Disaster recovery

For Sampson Flat Fire recovery information, go to

This site provides general information about disaster recovery: what it is, what services may be offered and how they are provided. Following a disaster, a hotline and website are usually activated to provide information for those needing and offering help in recovery from that particular disaster. The phone number and web address are well publicised at that time.

A new plant growing after a bushfire

What is disaster recovery?

Disaster recovery is the coordinated process of supporting communities that have been affected by a disaster in the reconstruction and restoration of psycho-social, economic, built and natural environments.
In South Australia, disaster recovery is defined as:

The conduct of human, economic and environmental measures necessary to re-establish the normal pattern of life of individuals, families and communities affected by an emergency, including:

  1. the restoration of essential facilities and services
  2. the restoration of other facilities, services and social networks necessary for the normal functioning of a community
  3. the provision of information, material and personal needs
  4. the recovery of the natural environment
  5. support to assist the recovery of business.  

National principles for disaster recovery

Successful recovery relies on these six principles:

  • understanding the context
  • recognising complexity
  • using community-led approaches
  • ensuring coordination of all activities
  • employing effective communication
  • acknowledging and building capacity

More information about the national principles for disaster recovery (PDF 2.3MB)  People signing up for emergency relief

Emergency relief

The Emergency Relief Functional Service provides emergency relief and psycho-social support for affected individuals, families and communities to commence their recovery from a disaster.

Housing SA, one of the divisions of DCSI, is the lead agency for the Emergency Relief Functional Service. It may be supported by other agencies including Centrelink, Lions International, Pastoral Ministry Services, Rotary International, Australian Red Cross, Insurance Council of Australia and Primary Industries.

Housing SA establishes Emergency Relief Centres to provide short term shelter, information and personal support services such as food, financial assistance and emergency accommodation. Other agencies contribute services such as basic first aid, interpreter services and companion animal care. The Emergency Relief Functional Service also reaches out to the community through home visits and the dissemination of information on the wide range of psycho-social relief and recovery services.

State Recovery Office

The State Recovery Office is a unit within DCSI that works across government and non-government sectors to increase the State's disaster recovery capacity and understanding. It provides support to the State Recovery Committee and also supports Zone (local) Emergency Management Committees.

During a disaster, the State Recovery Office coordinates state level recovery functions; provides a management and administrative service to the State Recovery Committee; and supports local recovery efforts.

The State Recovery Office can be contacted by telephone: +61 8 8415 4302 or email: staterecoveryoffice@dcsi.sa.gov.au

Piles of excess donations

Management of donated goods after a disaster

Australians respond swiftly and generously when disasters occur. Floods, fires, cyclones and other disasters can stir up strong emotions and a keen desire to help those affected.

Regardless of where they occur, these disasters often trigger a national response and can attract enormous volumes of donated goods.

Authorities responding to disasters have the difficult job of managing these donations. Donations of goods are often impractical or exceed community needs. The tasks associated with managing donations are substantial. It includes transportation, storage, sorting and distribution of donations as well as disposal of unneeded or inappropriate goods.

In 2010 the State Recovery Office received funding to investigate the issue, including consultation with previous recipients of donated goods. This resulted in a recommendation that national guidelines be developed.

The 'National guidelines for managing donated goods' that have now been developed support a more targeted, client focused and sustainable approach to this aspect of disaster management. The guidelines will drive best practice planning and positive change in the management of donated goods to strengthen community recovery and resilience.

Please find below the initial report, national guidelines and tools for your information and use.

Volunteering to help with disaster recovery

Volunteers play a vital role in the recovery effort following disasters such as floods, droughts, storms and bushfires.

Volunteers may register to assist in recovery operations by contacting Volunteering SA&NT on 1300 782 322 or via their website at www.volunteeringsa-nt.org.au

Australian Government help for those affected by a disaster

The Australian Government's Disaster Assist website provides a comprehensive overview of natural disasters that have recently impacted Australia. It has up to date public information messages, relevant free call numbers, links to other relevant websites and information on financial assistance available to eligible disaster declared areas and individuals through:

  • the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA)
  • the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP)
  • the Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy (DIRS).

State Emergency Relief Fund (SERF)

Any money collected by the State Government in a public appeal for disaster relief must be paid into the State Emergency Relief Fund (SERF).

The SERF committee has been established, to administer this fund. The committee ensures appropriate and fair disbursement of publicly donated money.

People with vulnerabilities in disasters

This project, funded by the Natural Disaster Resilience Grant Scheme, aimed to examine the issues of people with vulnerabilities in disasters. The main project activities included:

  • Developing/identifying definitions for people with vulnerabilities and specific hazards;
  • Mapping the location of people with vulnerabilities and areas of high risk for specific disasters;
  • Identifying the services, gaps and duplication relating to people with vulnerabilities;
  • Articulating key findings and potential opportunities for improvement.

The project report includes vulnerability and hazard definitions, maps, statistics, research, services and findings.

Download Report (PDF 19.2 MB)

Another product of the project is an interactive mapping application. Maps can be created to show the numbers of people with different types of vulnerabilities (e.g. people with disabilities, low income earners) within different areas (suburbs, local government areas and emergency management zones) This can then be overlaid with information about various hazards so that it is possible to see, e.g. the number of people with vulnerabilities who live within an earthquake area. The number and replacement value of different building types can also be overlaid.

Please note that the report and interactive mapping application do not include mapping of extreme heat vulnerability. This work has been undertaken by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility and can be viewed at http://www.mappingvulnerabilityindex.com/.