American Bar Association Publication Brings Unique Perspective to Recovery Post-Disaster

Dorcas R. Gilmore, a University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law graduate, has put her legal education and training to use while working in disaster recovery like many CHHS staffers. Through the American Bar Association’s Forum on Affordable Housing & Community Development Law, Ms. Gilmore details a recent rise in disasters and the role of practitioners in diminishing their impact as the Co- Editor (with Diane M. Standaert) of Building Community Resilience Post-Disaster: A Guide for Affordable Housing & Community Economic Development Practitioners. The publication brings a unique perspective and helpful tools to the emergency management field, while highlighting what we have long known; that it is truly interdisciplinary and requires the attention of lawyers, social workers, emergency managers, community leaders, etc. to deal with and recover from disasters.

Reprinted by permission, American Bar Association © 2013 – Excerpt from Building Community Resilience Post-Disaster: A Guide for Affordable Housing & Community Economic Development Practitioners:

In the late fall of 2012 Hurricane Sandy devastated communities from the Caribbean to Canada. It followed Hurricane Isaac’s landfall on the Gulf Coast less than three months earlier. In the wake of these storms, many news reports raised the question of whether disasters are “the new normal,” especially as such events are increasing in frequency and intensity. With over 655 major disaster declarations in the last decade and 71% of the United States facing disaster drought conditions in 2012, examination and public discussion of the post-disaster roles of government and nongovernmental entities are warranted. Human-created disasters are an equally important part of the analysis. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks redefined governmental responses and preparedness for human-created disasters. Subsequent events like the 2010 BP oil drilling disaster, one of the largest environmental disasters in U.S. history, reignited the national debate on the impacts of these disasters and respective roles of public and private actors in post-disaster recovery.

Whether rising floodwaters, ravages of a financial crisis, oil polluted seafood, or fatalities from terrorist attacks, the tolls disasters exact on communities are immediate, profound, and long-lasting. Disasters spotlight many longstanding affordable housing and community economic development questions—how and where to create housing and economic opportunities; how will these opportunities be financed; who will benefit from them; who will bear the environmental and economic costs of development; and who will be included in these important decisions. Lawyers and other practitioners in the field of affordable housing and community economic development confront these issues head-on, from the immediate aftermath through the long-term recovery. In facing these post-disaster realities, Building Community Resilience Post-Disaster calls upon practitioners to advance communities’ abilities to rebound and create stronger and healthier places to live, work, worship, and play—to be more resilient.

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