Disaster Recovery Playbook
A Guide to Residential Recovery

Purpose of This Guide

The pace of recovery matters. Disaster-impacted families need a recovery that is prompt, efficient and predictable. Each of these adjectives is important.

The purpose of this guide is to provide guidelines, structures and best practices that shorten and improve residential recovery in disaster-impacted communities. Disaster-recovery organizations should have all they need to coordinate an all-under-one-roof team that promptly meets clients’ needs, efficiently rebuilds homes and provides a predictable path to recovery. This guide provides structure, standards, policies and procedures so communities/organizations can make the most of these best practices. This guide aims to recruit and use volunteers, raise needed funds, efficiently leverage these funds for the rebuilding process, provide case-management to clients, and efficiently, safely, and affordably build/rebuild homes.


Provide disaster-impacted communities the tools to recover promptly. Give residents clear action steps and disaster recovery organizations a standardized and adaptable model for post-disaster recovery.


Ensure that disaster-impacted communities have a prompt, efficient and predictable recovery, one that is commensurate with emerging needs and with our country’s highest potential

How to Use This Guide

This guide is organized into chapters, each of which corresponds with an essential function/department, e.g., case management, construction, development, volunteer management and more. Each chapter is organized for easy understanding and includes documents, processes and systems to ensure simple usage.

Chapters include

  • Chapter goals and objectives
  • Common barriers and stumbling blocks
  • Key terms and language
  • Key themes and values
  • Processes or systems used in each department
  • Responsibilities and tactics to achieve the goals and objectives
  • Sample documents, forms and procedures
  • Staffing including job descriptions

Some may choose to read this guide from start to finish. Others may selectively work through the guide, focusing on specific areas of interest. All will find links to template documents and systems including position descriptions, fundraising letters, AmeriCorps applications, construction checklists, volunteer and client databases. All of the tools and documents that St. Bernard Project uses have links available in this guide. Feel free to use them as-is, or tailor them to meet your needs.

This guide is a component of St. Bernard Project’s Disaster Recovery Lab. Below are ways you can receive further support or partner with St. Bernard Project (SBP) through the Disaster Recovery Lab.

  • Full affiliate: Some organizations wish to become part of St. Bernard Project’s operating organization. In this case, they operate under SBP’s 501(c)(3) status, and SBP acts as the full fiscal agent. However, the local organization maintains a local name and hires local staff. SBP used this model with Rebuild Joplin and Friends of Rockaway.
  • Joint endeavor: For non-profit organizations that existed prior to the disaster at hand, SBP considers entering into joint endeavors. Both organizations maintain their own identity and corporate structure, and partner on-site to facilitate a prompt recovery. To ensure the recovery maintains a local feel and represents local culture and values, joint endeavors keep the name of the local organization (e.g., SBP’s partner Tunnel to Towers in New York). SBP enters into a joint endeavor with a clear memorandum of understanding that outlines each organization’s responsibility for management, fundraising and operations.
  • Technical support: SBP provides technical support in the form of on-site training, or training in a location where it currently operates. SBP can provide comprehensive training, or training specific to each department.


This guide stems from a collaboration of individuals and organizations that have witnessed the devastation of disasters and the dedication of individuals who are committed to helping communities recover from them.

This guide has been made possible by the thousands of volunteers who have helped in Louisiana, Missouri and New York without whom the mission of rebuilding homes and lives would not be possible. Special acknowledgments go to AmeriCorps volunteers, Farmers Insurance, Toyota and the staffs at St. Bernard Project and Rebuild Joplin.

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