Any assistance provided in disasters can only
be useful if it is based on correct views or assumptions of what actually
occurs (during the emergency period). If the assumption is wrong, the assistance
may well be misdirected, unnecessary, inappropriate, or simply duplicate what is
Quarantelli was referring to the dynamics of an immediate
post-disaster situation when making this telling statement. However it is
equally appropriate to the longer term recovery context. While the literature on
post-disaster response is thin, knowledge of recovery/reconstruction is even
less developed. Therefore, until there is better documentation of
recovery/reconstruction, officials have to act on the basis of assumed behavior.
The following assumptions are commonly made, but they may be incorrect,
over-optimistic or unrealistic.
Political support will be maintained
throughout the period needed for recovery.
Support will be at its highest in the aftermath of the disaster
and will gradually decrease in time. Pre-election time often increases the
political will to act swiftly. Effective leadership and organizational capacity
at the local level can put pressure on the authorities for the sustainability of
political support. Better media coverage beyond the initial relief phase can
also help to put pressure on the authorities. Ways of keeping the interest of
the media to follow up progress with recovery needs should be sought.
Professional bodies and community organizations can also be considered among the
pressure groups to maintain political interest.
There will be continuity of funding
Most national and international funding will be available during
the relief and sometimes rehabilitation periods. As reconstruction needs
increase, often available funds are decreased. At this stage local income
generation, revolving funds, and private sector support and other funding
possibilities are essential.
The above assumptions can be represented in graphic form which
indicate that paradoxically, political and media support needed to maintain
funding for reconstruction is apt to decline just as implementation gets under
way, just when it is most needed.
Therefore, the implications are:
Incorporate recovery planning
into preparedness planning.
Act swiftly after the
disaster while political capital is still available.
Maintain interest of the influence groups.
There will be synchronization of
perceptions, expectations and capacities of the parties involved in
rehabilitation and reconstruction processes.
The complex nature of the recovery phase, the large number of
actors involved from the press, donors, various authorities to the different
interest groups at community level often result in conflict of perceptions,
concerns and values not to mention difference of opinions among the technical
community. This will run through the whole process from the needs assessment to
the final stages of reconstruction. These conflicts can delay the recovery
process considerably, and if not resolved by active collaboration of all
parties, may result in unsatisfactory programs.
There will be adequate levels of
competency to undertake the required rehabilitation and reconstruction
Depending on the scale of damage and the countrys level of
development, there may be lack of skilled human resources and administrative
capacity to facilitate the necessary actions. The import of external expertise
can help fill the gap in the short-term but may not be maintained in the
long-term. Training and education will improve the situation but pre-disaster
investment in human development will be the key. Maximizing the local capacities
in self-reliance rather than depending on external support and aiming for
programs that can increase local involvement will also reduce the need for
expert inputs in some aspects of recovery.
Recovery is confined to physical
reconstruction and it must precede economic and social recovery.
As already noted in this module, physical, economic, social and
psychological recovery are all linked and inter-dependent processes. They are
not normally sequential, however it is important to recognize that if economic
recovery occurs rapidly this can provide the necessary impetus to support
physical reconstruction. It needs to be emphasized again that successful
recovery is not only a product oriented exercise measured in numbers but must
also address local organizational capacities and long-term economic and social
Rapid reconstruction is possible
without any sacrifice in quality or safety.
Reconstruction can provide extensive work opportunities with the
potential for profits for building contractors. Unless authorities maintain
effective quality control and enforcement, there is a real risk that the seeds
of the next disaster can be sown at this time. Delays in reconstruction
decisions, land allocation, micro zonation, new codes, provision of materials
and expertise etc., can also result in the public taking its own actions to
repair or rebuild without proper guidance and control by the authorities. In
such situations it may still be better to make some sacrifices and act from
available information and emergency codes rather than delay all actions for more
thorough scientific studies. Likewise, mitigation measures that are acceptable
and affordable by the vulnerable groups may have a chance of reducing future
risks more than sophisticated measures that cannot be implemented or maintained
by the affected population.
There will be high levels of
acceptance and obedience to the codes and controls that the government
Government officials and politicians regularly make this
assumption. To initiate building codes or land-use planning controls is one
thing, to enforce them over time is another. It will be particularly difficult
to ensure the obedience of poor families who cannot afford the extra expense of
the code requirements or who have no access to safe land. One option will be to
link codes and controls with some form of subsidy or incentives, and training
for the public as well as inspection to ensure that the resources are available
to ensure that compliance occurs. Nevertheless, it will still be optimistic to
assume that marginal settlements and most rural areas will benefit from codes
and controls without comprehensive planning that incorporates their wide
spectrum of needs to achieve safety.
It will be particularly difficult to ensure
the obedience of poor families who cannot afford the extra expense of the code
requirements or who have no access to safe land.
Effective reconstruction is an
isolated process from normal (pre-disaster) planning and building
Officials must recognize that before effective implementation of
any reconstruction it will be imperative to look at the administrative system,
planning procedures, codes of practice, quality control systems, land ownership,
local power structures, general standards of living etc. to see if they need
improvements prior to bricks being laid, seed sown or trees planted. The problem
that is often faced is that authorities find themselves undertaking a double
reconstruction process; they are reconstructing the failures of the system in
reducing disaster risk and vulnerabilities, as well as post-disaster
... when you embark on reconstruction planning
everyone you talk to blames this or that problem you encounter on the disaster.
But gradually as you proceed it becomes all too apparent that at least 90% of
the problems you are confronting were present well before the disaster occurred.
All that has happened is that the disaster has acted as a surgeons scalpel
to expose these latent weaknesses in buildings, the urban fabric, the planning
system or the administrative infrastructure.
George Nez 1975
Q. Of the eight dangerous assumptions listed in
the text, which in your own experience are the most likely to threaten the
recovery/reconstruction plan if made and unverified?