The Disaster Recovery Process: What We Know And Do Not Know From Research

Quarantelli, E. L.
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Disaster Research Center
We discuss five general topics. First, there are various referents for the term "recovery." We note that what seems a simple enough term or word, namely "recovery" covers a variety of very complex activities that need to be addressed in any practical and/or theoretical discussion about the issue. What a process is called, can make a significant difference in consequences. Second, we consider the policy implications of what might constitute success or failure in disaster recovery. These are related to the goals and levels of recovery, the size of the recovering unit, different perspectives on the process, the secondary or ripple effects of disasters on recovery, and differences in recovery in disasters compared to catastrophes. Third, we highlight and summarize ten general themes from the research literature about what is known about those individuals and households who are assisted in the recovery effort after disasters. There are substantial differences regarding, for instance, the sources of aid, the kinds of help provided, and the effects of the assistance given to victims in the recovery process. Fourth, we discuss what the research literature says about those who give or provide disaster assistance to individuals and households in the aftermath of a disaster. The givers or providers, usually organizations, have more complex problems than usually is recognized. Fifth, we note two poorly studied questions. How do different cultural values affect the process (as illustrated by corruption)? What role do political considerations play in the process? These and other factors suggest some of the limits of the observations we have drawn from the existing research base.
This is the written paper prepared as background for the oral remarks made at the International Forum on Civil Protection on March 20, 1999 at Foligno, Italy. It is an updating of an earlier version (Quarantelli, 1998).
Disaster Recovery , Research