Regional Recovery Conference

March 11-12, 2019

Finding a Path Forward: Lessons from Christchurch, Dr. Laurie Johnson

Understanding Equity and Social Justice, Dr. Alessandra Jerolleman

Who’s on First? Covering the Right Bases with the Right Partners

Integrating Recovery into Critical Infrastructure Preparedness/Resilience

Conference Summary

The Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RDPO) hosted a 2-day, Regional Disaster Recovery Conference in March of 2019. Attendees:

  • Learned about how other urban areas have recovered from a catastrophic disaster.

  • Learned how to address key issues such as equity and social justice during disaster recovery, and how to support vulnerable populations.

  • Provided feedback on how disaster recovery should be coordinated and implemented in the greater Portland Metropolitan Region.


Day one

  • Keynote: Finding the Path Forward: Lessons from Christchurch, a Recovery Case Study [slides | video]

    • Dr. Laurie Johnson

  • Panel: Who’s on First? Covering the Right Bases with the Right Partners [video]

    • Joan Rave, FEMA Region X; Clint Fella, Oregon OEM; Heather Kelly, City of Kirkland; Jim White, Nonprofit Association of Oregon)

  • Lunch [slides]

  • Breakout:

Day Two

  • Keynote: Understanding Equity and Social Justice [slides | video]

    • Dr. Alessandra Jerolleman

  • Panel: Integrating Recovery into Critical Infrastructure Preparedness and Resilience [slides | video]

    • Jay Wilson, Clackamas County Disaster Management; Danielle Mieler, San Francisco Office of Resilience and Capital Planning; Jonna Papaefthimiou, Portland Bureau of Emergency Management; Dave Evonuk, Portland Water Bureau; Megan Neill, Multnomah County Division of Transportation

  • Lunch [slides]

  • Breakout:

    • Community Planning & Capacity Building [slides]

    • Infrastructure Systems [slides]

    • Natural & Cultural Resources [slides]




This two-page summary highlights important lessons from New Zealand’s experience recovering from the large earthquakes that struck the Canterbury region in 2010-2011. This case was featured in a book called “After Great Disasters: An In-Depth Analysis of How Six Countries Managed Community Recovery” co-authored by our conference keynote speaker, Laurie Johnson. 

Equity and social justice

An equitable post-disaster recovery means that every stakeholder gets a chance to participate and benefit from recovery processes. It acknowledges that inequities and vulnerabilities that exist before a disaster may be exacerbated after a disaster. It requires careful and deliberate planning that engages the whole community.

These issues of equity intersect and interconnect with each of the Recovery Support Functions, from rebuilding housing, transportation, and economic systems to restoring social connections, neighborhoods, and communities.

Case Study: Puerto Rico

Equity has been a critical focus of recovery from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and recovery from other recent disasters throughout the United States. Research has demonstrated that the effects of disasters, as well as the recovery process, has historically exacerbated the effects of social vulnerability and wealth inequality. 

Can we move towards an equitable recovery process? 

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm causing widespread devastation. Damage to the island included extensive flooding, extended blackout, and an island-wide infrastructure damage. Moreover, the storm has been estimated to have caused up to 2,975 deaths.

The Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission (RPRAC) produced a report, ReImagina Puerto Rico, in which one of the guiding principles is “prioritize equity and inclusiveness.” The report lists 97 strategic recommendations in six sectors (housing, energy, physical infrastructure, health, education and social services, natural infrastructure, and economic development), which aim to provide concrete, actionable recommendations for the long-term recovery and reconstruction process. Many of these recommendations promote equitable recovery throughout the six sectors, including:

  • Housing – Provide technical capacity to implement a place-based and community-driven approach for identifying and planning reconstruction projects through collaborative and deliberative engagement.

  • Energy – Establish reliable and diversified backup energy systems for vulnerable individuals and critical facilities, such as hospitals, schools, and emergency shelters and services facilities.

Resources: Equity and Social Justice in Disaster Recovery