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Can We Shift to Recovery Too Soon?

I read this week that officials in Oregon have shifted their efforts towards recovery following the series of devastating wildfires that impacted the region. According to Governor Kate Brown, Oregon's wildfires have "turned a corner" as firefighters continue to make significant progress containing the flames, but Oregonians still face a long road to recovery. After reading this I wondered, can we shift to recovery too soon? When is the best time to pull the trigger on recovery? Is there a perfect time or does this just exist in the minds of emergency managers?

The wonderful Phases of Emergency Management graphics like the one at the top of the page have inundated the field. Unfortunately, these might make it seem that the recovery phase comes after the response, I really think that smart recovery begins the moment you get started. I like to imagine it as a target that I am aiming for. As soon as you start a response, as a smart emergency manager, you should be thinking about what to do once the response portion is over.

It seems that Firefighters in the region agree with my assessment of starting early. As of the writing of this article, they are still battling seven large fires. One of the largest blazes is the Lionshead Fire, which has burned nearly 320 square miles (828 square kilometers) and is 15% contained. Experts believe it is likely that firefighters will continue to fight the "megafires" — defined as having scorched 100,000 acres or more — through mid-October, when there is "heavy and consistent" rain.[1]

Recovery is generally thought of as the end of the phases of disaster, but these steps are not set in stone. In fact, activating recovery steps early may be the difference between success and failure. Start early, and plan today for what you might be doing next month.


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