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Adaptation strategies for disaster debris management
The best way to manage disaster debris is to plan ahead. Below there are strategies and resources for creating a plan.
- Prioritize plan development
- Conduct a community-specific hazard assessment that looks at realistic worst-case scenarios and hazards, their likelihood, and the potential volumes and masses of wastes generated.
- Consider whether you want a single plan that addresses all hazards (recommended) or separate scenario-specific plans.
- Identify and engage with individuals and groups who should be involved in the planning process, as appropriate
- Consult individuals or groups who represent transportation, sanitation, emergency response, environmental health, public health, public works, zoning, agriculture, industry, and business among others.
- Identify, review, and coordinate national, regional, state, local, tribal, territorial and any organization-specific plans and mutual aid agreements
- Include plans of bordering jurisdictions, including bordering states, countries and tribal lands if applicable.
- Enhance community resiliency
- By identifying opportunities for source reduction (e.g., updating building codes for resilient building design and construction), hazard mitigation (e.g., eliminating potential problematic wastes), and developing infrastructure for composting, recycling and reuse of materials, your community will be better suited to withstand a disaster.
- Determine legal and regulatory waste management requirements, issues, and considerations
- Understanding what legal and regulatory aspects apply ahead of time will allow for easier cleanup.
- Review the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) eligibility requirements, specifically those pertaining to debris removal, for applicable situations, such as a federal emergency or major disaster declaration
- Identify unique local circumstances and issues that may affect waste management during an incident
- For instance, by understanding union concerns, geography, environmental justice concerns, and more could expedite cleanup and prevent further issues for certain populations.
- Use available tools to aid in plan development
- USEPA’s Pre-incident All Hazards Waste Management Plan Guidelines: Four Step Waste Management Planning Process provides a suggested outline for a scalable, adaptable pre-incident plan that includes recommended plan contents and identifies issues to consider while developing the plan. The specific contents and organization of a WMP are flexible. This document provides a general example to help emergency managers and planners get started.
- Consult haulers, owners, and operators of waste management facilities, including reuse and recycling facilities, and other entities as they are identified while developing the plan
- For unique waste streams, specialized expertise may be needed for transport and other waste management activities. Make sure all entities receive a copy of the relevant portions of the plan when it is completed.
- Identify options for reuse, recycling, and composting for different materials and wastes
- Consult with facilities and appropriate regulatory authorities about establishing acceptance criteria for these materials and wastes.
- Reach out to stakeholders across the whole community to review and update the pre-incident WMP regularly
- Stakeholders will be able to provide input to improve the plan that might not be thought of. They also need to know what they need to do in the event of an emergency so they are better prepared to react.
- Schedule waste management-related exercises and track the schedule, scenarios exercised and stakeholders involved
- Ensuring everyone is on the same page and knows how to react will ensure the plan is properly carried out
- Develop a training plan to address training needs for staff and equipment
- Trainings such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS), National Response Framework (NRF), technical, and health and safety trainings will help all staff know what to do
- Incorporate any waste management lessons learned, after action reports and improvement plans into the pre-incident WMP
- Using previous information will help get a more accurate assessment of how the plan functions.
- Identify the pre-incident waste management plan (WMP) that best aligns with the specific incident, if applicable
- Identify waste management-related policy or implementation issues that require resolution
- By dealing with potential issues ahead of time, it will allow more focus on the actual plan during a disaster.
- Create the incident-specific WMP based on the pre-incident WMP
- Include the incident’s situational overview, generated waste types and quantities, locations of waste, an exit strategy and health and safety requirements, and update other sections of the incident-specific plan with real-world numbers.
- Present the incident-specific plan to the appropriate Incident Command staff
- Response to an incident, including waste management decision-making, will occur within the Incident Command System.
- Notify waste management facilities of anticipated needs and utilize contract support where necessary
- Notifying waste management facilities will let you know how much capacity they have and if you need to utilize facilities that are out of the immediate area.
- Implement the waste management-related community communications and outreach plan in line with the broader, overall incident communications plan
- Identify waste sampling requirements and notify labs of anticipated analysis needs
- Conduct waste management oversight activities, such as site visits to, inspections of, and environmental monitoring at waste management sites as appropriate
- Implement a comprehensive waste and material tracking and reporting system
- Ensure protection of human health and the environment at the incident site over the long-term through continued environmental monitoring, cleanup, inspections, and other activities as necessary
- Learn more about waste management decisions after a disaster occurs
- Collaborate with neighboring jurisdictions
- Vulnerabilities are rarely confined to just one jurisdiction. By sharing information and plans with neighboring jurisdictions, all can be better prepared for when disaster strikes.
- Enter a mutual aid agreement
- These agreements can provide for either binding commitments or nonbinding intentions of support to assist the communities in an area in the event of a natural disaster. The agreements can be with neighboring foreign, state, local, and tribal governments.
- Establish debris management needs and strategies
- A community should prepare a plan for removing debris in an efficient manner. This will include focusing on immediate threats to human health and the environment before moving on to lower priority clean up measures.
- Evaluate debris management options
- By evaluating management options, communities can manage debris in an environmentally sustainable manner. The order for management should go source reduction, recycling/composting, energy recovery, and the treatment and disposal.
- Identify debris types and forecast amounts
- Planners should assess the types of materials and wastes that will likely make up disaster debris based on the characteristics and features of their communities and the types of disasters that are likely to happen in their communities to better prepare their response.
- Select alternate debris management facilities
- Planners should look at locations that are far away from floodplains and other at-risk areas and identify transportation routes that avoid low-lying areas to ensure debris can be moved and stored safely.
See state plans and resources in the Midwest for dealing with disaster debris
- Illinois Disaster Recovery Plan
- Michigan Disaster Debris Management Plan
- Michigan Local Disaster Debris Management Planning Handbook
- Minnesota Pollution Control Agency toolbox for local units of government recovering from a natural disaster
- Ohio Emergency Management Agency Debris Management
- Wisconsin Storm Debris Cleanup
These strategies are adapted from USEPA and FEMA planning documents. For more information please view these strategies in the context provided by the primary source document.
The adaptation strategies provided are intended to inform and assist communities in identifying potential alternatives. They are illustrative and are presented to help communities consider possible ways to address current and future climate threats to contaminated site management. Read the full disclaimer.