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Do You Need a Debris Management Plan?

A debris management plan is a document, normally written that establishes procedures and guidelines for managing disaster debris in a coordinated, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective manner. Without some organized approach, it is hard to manage the large amount of “stuff” that shows up after an emergency or disaster.

According to FEMA, an effective debris management plan does the following.[1]

  • Facilitates response and recovery activities

  • Facilitates the quick return of a community to normalcy

  • Reduces impacts to humans and the environment

  • Ensures effective use of resources

  • Helps to control and minimize costs

  • Aids in complying with applicable local, state/tribal/territorial, and Federal regulations

A properly developed plan includes a number of steps. These steps allow the developer to cover all the bases associated with debris management.

The first steps are pre-planning activities, including Identifying, the likely debris types you will encounter and the amounts you may face. Pre-planning also includes an up-to-date list of agencies likely to be involved and any local regulations that need followed.

Step 2 is the creation of a debris removal strategy beyond the initial clearing of material in the first few days after the event. The initial push to get stuff out of the way will happen organically, but the movement will not be efficient. The initial move will be in order to save lives and stabilize the incident. There will be little concern for long-term debris removal.

Finally, a good plan prioritizes debris management options. There will be materials that need removed first due to their harmful effects on the public. Other materials might require special attention including things needing recycled or destroyed on site. This sort of planning cannot be done effectively on the fly, so pre-planning is vital.

You need a debris management plan and you need to get started on it now. The massive influx of materials coming in and generated by the actual disaster are enormous. It can stifle or even completely halt your work. Failing to have some idea of what you will do to address this only invites trouble to your event creating “a disaster within a disaster.”


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