DRC-Disaster Research Center

Active Studies










Methods for Measuring, Monitoring and Evaluating Post-Disaster Recovery

Principal Investigators: Rachel Davidson (Co-PI), (With Ronald Eguchi (PI), Beverley Adams(Co-PI), Stephanie Chang(Co-PI), Arleen Hill(Co-PI)
Graduate Research Assistants: Dana Rathfon
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation(NSF)

Study Description

Post-disaster recovery—one of the phases of the disaster management cycle—is a complex physical, social, economic, environmental, and political process. It lasts years, requires enormous financial and other resources, and can define the character of the affected communities for years to come. The literature includes a number of theoretical frameworks of recovery, and many empirical case studies of historic events. The empirical studies have often focused on a single dimension of recovery, such as households and housing, and they have typically relied on interviews, focus groups, and one-time surveys for data gathering. This literature offers rich cross-sectional insights into recovery at a given point in time, but limited views of changes over time or systematic, quantitative empirical descriptions of recovery over large areas.

An opportunity exists now to address some of these limitations using newly available high-resolution satellite imagery; previously underutilized statistical data, and field survey techniques that capture a detailed geographically-referenced record of recovery through photographs, video, and observations. Given the importance of recovery, limitations of previous research on it, and new technological opportunities, this study will develop innovative methods for systematically and quantitatively measuring and monitoring post-disaster recovery. Using  Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Katrina as a case studies, the proposed project will achieve the following objectives: (1) Develop methods to process and interpret remote-sensing data to describe the physical  and socio-economic manifestations of post-disaster recovery; (2) Obtain and compile quantitative and qualitative recovery data from: remote-sensing, field reconnaissance surveys, secondary statistical sources, interviews, and surveys; (3) Develop methods to analyze and synthesize the recovery data to comprehensively measure and monitor recovery; and (4) Demonstrate application of the new methods within the case study area. Improved tracking of recovery will serve as a critical first step for future efforts to better explain and evaluate recovery by addressing questions such as:


  • For a disaster that has just occurred, over what timeframes and in what ways is recovery likely to unfold? 
  • Why is recovery proceeding in a particular way?
  • How are recovery speed and character correlated with various pre- and post-disaster decisions and actions?