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Disaster Recovery: How School Districts Can Start Right to End Right

Perhaps you've survived a natural disaster, rebuilt, and are back on track. If so, you know how daunting the experience can be. You also understand that it could—and most likely will—happen again. In a presentation given by Chris Pellegrin, CSRS's Facilities Business Unit Leader, at the 2017 Association for Learning Environments (A4LE), he discussed the necessary steps and best practices for proper disaster response and recovery.

To begin, a best practices guide serves as a quick reference for helping school districts avoid common mistakes in the recovery and rebuilding process. It covers both immediate and long-term recovery steps related to documentation, procurement and FEMA deadlines. The guide also addresses key decisions that need to occur early in the process, especially related to funding. Similarly, a disaster recovery planning guide has been developed and covers everything school leaders need to know before, during and after an event.

Experts know from firsthand experience that resilience is critical to a successful recovery. Resilience is the ability to survive, adapt and thrive in the face of change. In terms of survival, it's important to understand the risks and take steps to mitigate. If your school building functions as a shelter, for instance, it will be necessary to plan for access restrictions, medical needs, safety and more. Similarly, you must be prepared to adapt or change as new risks are identified. This could include everything from the adaptive re-use of existing building space to alternative and flexible funding sources.

Finally, to truly thrive, plans should be aligned with the goals of the school district and the community. This translates to carefully thought-out ideas about every aspect of rebuilding, from building location and size to energy efficiency. Keep in mind that it may not be necessary to replicate what previously existed. Instead, rethink current and future needs, and then build with recovery in mind.

See how we're applying these steps and best practices by reading our case study: Recovery School District—Restoration From Hurricane Katrina.



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