businesses in a specified area before and after a disaster.

Using the recovery indicators, New York state and local as well as federal recovery workers will be able to measure what a high-quality disaster recovery and a healthy post-disaster community should look like.

Researchers are interviewing long-term recovery workers, including as many as 20 federal long-term recovery workers in New York. After her presentation, Horney met with coordinators from some of the six recovery support functions, which include areas such as housing and infrastructure. Information from the interviews will be analyzed to identify themes and will be used later in the pilot test of the recovery indicators.

In the coming months, researchers will work with federal recovery workers to ensure that the number of indicators and measures for each are workable and practical. Researchers and recovery workers also will identify roughly three to five communities to serve as pilot sites next year. The tool will be reviewed and revised as needed. 

The indicators will be scalable for regional or national use by those involved in disaster recovery.

According to one of the project’s participants, UNC’s Coastal Hazards Center of Excellence – a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Center of Excellence – such measurable community recovery indicators have never been developed for federal, state or local officials.

Last Updated: 
12/13/2013 - 10:30