Pre and Post-Disaster Recovery for Community Organizations and Local Government

For more information, questions or technical assistance with recovery planning and post-disaster recovery coordination, please contact Washington Emergency Management Division Human Services Program Supervisor Taylor Hennessee at

Recovery Basics:

Individual Recovery – What Happens Next?

If you experience losses due to a disaster, here are some recommended steps to take:
1. Assess and Document Damage.
Identify and make a list of all damaged or lost items. Take pictures of damaged items and estimate how much you think it will cost to repair or replace your belongings.
2. Contact Your Insurance Provider.
Contact your insurance company to learn how to file a claim. If you experience any issues working with your insurance provider, you may want to contact or 1-800-562-6900 for assistance.
3. Report Damages to Local Emergency Management.
You should report damages to your local emergency management office. They may share local resources to support you in your recovery and will want to know the extent of damages in the area to seek state or federal assistance. Depending on the size of the disaster and how you were affected, you may need to report damages and register for assistance from multiple agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Small Business Administration (SBA) or the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
4. Stay Informed.
Be on the lookout for continued recovery resources shared by your local emergency management office and other community service organizations through radio, social media and paper fliers. Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster will be present to help with activities like damage assessment, debris clean-up, and supporting donations and volunteers.

For additional information on assistance for individuals, households, and businesses, visit:

Planning for recovery is planning for resilience

Thinking about recovery prior to any incident is central to preparedness and to building a resilient community.

  • For a more comprehensive list of recovery planning resources, including examples of existing plans and frameworks within Washington and beyond, please see our Recovery Planning Resources Guide (PDF) .

Pre-disaster recovery planning is planning for circumstances both foreseen and unforeseen by mitigation and emergency management plans. For example, disasters often trigger hazard mitigation action items, updated zoning codes, and new building regulations that may impact a community’s rebuilding effort. Acting quickly following an incident helps establish a pattern for success and avoid the tendency for a community to return to old routines before the recovery is even underway.

Disaster assistance programs triggered by an incident may also have short application windows. Communities with shovel-ready projects are positioned to receive more assistance. For example, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is activated statewide after a state Presidential Disaster Declaration, and any eligible project in the state can be funded, even if the project is not within the area impacted by the disaster.

The Washington Emergency Management Division (EMD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offer a variety of resources to communities to start thinking about recovery. Below are just a few key resources. 

Recovery is always done at the local level

Diagram showing a series of overlapping timelines, beginning with the moment the disaster occurs, depicting the size and scope of activities during the response and the short-term, intermediate, and long-term recovery operations.

The Washington Emergency Management Division can help your community with training, technical services and other forms of support. Several state agencies also administer grants, loans and other funds to support community planning and development pre- and post-disaster.

As a home rule state, Washington’s local jurisdictions and tribes are responsible for disaster response and recovery. The state’s role in disaster recovery depends on the local jurisdiction’s capacity to manage recovery and the complexity of the incident. In general, the state will function as a coordinating entity for state and federal resources and to facilitate relationships between jurisdictions, agencies and private organizations. During larger incidents, the state will play a greater role in the recovery process. A full description of how the state supports recovery for most disasters is found in the Washington Restoration Framework (PDF).

It's possible that there will be no federal or state funding available for recovery. Much of the available federal funding is dependent upon a Presidential Disaster Declaration and declarations may only include parts of the Public Assistance (Infrastructure) or Individual Assistance (Individuals and Households) programs. Even with outside funding, local ownership of the recovery process is necessary for success.

Acting quickly to engage or form a long-term recovery group/organization is a key to organizing recovery, building local support and securing resources to support your community and fill unmet needs.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (National VOAD) has developed a Long Term Recovery Guide to help communities navigate the post-disaster environment. The guide can be accessed here: Long Term Recovery Guide (PDF).

Basic recovery planning is straightforward
For emergency management jurisdictions, we recommend following the six steps outlined in FEMA’s Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operations Plans, Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101 to develop a local pre-disaster recovery plan

  1. Form a Collaborative Planning Team.
  2. Understand the Situation.
  3. Determine Goals and Objectives.
  4. Plan Development.
  5. Plan Preparation, Review and Approval.
  6. Plan Implementation and Maintenance.

Additional pre-disaster recovery planning tips to keep in mind are:

  • Define your community’s recovery organizational structure. This is an
    organizational chart focused on who makes decisions and takes on what
    roles during the recovery phase of a disaster. Include your recovery
    organization chart in your Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
  • Outline the structure and means of forming a local Long-Term Recovery
    Organization (LTRO) or Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) and engaging your community. Your LTRO or COAD can be the tool to engage the public, set recovery priorities, seek and coordinate resources and develop partnerships during the recovery process.
  • Develop a Long-Term Community Recovery annex to your Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. The annex can be your community’s recovery strategy and help your community start thinking about recovery before an incident occurs.
  • Discuss recovery in your hazard mitigation plan. Think about not just what will happen following a major incident, but how you will recover. For example, if your city is an annex to the county plan, make sure that the annex truly represents your goals and needs.
  • Align your existing plans (such as land use, housing and parks economic development plans) with your emergency management plans and include disaster recovery annexes in those plans.


There are many courses and training programs for individuals, organizations and governments that can help your community start planning for recovery. Some examples include:

  • The State Exercise Program offers many workshops and courses for responders, local government officials, and other stakeholders. Contact for more information and visit the state training calendar to find and register for courses and training opportunities.
  • FEMA Independent Study Courses are online classes in many different areas of preparedness, response, and recovery. Some highlights include:
    • IS-244.b, Developing and Managing Volunteers
    • IS-230.e, Fundamentals of Emergency Management
    • IS-2900.a, National Disaster Recovery Framework Overview
    • IS-558, Public Works and Disaster Recovery
    • IS-368, Including People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs in Disaster Operations
    • IS-288.a, The Role of Voluntary Organizations in Emergency Management
    • IS-505, Concepts of Religious and Cultural Literacy for Emergency Management
    • IS-403, Introduction to Individual Assistance
  • Our neighborhood preparedness programs are a great place to start building resilience at the neighborhood level. Please contact for more information.
  • The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center at the University of Hawaii offers courses on emergency management, response and recovery topics.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Plan  provides an overview on the SBA’s disaster recovery programs and the agency’s role in supporting long-term economic recovery.

Grants and other resources for individuals, organizations, local jurisdictions and tribes
The Washington Emergency Management Division has developed the Washington Recovery Resource Guide which compiles available financial, informational, material and other resources to support you and your community. This guide can help you find resources both before and after an incident. For more information on individual opportunities, please contact each program directly. For general questions about the guide, contact the Emergency Management Division’s recovery section at

The Washington State Recovery Resource Guide

** A User Guide (PDF) has been developed to aid in usability**

For more information on Emergency Management Division grants and services, please see:

Washington Restoration Framework (WRF)
The Washington Restoration Framework (WRF) contains the partnerships and organizational structures necessary to successfully manage recovery from natural disasters. The WRF explains the local, state and tribal roles in the recovery process and acts as a guide for how the state organizes for recovery based on existing roles and authorities. The WRF clarifies the state’s role in the recovery process and allows local jurisdictions and tribes to develop and update their recovery plans or frameworks in a way that improves integration and coordination across multiple levels of government. Our partners in this project include the state departments of Commerce, Health, Agriculture, Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Social and Health Services, Ecology and other state, local, federal and voluntary organizations. The framework incorporates flexibility and scalability to address different disaster types and magnitudes. Following the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) as a guiding tool, the WRF contains eight Recovery Support Function (RSFs). Recovery Support Functions facilitate the recovery process by bringing together agencies and departments to share information and resources on specific areas of recovery. RSFs improve state and federal resource coordination and program delivery at the local level. Each RSF contains the existing responsibilities and potential programs available of the state agencies and key organizations that play a role in the recovery process. Each RSF does not assign any new responsibilities or authorities, but rather captures the existing responsibilities and actions of each state agency as it relates to recovery. The RSFs are annex plans to the WRF that will be reviewed on an annual staggered cycle and updated on a staggered five-year cycle.

The Washington Restoration Framework (PDF)

The Recovery Support Functions (RSFs) are as follows:

  1. Housing Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  2. Cultural and Historic Resources Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  3. Natural Resources Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  4. Infrastructure Systems Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  5. Economic Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  6. Health Services Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  7. Social Services Recovery Support Function (PDF)
  8. Community Planning and Capacity Building Recovery Support Function (PDF)
The Washington Restoration Framework (WRF), like other state emergency planning documents, fall under the Comprehensive Emergency Management (Base) Plan at the top. The WRF is on the same level as other state emergency plans and the Recovery Support Functions reside under the WRF.