Disaster recovery is the coordinated process of supporting disaster affected communities through the reconstruction of physical infrastructure and restoration of economic, physical and emotional wellbeing. It is preferred that individuals and communities are supported in the management of their own recovery through this process because they are in the best position to know what their needs are and how they can be met. It is considered that this approach is most likely to build community capacity and sustainability.

The principles of disaster recovery, which are adopted by Australia's disaster recovery coordinators, determine it is most effective when:

  • management arrangements recognise that recovery from disaster is a complex, dynamic and protracted process
  • agreed plans and management arrangements are well understood by the community and disaster management agencies
  • recovery agencies are properly integrated into disaster management arrangements
  • community service and reconstruction agencies have input into key decision making
  • recovery services are conducted with the active participation of the affected community
  • recovery managers are fully involved from the time of initial briefings
  • recovery services are provided in a timely, fair, equitable and flexible manner
  • recovery personnel are supported by training programmes and exercises.

A review of the social impact of disasters highlighted the seriousness of wide ranging impacts to individuals and the greater community with which communities and recovery support agencies need to cope. It also outlined the stages communities go through following a natural disaster.

The range and severity of these impacts on individuals and communities, their social, health and economic functioning, and on their long-term wellbeing means that the recovery process can take one to five years.

(Excerpt from: Natural Disasters in Australia: Reforming mitigation, relief and recovery. First Published 2004 © Commonwealth of Australia 2004 - Read COAG Report )

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