FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a federal agency that sets policies and regulations relating to disaster management and provides funding to state and local governments for hazard mitigation and recovery.

In September 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) launched a new guide to promote more effective recovery for disasters-affected States, Tribes and local jurisdictions. Titled National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), this guide supports a more unified and collaborative approach to restore, redevelop and revitalize the health, social, economic, natural and environmental fabric of a community and build a more resilient nation. It applies to major Presidentially-declared disasters and serves as the overarching coordination structure for the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), as well as for non-Stafford Act incidents with recovery consequences.

As a guide and concept of operations, the NDRF places primary control at the local level with the impacted community, which assumes leadership in developing its recovery priorities and activities. It also places equal importance on both the restoration of a community’s physical structures to pre-disaster conditions and on its economic and emotional recovery. It encourages communities to meet their future needs by promoting sustainability practices to reduce their vulnerability to recurrent disasters and enhance their overall resilience. According to the NDRF, resilience can be achieved by incorporating hazard mitigation and land use planning strategies; critical infrastructure, environmental and cultural resource protection; and sustainability practices to reconstruct the built environment and revitalize the economic, social and natural environments.

The NDRF is the first step toward a shared understanding and a common, integrated perspective across all mission areas – prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. The overall goal of the NDRF is to achieve unity of effort and make the most effective use of limited resources. Its intention is to guide recovery efforts over the long term, from weeks to years, following disaster events. As part of this goal, it outlines a set of core recovery principles; roles and responsibilities of recovery coordinators and stakeholders; a coordinating structure to facilitate communication and coordination for pre- and post-disaster recovery planning; and an overall process communities can use to capitalize on opportunities to become more resilient by rebuilding stronger, smarter and safer. It establishes three new recovery coordinator positions (the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, State or Tribal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, and Local Disaster Recovery Manager), each with pre- and post-disaster recovery roles to serve as focal points for incorporating recovery considerations into the decision-making process and to make adjustments in assistance if needed. Another major goal of the NDRF is to establish a common planning framework. As a companion document to the National Response Framework (NRF), which addresses actions during disaster response, the NDRF establishes an operational structure and coordinates continuing recovery support to individuals, businesses and communities.


Partnerships are key in the implementation of the NDRF, requiring strong coordination across all levels of government, NGOs and the private sector. The NDRF further acknowledges that the scope and realities of recovery must be made explicit to the public and all stakeholders to ensure more effective recovery.

Six Recovery Support Functions (RSFs) comprise the NDRF’s coordinating structure for key functional areas of assistance: community planning and capacity building; economic; health and social services; housing; infrastructure systems; and natural and cultural resources. These six RSFs bring together the core recovery capabilities of Federal departments and agencies and other organizations that may not be active in emergency response but that focus on community recovery needs. Leading coordinating Federal agencies include the FEMA (Community Planning and Capacity Building RSF), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Housing RSF), U.S. Department of Commerce (Economic RSF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Health and Social Services RSF), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Infrastructure Systems RSF) and U.S. Department of Interior (Natural and Cultural Resources RSF). Together, they facilitate local stakeholder support and promote intergovernmental and public-private partnerships, each with its own mission and designated pre- and post-disaster functions. Each RSF also has a designated coordinating agency, as well as primary agencies and supporting organizations with programs relevant to that functional area. Not all six RSFs may be activated for every Presidentially-declared disaster.

The creation of the NDRF stemmed from a 2009 presidential directive that directed FEMA to work with interagency partners to publish a recovery framework. Under the directive, President Obama asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish a Long-Term Disaster Recovery Working Group, which is composed of more than twenty Federal departments, agencies and offices, to develop an operational guide for recovery organizations. These two key agencies – DHS/FEMA and HUD – gathered public, expert and stakeholder comments on ways to strengthen disaster recovery. In all, over 6,000 comments were collected from local, State, Tribal and Federal governments, as well as public and private sector organizations from across the country. Three main needs were identified in this process: structure, leadership and planning (both pre- and post-disaster planning). These comments and needs informed the development of the final NDRF.