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4 Phases of Disaster Management Explained (the Easy Way)

When disaster strikes, businesses that close down run the risk of never reopening — especially with no plan of action in place. While there’s no way to lower the risk of a natural disaster or a widespread health crisis like COVID-19, there are critical measures that an organization can take to protect its people, assets and bottom line in the wake of a disaster.

While creating a business continuity management plan for your organization, consider the four phases of disaster management and how each phase will affect your business before, during and after a crisis.

The 4 Phases of disaster Management

When it comes to business continuity, think of disasters as recurring events that take place in four key phases:

  1. Mitigation

  2. Preparedness

  3. Response

  4. Recovery

Disaster Management Cycle Phases
To download the printable disaster management cycle graphic, click here

All organizations are in at least one phase at any given moment in time. Understanding these four phases will empower your organization to prepare for and respond to crises in a smarter, more informed way. Making the right decisions will give your organization the best chance at survival and recovery following an unanticipated event.

Let’s take a closer look at what each of the disaster management phases mean.


Phase 1: Mitigation

Meaning: To prevent future emergencies and take steps to minimize their effects

The “mitigation” phase occurs before a disaster takes place. Here, an organization will take steps to protect people and property, while also decreasing risks and consequences from a given disaster situation. The organization’s main goal is to reduce vulnerability to disaster impacts (such as property damage, injuries and loss of life).

Examples of “mitigation” may include conducting a property inspection to discover ways to fortify the building against damage. The organization may also revise zoning and land-use management to further prevent or reduce the impact of a disaster.


Phase 2: Preparedness

Meaning: To take actions ahead of time to be ready for an emergency

The “preparedness” phase also occurs before a disaster takes place. Here, an organization attempts to understand how a disaster might affect overall productivity and the bottom line. The organization will also provide appropriate education while putting preparedness measures into place.

Examples of “preparedness” may include hosting training, education, drills, tabletop exercises and full-scale exercises on disaster preparedness. This ensures that stakeholders know what to do in the event of an emergency. Organizations may also assemble a business continuity team to assemble a strategic plan that allows the business to recover after a crisis. The team will create a business continuity plan outline and list of resources needed to recover from a disaster.


Download 5 Steps to Building a Business Continuity Plan

Phase 3: Response

Meaning: To protect people and property in the wake of an emergency, disaster or crisis

The “response” phase occurs in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Organizations must focus their attention on addressing immediate threats to people, property and business. Occupant safety and wellbeing largely depends on its preparedness levels before disaster strikes.

The most notable example of the “response” phase is to ensure that people are out of harm’s way. The organization will then move on to assess damage, implement disaster response plans, triage cleanup efforts and start resource distribution as necessary. Businesses will also need to navigate building closures, preliminary damage assessments and hampered communication with stakeholders (like staff, vendors and suppliers) due to shutdowns.


As the response period progresses, focus will typically shift from immediate emergency issues to conducting repairs, restoring utilities, re-establishing operations and cleaning up. The organization will also need to begin planning the reconstruction of damaged infrastructure.

Phase 4: Recovery

Meaning: To rebuild after a disaster in an effort to return operations back to normal

The “recovery” phase takes place after a disaster. This phase is the restoration of an organization following any impacts from a disaster. By this time, the organization has achieved at least some degree of physical, environmental, economic and social stability.

The recovery phase of a disaster can last anywhere from six months to a year (or even longer depending on the severity of the incident).

An example of “recovery” is creating strategic protocols and action plans to address the most serious impacts of a disaster. An organization will work to obtain new resources, rebuild or create partnerships, and implement effective recovery strategies. The organization will also want to take steps to reduce financial burdens, rebuild damaged structures and reduce vulnerability to future disasters.


Business Continuity Made Easy: Your Free eBook

A disaster management plan is only one part of a successful business continuity plan. Whether your organization is looking to revamp its current business continuity plan or wanting to start fresh with a new one, AkitaBox makes it easy.

Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to business continuity planning. Inside, you’ll find resources including a BCP outline, a business impact questionnaire, and other helpful tools.

Download 5 Steps to Building a Business Continuity Plan

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