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Workshop Summary

The 2019 Workshop took place in Savannah, Georgia on January 23-24, 2019. Both days were packed with panels and interactive sessions. Participants took the opportunity to learn more about one another's work, to engage each other in structured activities to advance our collective knowledge, and to mingle and network over meals. Many participants arrived in town early to take advantage of a full day National Disaster Preparedness Training Center training, Planning for Community Disaster Recovery. Learn more about the individual sessions of the workshop below!

Resilience & Recovery Perspectives from Savannah and the Georgia Coast

Georgia Perspectives

Savannah and the Georgia coast are home to unique cultural and environmental assets. However, the coast is also vulnerable to hurricanes, sea level rise, erosion, and even wildfires. In this panel, we heard from a variety of perspectives about disaster recovery and resilience in Savannah and the Georgia coast. Panelists shared their approach to this work, their thoughts on collaboration and partnerships, and perspectives on opportunities and challenges. In the Q&A, panelists discussed untapped resources for building resilience.



Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Division

Coastal Georgia, with 14 barrier islands and 360 acres of salt marsh, benefits from a rich natural and cultural history. Recent hurricanes have demonstrated that the costs of recovery and redevelopment are increasing. Director Haymans opened the Workshop with remarks about how Georgia is reducing storm impacts and recovery costs through pre-disaster recovery planning. By 2020, all eleven coastal counties will have local pre-disaster recovery plans in place, making Georgia the first in the nation to achieve this level of preparation. These plans are about more than sandbags and generators – they help Georgians be prepared for the work that happens after the disaster strikes and recedes.

Chronic Flooding

High Tide and Other Chronic Flooding

Chronic flooding is a growing problem for communities across the Southeast. Some coastal cities and towns flood during cyclical high tides, while others have nuisance flooding caused by inadequate stormwater management. With sea level rise and greater precipitation driven by climate change, we will need more creative and holistic strategies to manage this type of flooding. Three experts from federal government, local government, and academia discuss their approaches to coping with chronic flooding.


Senior Environmental Project Coordinator

Broward County​

Broward County faces a multitude of chronic flooding problems. Water from the Everglades flows into the County, while the water table beneath the ground is rising. While chronic flooding worsens, development is booming. On average, 100 people move to the County every day. Jason Liechty shared his department’s work to adopt design and development standards appropriate to future conditions, such as sea level rise. The County is requiring more drainage on site, for example, to respond to future climate conditions, and the 100-year flood maps now reflect sea level rise. Broward County also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to generate sea wall standards that reflected sea level rise. On a promising note, Jason shared that there has been virtually no opposition to higher standards, including from developers, because of strong scientific backing and lots of outreach work.

Learning from Recent Disasters

Lessons Learned

One of the challenges of disaster recovery is that disasters do not happen in the same way and in the same place every time. It can feel like every recovery program or initiative is starting from scratch. Bringing together leaders from different backgrounds, panelists whose careers span multiple disaster recoveries shared their perspectives. This session included a breakout discussion for all participants to explore the lessons learned from recent disasters, the lessons that haven’t been learned, and how we can use our knowledge to implement better recoveries.


Research Project Manager

North Carolina Division of Emergency Management

North Carolina Emergency Management is leading an effort to evaluate the Hurricane Matthew recovery with support from the Southeast Disaster Recovery Partnership. Across interviews with state agency staff, the greatest challenges that the state faced in the Hurricane Matthew recovery concerned capacity. Recovery programs had to ramp up quickly, and some agencies became responsible for programs that they had never run before. To address these challenges, additional permanent staff would increase capacity as well as institutional memory about administering recovery programs. In addition, recovery staff had to respond to a constant stream of external requests for information and assistance. A centralized system for handling information requests and tracking information would help reduce the burden associated with responding to external information requests. Look for more insights from this project on our website soon!

New Sectors

Day 1 Interactive Session:

New Friendships and Connections

In this session, we developed an understanding of next steps to build or strengthen relationships between disaster recovery and energy efficiency, conservation, and private insurance. 


Led by Mary Conley of The Nature Conservancy, this discussion centered on scaling up work that connects land conservation to disaster resilience. Land conservation work includes preservation and restoration of wetlands, streams, natural coastal buffers, and other habitats. For example, living shorelines provide multiple environmental benefits while increasing resilience of coastal communities. However, it isn't always clear how living shorelines should be permitted and many marine contractors do not have expertise in the living shorelines approach. More assessment work is needed to demonstrate where, when, and how land conservation strategies diminish storm impacts. With this information, it will be easier to promote the use of green infrastructure strategies in hazard mitigation plans, disaster recovery plans, and comprehensive plans.

Energy Efficiency

Led by Kate Lee of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, this discussion centered on the opportunity to rebuild housing that is more resilient and energy efficient. Participants identified opportunities like integrating resilience into energy efficiency home assessments, including efficiency improvements in CDBG-DR program construction standards, and engaging energy efficiency and disaster resilience in building code improvements. This intersection is a nascent area of work with significant opportunities for pilot projects and policy innovation.

Private Insurance

Led by Julie Shiyou-Woodard of Smart Home America (SHA), this discussion centered on SHA's innovative program which provides homeowners an insurance discount for more resilient building practices. To implement this program, SHA worked closely with the insurance industry and with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, which sets the FORTIFIED standard used in this program. Right now, anyone can build a FORTIFIED home, but insurance discounts are only available in some states. SHA staff discussed the strategies they used to establish and implement this program. Homeowners respond better when "building back better" means something very specific and quantifiable in financial terms. "Persistent engagement" is crucial, as deep and continuous education and outreach efforts set the stage for large scale buy-in. Finally, working closely with insurers, builders, and homeowners makes all of SHA's work possible.

Reaching Businesses

Reaching Businesses Before and After Disaster

Reaching businesses is one of the Southeast Disaster Recovery Partnership's cross-cutting themes. Businesses are key partners in disaster recovery, from meeting everyday needs like groceries to providing jobs that allow families to rebuild their homes. In this panel, we heard from leaders who are strengthening their relationships with the private sector and serving businesses in new ways.


Emergency Management Planner

Miami-Dade Emergency Management


With support from the Southeast Disaster Recovery Partnership, Miami-Dade is upgrading its disaster recovery plan and leading a survey of businesses about their emergency management and disaster recovery needs. Steve discussed the public-private partnerships that Miami-Dade relies on, including its Emegency Support Function 18 (Business and Industry) and its Economic Recovery Support Functions. There are two types of private sector organizations in these support functions -- large corporations, including major retailers and banks, and networking organizations like chambers of commerce and small business development centers, which are "force multipliers." Miami-Dade even has its own partnership of emergency management and cultural heritage organizations called Alliance for Response. In addition, Miami-Dade just rolled out a business preparedness survey in three languages to learn more about businesses experiences during Hurricane Irma 


Day 2 Interactive Session:

Innovation, Barriers, and Underutilized Resources

In this session, we distilled our understanding of the field of disaster recovery and resilience in three areas: innovation, barriers, and underutilzed resources. Using discussion and structured prioritization, participants identified highest priority issues for each topic. Learn more about these issues in the brief that was based on this discussion. 


We have seen a variety of innovative practices emerge from recent disasters that struck the Southeast and Caribbean. Here are four that are most promising for wider implementation:

  1. Small business continuity workshops, which have a large impact on recovery

  2. Improving building standards, linking resilience and energy efficiency upgrades into building code changes, and tying immediate cost-savings into resilience

  3. Providing effective, needed, strategic technical assistance after disaster

  4. Emergent groups and non-profits, which form in response to disaster but do not always get involved in long-term recovery


Unfortunately, there is no shortage of challenges that disaster recovery and resilience face. It is critical for stakeholders to push beyond the regular complaints to understand deeper issues and identify actionable problems.

  1. Disaster recovery and resilience can be a saturated but disorganized field of work

  2. Uninclusive representation of the diversity of impacted residents among practitioners and decision-makers

  3. Concepts too big for public consumption, and messages that aren't broken down into digestible bites

  4. Plan implementation. We have no shortage of plans, but their implementation is fragmented and limited

Underutilized Resources

Recovering from disaster and achieve resilience require the engagement of resources from every corner of society. Here are five sources of knowledge and capacity which could be more widely employed.

  • The insurance industry, including insurance associations and state departments of insurance

  • Local banks and community development financial institutions

  • Technology innovation, from data dashboards to modeling, data mining to hackathons and app development

  • Groups of like-minded residents, from informal organizations that emerge right after disasters to existing organizations like local houses of worship

  • Silver jackets, which are state-based, inter-agency teams of professionals dedicated to reducing risk of flooding and other natural disasters


Public-Private Partnerships

After the release of our white paper For the Long Haul: Public-Private Partnerships for Disaster Recovery, collaborators from NOAA and Sea Grant agencies in the Southeast and the Caribbean worked on in-state projects that strengthened public-private partnerships. In 2018, these partners led our Workshop participants in an initial discussion session. Between the 2018 and 2019 Workshops, several pilot efforts began, and during this panel, we heard about these projects.


Extension Agent

Florida Sea Grant

Before Hurricane Irma arrived in the Florida Keys, where were 450,000 spiny lobster traps off the coast. After the hurricane, these traps were far from their original locations. Florida Sea Grant used pilot funds to contribute to a rapid assessment of the location of traps, using spotter pilots and GPS referenced photographs. These flyovers and their associated data facilitated that recovery of significant numbers of traps, which then allowed fishermen to get back to work faster. It is estimated that the flyovers saved $4 million dollars. This project built on existing strong relationships between Sea Grant and the commercial spiny lobster fishery. It also helped build new relationships with the fishermen, Sea Grant, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which also has benefitted from the data.

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