Ensuring a Cross-Sectoral Approach

Infrastructure systems—such as water, transportation, and energy—are connected in many important ways. For example, electrical power is needed to operate street lights and water pumps. And good roads are needed to allow maintenance vehicles access to transmission stations. Even so, individual infrastructure systems are often managed as independent entities, with relevant agencies being responsible for their respective disaster mitigation and recovery plans. However, as illustrated in the graphic below, hurricane damage across key sectors produced cascading failures that impacted both physical and social infrastructure systems in Puerto Rico.

Examples of Cascading Failures Across Sectors in Puerto Rico Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Without those lifeline systems:

  • Many health care facilities were not open, and people were unable to travel to those that were. Public health and the environment were at risk due to inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
  • Emergency services were immobilized.
  • Many businesses were not open, stores could not get supplies, and people often could not get to those that were operational.

To address these interdependencies in the recovery planning process—and in line with FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework: Second Edition—HSOAC brought together a cross-sectoral team of disaster-resilience experts that worked closely with our sector-based teams to promote a strategic and holistic approach to recovery. This approach to planning can promote efficiency and cost-effectiveness in rebuilding and improve resilience of systems to future disasters.

Beyond addressing infrastructure interdependencies, HSOAC applied a cross-sectoral lens to human recovery to ensure that recovery planning across all sectors addressed the needs of vulnerable communities. The cross-sectoral team analyzed specific sectors focused on human recovery and resilience—i.e., community planning and capacity building, municipalities, health, and education—and identified options for preventing an increase in inequities across all elements of recovery planning, including economic and physical infrastructure rebuilding plans.

Please note that the sector-based approach is no longer being used for FEMA-4339-DR operations.