Project management methodology for post disaster reconstruction


The purpose of this presentation is to expose the audience to the capability of the Post Disaster Rebuild Methodology (PDRM) and explain its relevance in the marketplace of current global emergency management standards and business continuity plans.


The Post Disaster Rebuild Methodology and Training Project was a response by the Project Management Institute (PMI) to the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004. PMI, through its Global Operations Center (GOC) and International Development Specific Interest Group (IDSIG), collaborated to develop project management methodology for post-disaster rebuild projects and an associated train-the-trainer course. Several international relief agencies guided the PMI GOC staff as to what would be the most beneficial response to disasters. Disaster response and recovery phases are normally well established processes for most agencies and government, and therefore it was decided to focus on the rebuild phase of disaster management. PDRM assists relief agencies and other non-government organizations (NGOs) by providing a common terminology and common project management methodology based on A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) 2004 Edition. PDRM is structured very similarly to the PMBOK® Guide 2004 edition. This methodology was developed by 80 project management volunteers and subject matter experts representing 20 countries. The official introduction of this methodology was presented at the North American Congress in Toronto, Canada, in September 2005 by Wanda Curlee, the project manager, and Kay Fleischer, the chair of IDSIG. The reception was enthusiastic. On December 05, 2005, at a one-day seminar in Washington D.C., PMI staff and PDRM development team volunteers presented the methodology to several relief agencies. Again the reception was enthusiastic.


“Failure is not an option.” – Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Controller, Apollo 13

We can have a crisis without a disaster: no physical damage to infrastructure or technology. We can have a disaster without a crisis: loss of physical infrastructure or technology, but no crisis. A crisis can become a disaster, and a disaster can become a crisis, if not managed effectively. Project management, along with its associated processes, allows post-disaster relief efforts to stay focused and organized. The practice and principles of project management ensure proper planning and analysis, essential to successful project execution. PDRM is a resource to host governments, relief agencies, and responsible individuals involved in crisis and disaster rebuild situations with minimal infrastructure.

The internationally accepted elements of disaster management are prevention, preparation, response, recovery, and rebuild. A community's ability to cope with the impact of a disaster will depend on whether it has prepared and managed plans that deal with these elements.

What do you do when a disaster occurs? Disruptions are handled in three steps:

  1. Response: involves deploying teams, plans, identification of infrastructure outages, communications, and operations management, such as an emergency operations centre.
  2. Continuation of critical services: ensures any time-sensitive critical services are delivered, or at least not disrupted for longer than necessary.
  3. Recovery/Rebuild: deploys any plans, re-establishes normal operations, decides whether to repair or relocate physical structures, and acquires additional resources if necessary.

PDRM is a global rebuild methodology that contains a thorough checklist and a comprehensive set of templates. It is an assemblage of knowledge and skills for those who have been assigned responsibility for the rebuilding phase.

How Does PDRM Work?

Learning PDRM requires a fundamental understanding of project management and the interaction of its five process groups: initiation, planning, executing, monitoring/controlling, and closing. Exhibit 1 is the training presentation course map that explains these processes.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 1

A checklist drives the PDRM methodology. This checklist helps the project manager to understand what activities are necessary—and in what sequence. The checklist contains 14 questions, each detailing the project manager's appropriate response, a project management process reference, and the required templates. The rebuild project manager may choose which templates suit his or her needs. For instance, 3 of the 14 checklist questions are discussed. The first PDRM checklist question asks:

What is the problem that is to be solved and why do I care about it?

Answering these questions will help the rebuild project manager write a project charter and scope. The project charter is the first document produced; it addresses funding and the responsible authority. A sample project charter template is illustrated in Exhibit 2.

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 2

Re-establishing normal operations, and deciding whether or not to repair or relocate physical structures, are subjects addressed in PDRM checklist question number 5:

How will I know that all the resources will be available when needed? What will I do if needed resources (human and material) are not available?

Answering these questions will ensure proper reporting to the stakeholders, schedules based on milestones, budgets, risks, resources and workaround planning. The suggested templates for this question are a communications plan, cost estimating, staffing, risk management, procurement and resource planning, cost tracking, scheduling, workaround planning, and results. A sample communications plan template is illustrated in Exhibit 3.

Exhibit 3

Exhibit 3.

Checklist question number 12 asks:

How will I ensure that the schedule and costs are properly updated and reported accurately?

Answering these questions allows the project manager to continually monitor the progress of the project, comparing payments made to the project team and vendors against invoices received. Templates required are communications, risk, resource and schedule planning, cost estimating, cost tracking change request, and workaround planning. A sample cost budgeting template is illustrated in Exhibit 4.

Exhibit 4

Exhibit 4

It is important for everyone to understand who is doing what, what the project is responsible for, and acceptable ethical behaviour for project managers. The last segment in the PDRM training discusses issues of leadership, ethics, and change management.

Project managers manage the day-to-day life of the project, allocating resources, checking progress, sorting out problems, and keeping stakeholders informed. The best project managers lead too. Leadership skills are an integral part of PDRM, in particular: know your job, know yourself, know your team members, know how to listen and be understood, and know what constitutes correct ethics.

The management of scope change on a project requires examining what happens to people who are experiencing change that may have been caused by the implementation of the project and the trauma of the experience they have gone through. Local people's lives will have been changed, so the project manager has to understand the reactions of the people who are being affected by the project. The project manager will also have to understand at what stage of change the people on his project team are, and how to help them move forward.

Advantages of PDRM

Reconstruction is never easy. The resources needed and level of commitment required can pose formidable challenges. PDRM methodology is unique in its structure and approach because it applies the tested tools of project management to post-disaster situations.

  1. PDRM is a resource for organizations or individuals with or without formal project management training.
  2. A case scenario-based course accompanies the training for NGO/relief agency/government trainers.
  3. Follow-up support is available locally through PMI's 150,000 worldwide members in 150 countries.
  4. The actual structure of PDRM gives organizations the option of using either the entire set of processes provided or selecting relevant processes to complement their current work methodology.
  5. Ease of use: a checklist provides guidance through the various processes and templates.
  6. A train-the-trainer presentation, totalling six hours or a comprehensive 18 hours, is provided, based on the customer disaster/crises scenario.

The World of Emergency Management Standards and Business Continuity Emergency Planning

“We are the authors of our own disasters.” – Unknown

Emergency planning identifies what can occur when disasters or crises strike, what you need to know and do, and how to prevent or minimize the impacts. At present, global emergency management standards, which are country specific—such as NFPA 1600 (North America Fire Protections Association), BS25599 (British Standard 25999), SS507 (Singapore Standard), AS/NZ4360 (Australian, New Zealand Standard)—exhibit a poor appreciation of interdependencies and fail to consider the stakeholders’ perspective. These standards miss the fact that response/recovery and rebuild phases involve separate challenges. People who work in crises and disasters are foremost risk managers operating in a dynamic environment. We should learn and promote prevention and risk management as one element. The current global standards also discuss business continuity planning, risk management and emergency planning.

Business Continuity Planning

The primary purpose of a business continuity plan is to recover or continue the business after a disaster. Plans should be designed around a worst-case scenario. There are three levels in creating a BCP:

  1. Strategic Level: what you wish to accomplish, what you do to reduce risk before a disaster (preparation)
  2. Tactical Level: how you will achieve it, how you respond during an event (response)
  3. Operational Level: what you need to activate the tactics, what you do to recover after a disaster

These plans identify:

  • Who is responsible for the recovery actions
  • What is needed to recover, resume, restore all the business functions
  • When the business functions must be restored
  • How the business functions and operations will be provided during an emergency and restored after an emergency

Steps involved in developing a business continuity plan:

  1. Establish a baseline of inventory services.
  2. Conduct a business impact analysis to determine critical organizational functions and services, meaning: what you do, how you do it, and who you count on to get it done (so we're analyzing the organization's entire process).
  3. Conduct a risk assessment to identify areas of potential vulnerability, assess existing control measures with any possible recommendations.
  4. Identify response and recovery strategies.
  5. Develop training and awareness programs – exercise periodically.
  6. Maintain these plans.

As you can see from the above description, business continuity planning contains, at a minimum, a set of five plans. The aim of these plans is to assess the existing vulnerabilities, implement disaster avoidance and prevention procedures, and ensure that these plans can be implemented in a timely manner if a disaster occurs. There can be confusion in developing and maintaining these plans, which can cause a delay in deployment during a disaster. Perhaps if we build one integrated plan, which is malleable enough to handle the three levels and an array of vast circumstances, this would be more efficient.

Where PDRM and Emergency Management/Business Continuity Meet

PDRM is based upon the principles of project management. It is a field guide methodology that is simple to use. The templates are the heart of this methodology. Templates include schedule development, costing, human resources planning, risk management planning, and communications. These templates are similar to the set of plans used to create a Business Continuity Plan.

One of the five project management processes is monitoring and controlling, which aids the organization in controlling the environment through risk management. The best way to recover from a disaster or crisis would be to try to avoid it: mitigate the risk. Business continuity planning does not incorporate an environment of risk management. Business continuity plans are usually private sector matters, unique to each organization. They can be complicated, and they usually do not include such issues as ethics and leadership. Most BCPs are designed for worst-case scenarios and do not include scenarios for anything less catastrophic.


Immediate after a disaster, as soon as the threat has passed, history has shown that humans respond with a high level of altruism and self-sacrifice. We know that when the safety of family and friends is established, recovery and rebuilding can begin. People require a systematic approach to the recovery—and PDRM provides the tools to make this happen. PDRM assists the local project manager and relief agencies by providing rebuild methodology, which integrates and tracks the project's activities.

PMI IDSIG chair Wanda Curlee and I are currently running a pilot training program with several NGOs. Their feedback from this training will be discussed briefly after this presentation. The training agenda includes project management, how to use PDRM, and a short discussion on business continuity. It is intended that once the train-the-trainer course is completed, follow-up support will available locally through PMI's 150,000 worldwide members in 150 countries.

We live in a time when we want to be bringing our resources and our best efforts to the disasters and crises that face humanity. We all felt great shock and sadness at the devastation that followed the Indian Ocean tsunami, when more than 200,000 people died. Today, the reconstruction efforts are continuing, as roads, bridges and homes are being rebuilt. In the meantime, major hurricanes and hundreds of earthquakes have struck many different parts of the world. We've seen the unexpected happen, all too often. While we cannot know the future, we can prepare our response. PDRM has done its best to develop tools that will make this response as effective as it can be.


Curlee, W. & Fleischer F. (2005 Sept). The humanitarian side of project management. PMI Global Congress 2005, Toronto, Canada.

Project Management Institute. (2005). Project management methodology for post disaster reconstruction (2005 ed.) Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

World Conference on Disaster Management 2006, 2007 Toronto, Canada.

© 2008, Marie Sterline
Originally published as a part of 2008 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Sydney, Australia



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