Recovery is possibly the most overlooked stage of an emergency or disaster. The stress often remains high, but the adrenaline wears down and leads to exhaustion for both the responders and those affected by the incident. And ironically, this stage can be the most lengthy of all.
At a fire scene, extinguishment is most often immediately followed by salvage (preventing any further damage to the structure and contents) and overhaul (inspection and removal of all potential building materials and furnishings that could cause re-ignition). At fires and other emergencies, the cleaning or resupply of equipment and supplies used during the incident will at least begin at the scene, and may extend to the time when the trucks and personnel return to the station. A big change in the past few years is the practice of rehabilitation (rest, fluid intake, medical monitoring) and decontamination of responder personal protective equipment before returning to the firehouse.
Before leaving the scene of a fire or other physically-damaging incident, home and business owners are often at a loss as to the next steps they should take.
The mental and psychological stress promulgated by emergency incidents can affect both the responders and the victims. Although primarily geared toward safety professionals, the process of critical incident stress management can also be applied to those directly affected by the incident. Another tool we have available is a helpful guide from the U.S. Fire Administration titled "After the Fire" that lists the often-overlooked tasks that are crucial to the recovery and rebuilding process.
Either immediately or soon after an incident, an informal or formal "post-incident analysis" may be held among the emergency responders. Sometimes knowns as an "after-action report" or "incident critique", this is essentially a re-hashing of the incident timeline starting with the receipt of the first call to the 9-1-1 center. Lessons-learned may then be incorporated into operating procedures to allow for an even more efficient and successful response in the future.
Please see the sub-pages for more detailed descriptions of each of these portions of the recovery phase.