Disaster Life Cycle: Too Elementary for Reality

The disaster life cycle: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, Mitigation, Repeat.

That’s my growing issue with the disaster life cycle when applied to the public.  The cycle is flat and prescriptive implying that disaster will occur again the same way.  Life is a spiral.  Some days, the spiral the goes up and some days the spiral goes down.  But the spiral never puts you back to last week because your experiences have changed you.  We needs to reflect that life is constantly moving and doesn’t cleanly split into four buckets.

The right information at the right time will help people make better and more informed decisions on what immediate actions to take to be safer.  Just after a disaster, the right information at the right time will help people build back better.  If they take the wrong (or none) actions, the survivors will build back the same or at a lower state of resilience.  Either way, disaster survivors don’t return to a pre-disaster state; they move to a new normalcy.

People and communities are more than physical.  Disaster impacts people socially, politically, economically, emotionally and spiritually too.  These are not in lock-step together and do not move through the traditional disaster life-cycle together.  That’s another issue I have.  A house can be rebuilt quickly, but the emotion trauma can slow the house becoming a home again.  An injury or death may be physically handled, but the spiritual trauma to the survivors may be long lasting.

We need a way to explain pre-disaster, during disaster, and post-disaster on a continuum to reflect that every disaster is a major disaster to an individual, and that each survivor is on a unique recovery path of thing we can see and things we can’t see.