Project Management Institute

Project management methodology for post disaster reconstruction (PDRM)

The purpose of this presentation is to expose the audience to the capability of the Post Disaster Rebuild Methodology (PDRM) and explain its relevancy 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 Global Operations Center 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). PDRM is structured very similarly to the PMBOK® Guide 3rd 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” – (1995, Apollo 13[movie] Character: Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Controller, Apollo 13)

We can have a crisis without a disaster: no physical damage to infrastructure/ technology. We can have a disaster without a crisis: loss of physical infrastructure/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/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 the deployment of teams, plans, identification of infrastructure outages, communications, and operations management such as an emergency operations center.
  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 or not 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. The illustration below (Exhibit 1) is the training presentation course map that explains these processes.

Course Map

Exhibit 1 – Course Map

The PDRM checklist has a series of statements/questions for the project manager which details 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 example purposes, we have discussed the first three checklist questions below. The first PDRM checklist question asks the following.

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 below as Exhibit 2.

Sample Project Charter

Exhibit 2 – Sample Project Charter

Reestablishing normal operations, and deciding whether or not to repair or relocate physical structures, are subjects addressed in PDRM checklist question number five:

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 below as Exhibit 3.

Communications Plan

Exhibit 3 – Communications Plan

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 below as Exhibit 4.

Cost Budgeting

Exhibit 4 – Cost Budgeting

It is important for everyone to understand who is doing what, what the project is responsible for, and ethical behaviour by 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 a formidable challenge. 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, totaling 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” Latin Proverb

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 inter-dependencies 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:

Strategic Level: what you wish to accomplish, what you do to reduce risk before a disaster (preparation)

Tactical Level: how you will achieve it, how you respond during an event (response)

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, ensure 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 post impact of a disaster – as soon as the threat has passed – history has demonstrated that human behavior responds at a high level of altruism and self-sacrifice. We know that when the safety of family and friends is established, the process of recovery/rebuilding efforts 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 the relief agencies by providing rebuild methodology, which integrates and tracks the project’s activities.

Members of the ID SIG are currently running a pilot training program with several NGO’s. Their feedback from this training will be discussed briefly after this presentation should anyone be interested. The training agenda includes project management, how to use PDRM and short discussion on Business Continuity. In addition, the IDSIG is updating the PDRM to reflect a methodology instead of a mini PMBOK Guide. In parallel to the is effort, the IDSIG leadership has authorized the development of a program methodology for NGO’s and similar type entities.

We live in a time in history 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 of December 26, 2004, 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 (2000) Project Management Methodology for Post Disaster Reconstruction (2005 ed.) Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute

World Conference on Disaster Management- Discussion 2006, 2007 Toronto, Canada

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

©2008 Wanda Curlee, PgPM, PMP, DM and Marie Sterling, PMP
Originally published as part of Proceedings PMI Global Congress 2008 – Denver Colorado



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