Symposium on Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery

On February 10–11, 2011, the American Planning Association hosted a scoping symposium in its Chicago office to explore a number of essential issues in guiding the Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation project as it moves forward. Invited participants focused on helping APA to define the appropriate audiences and central issues for the project, delineate the guiding principles in planning for post-disaster recovery, refine the outline for the PAS Report, and identify criteria for best practices and potential case examples to study.

Symposium Discussion

Symposium summary (pdf)

Defining the Audience

During the first discussion of the symposium, participants suggested the following potential audiences for the project or the final report:

  • Local planners
  • The emergency management community
  • Elected and appointed officials
  • The private sector (i.e., small business owners, community-based organizations, etc.)

Central Issues

During the next discussion of the symposium, participants offered the following issues as those that should be addressed by the project or the final report:

  • The key roles of planning in recovery
  • Lessons learned from the Disaster Mitigation and Stafford Acts
  • Opportunities for collaboration and cooperation between planners and emergency managers
  • The importance of broad-based community engagement
  • The effects of scale, diversity, power, psychology, and political interactions in recovery planning

Guiding Principles

After identifying central issues, participants discussed the following as guiding principles for the final report:

  • Traditional risk management
  • Strategic spending and investment
  • Inclusionary stakeholder involvement
  • Resilience and sustainability
  • Plan quality
  • Ongoing institutional maintenance

Structure of the Report

Next, participants offered the following reactions to the draft outline for the final report:

  • Make it clear that all communities are vulnerable.
  • Cover the dimensions of resiliency and the connection to sustainability.
  • Explore the process of defining successful recovery.
  • Discuss the “new normal” after recovery.
  • Include a cross-disciplinary glossary.
  • Include exercises for different audiences.

Best Practices Examples

In the final discussion of the symposium, participants suggested the following ideas, principles, and approaches that should be highlighted by specific case examples:

  • Avoiding disaster through pre-event planning
  • The utility of building moratoria
  • Different planning processes/approaches
  • The line between pre- and post-event
  • The cost in making readiness operational (in terms of dollars)
  • Pre-event planning with without a past disaster as an impetus
  • Examine organizational structures (centralized and decentralized)
  • Willingness to look again (openness to change)
  • Improved vertical integration
  • Roles played by faith-based groups
  • Cost-benefit analysis

Symposium Participants

APA and FEMA invited eight professionals, from various professional backgrounds, with extensive post-disaster recovery experience to participate in the scoping symposium.


David R. Godschalk, FAICPDavid R. Godschalk, FAICP, is Stephen Baxter Professor Emeritus in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he continues to maintain an active teaching and writing schedule. Godschalk has published 10 books on topics including growth management and land use planning, natural hazard mitigation and coastal management, and development dispute resolution and public participation.

J. Barry Hokanson, AICPJ. Barry Hokanson, AICP, has more than 45 years of urban planning experience with agencies in California, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois, with responsibility for development regulations, building codes, transportation planning, strategic planning, community development, stormwater and floodplain management, decision support technology, facilities management systems, emergency response planning, and post-disaster recovery planning in both urban and suburban areas. 

Laurie A. Johnson, AICPLaurie A. Johnson, AICP, is Principal of Laurie Johnson Consulting and Research and a senior science advisor to Lexington and Chartis Insurance companies. She has over 20 years of experience in urban planning, catastrophe risk management, and disaster recovery management, and has consulted on or researched recovery following many major urban disasters including the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, 1994 Northridge earthquake, 1995 Kobe, Japan, earthquake, and 1997 Grand Forks, North Dakota, flood.

Gerald H. JonesGerald H. Jones has been an active participant in the building and construction industry since 1949 and is a Registered Professional Engineer in Kansas and Missouri. He has been a code official for Overland Park, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. He has served as chairman or president of numerous organizations and councils including the National Institute of Building Sciences, the Building Seismic Safety Council, and the Multihazard Mitigation Council. He has been the recipient of many honors from organizations of his peers and from the cities he has served.

David L. MillerDavid L. Miller was originally appointed Administrator of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division by Governor Tom Vilsack in July 2004. He was reappointed by Governor Chet Culver in January 2007 and served in that capacity until January, 2011. Miller served as the Governor's Authorized Representative, Alternate Governor's Authorized Representative, or Alternate State Coordinating Officer in 27 President-declared disasters since 1990.

Gavin SmithGavin Smith is the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Natural Hazards and Disasters (UNC Hazards Center) and the Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence — Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure, and Emergency Management (DIEM). In this role, Smith oversees the administration of the UNC Hazards Center including the identification of research opportunities, building partnerships among hazard scholars and practitioners, and managing additional research initiatives and sub-centers as they emerge. 

Ken  Topping, FAICPKen Topping, FAICP, is a lecturer with the City and Regional Planning Department of California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, and project director of the State Hazard Mitigation Plan Revision Project prepared by Cal Poly for the California Emergency Management Agency. He is also president of Topping Associates International, an urban planning consulting firm, and a member of the San Luis Obispo County planning commission.

Lincoln  N. Walther, FAICPLincoln N. Walther, FAICP, heads the Planning Division at CSA International (CSA). He has over 40 years of experience in community planning, hazard mitigation, and emergency management in Florida and Louisiana.  He has been involved in the development of local hazard mitigation plans since 1998 when Florida initiated its own local hazard mitigation plan program known as the Local Mitigation Strategy which was a precursor to the FEMA Local Hazard Mitigation Program the U.S. Congress established in 2000.

APA Team

William R. Klein, AICP
Kirstin Kuenzi
Joseph MacDonald, AICP
Timothy Mennel
David Morley, AICP
Rana Salzmann
Jim Schwab, AICP


Jennifer Burmester
Matt Campbell
Steve Castaner, AICP
Erin Miles
Roy Wright


Allison Boyd, AICP