Public Health Requirements and Authorities in State Statutory Disaster Recovery Law: A Cross-Sectional Legal Assessment
Claire B. Pendergrast & Nicole A. Errett
Health Security, June 2021
State statutory laws serve as a vital tool for public health entities to assist communities with recovery from disasters. However, no systematic assessment has examined the content of state law addressing disaster recovery or explored if and how the public health role is discussed in state law addressing disaster recovery.
This study examined public health-related requirements, authorities, and activities in state disaster recovery laws. Nexis Uni, a legal database, was used to identify codified state statutory laws that authorize or require specific state or local public health entity actions, or set conditions where public health entity actions could be authorized/required, related to disaster recovery planning, implementation, or evaluation (ie, health disaster recovery laws).
Disaster recovery laws were reviewed and coded to identify health-related requirements, authorities, and activities planned for recovery. Most states (n = 47) have disaster recovery laws, and 17 states were found to have 30 codified statutory health disaster recovery laws. Half (n = 15) of identified laws require a public health liaison to or representation on a recovery committee or other organization/body working on recovery planning or implementation activities. State disaster recovery laws have limited public health requirements, authorities, and activities.
Further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits of components of state law supporting public health involvement in disaster recovery. The development and dissemination of best practices or model laws and tools to provide opportunities for public health actors to inform recovery decision making may enhance the potential for health promotion during disaster recovery.