A framework to build resilience of historic areas

If resilience is a continuous process, how does this process look? Where do you start? Who needs to be involved? And are there tools, methods, and other resources that can help on the ‘resilience journey’?

To answer these questions, Fraunhofer IAIS developed the ARCH Resilience Framework together with other project partners . It was originally developed to provide a conceptual basis binding together all the different outputs and activities of the ARCH project. After its initial publication as a project deliverable, it was further developed with a broader community of experts, including municipal staff, to a CEN Workshop Agreement, a reference document from the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

The ARCH Resilience Framework

The ARCH Resilience Framework is designed to combine disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA) for historic areas. It merges the DRM cycle with the CCA cycle with a focus on historic areas and integrates specific concepts for reconstruction and Building Back Better with a focus on historic areas. Specifically, the ARCH Resilience Framework takes the DRM cycle proposed by Jigyasu, King, and Wijesuriya in the UNESCO manual on managing disaster risk for world heritage as basis and extends it with the CCA planning cycle of climate-ADAPT’s Urban Adaptation Support Tool (UAST). This combined planning cycle is then further extended with topic specific frameworks, like the Culture in city Reconstruction and recovery framework, the Smart Mature Resilience European Resilience Management Guideline, and the RESIN Conceptual Framework.

The framework consists of ten cyclical steps split between a ‘normal operating’ phase (the pre-disaster phase) and the ‘emergency operation’ phase (the during and post-disaster phases). In the above figure these two high-level phases are represented by the outermost light grey and dark grey rings. The ten steps can be understood as consecutive but not completely distinct working stages since they have strong interconnections and related actions. In addition, the framework acknowledges that the results of some steps might need to be revised in case of the occurrence of a disaster to facilitate the recovery process.

As long as no disaster occurs, the steps of the ‘normal operating phase’ are regularly repeated, jumping to step 1 from step 6 and skipping steps 7-10 (see figure above). Steps 1-6 are synonymous with the adaptation planning cycle of the UAST but extended with the necessities for disaster preparation. That is, the ARCH Resilience Framework advocates to conduct vulnerability and risk assessments both for slow-onset climatic risks as well as sudden-onset risks from, e.g. natural disasters. Similarly, based on these analyses, not only climate change adaptation measures, but also risk prevention and mitigation measures, as well as emergency response measures should be identified, assessed, selected, and implemented. Step 6 constitutes the biggest difference between the usual DRM cycle and the ARCH Resilience Framework: Instead of conducting a review between the post- and pre-disaster phase, the ARCH Resilience Framework follows the CCA cycle and advocates to establish a systematic monitoring, evaluation, and learning framework as the final step of the pre-disaster phase (with a revision of this learning framework and process as part of step 10 in case of a disaster). It is important to note that this monitoring, evaluation, and learning framework should not just cover monitoring of the implementation effort but should also allow monitoring and evaluation of the resilience building process, enabling a feedback loop of learning processes that allows to adjust goals and processes.

In case of the occurrence of a disaster, the normal operating phase is disrupted, and steps 7-10 as part of the emergency operating phase (might) need to be performed. They cover all necessary emergency response and post-disaster recovery actions and are dependent on the preparatory plans and actions resulting from steps 1-6. Within the emergency operation phase an additional revision of the results from the normal operating phase is included (see step 10) to account for the need to adjust information and actions identified under normal conditions with the post-disaster situation. In addition, this revisiting of the original actions planned under steps 1-6, makes it explicit that the post-disaster reconstruction phase can and should be used as an opportunity to reassess resilience building measures to support Building Back Better.

As a result, the ARCH Resilience Framework can be seen as a DRM cycle that includes two conditionally interlinked CCA cycles, one conducted and regularly repeated as part of the normal operating phase (steps 1-6) and one used to inform reconstruction and Building Back Better after the occurrence of a disaster (revision as part of step 10).

How does resilience building work in detail?

Knowing the overall process for resilience building is a good start, but what do the single steps entail specifically? Which actions should be taken in each step? Which actors should be included in the different steps? And are there  important related topics to be considered in each step?

To answer these questions, this section provides a step-by-step description of the ARCH Resilience Framework, based on the information originally provided in ARCH Deliverable 7.3 and CWA 17727:2022 ‘City Resilience Development – Framework and guidance for implementation with a specific focus on historic areas’, which provides even more information for resilience building, e.g. indicators to measure progress and completion of the activities in each step of the process.

Additional supporting resources for the different steps can be found under Tools, while the Best Practice section shows real world examples of how to build resilience.

How to read this section

While we present the different steps of the ARCH Resilience Framework in sequential order, we do not expect you to follow the steps one-by-one. If resilience building processes are already ongoing, certain steps might already have been (partially) completed. If this is the case, you can very likely (re-)use existing results and processes and do not have to follow the suggestions made by us. The intention of the Resilience Framework is for it to be used as a template that can and should be adapted to the local realities.

It is also important to keep in mind that the different steps of the framework are interdependent and therefore information provided in later steps might be relevant for conducting earlier steps (e.g. recommendations on how to handle the rebuilding phase after a disaster in step 10 will influence which measures to select before a disaster in step 3). Therefore, we recommend reading the text completely at least once, before starting on your ‘resilience journey’. 

1. Prepare the ground

The first step of the Resilience Framework is concerned with laying the foundation for all subsequent steps. You need to identify what the objectives of the process are, what its scope is, who is responsible for the overall process, and which stakeholders must be or should be involved from the outset. This step also includes the collection of initial information and data.

In fulfilling this step, you create an assessment context that later serves as the basis for setting priorities and targets for the collaborative development of a resilience strategy and a resilience action plan, as well as for monitoring the progress through the use of indicators for resilient communities and historic areas.

The first action to be taken in this step is the formation of a cross-sectoral resilience team or office that works on the resilience building process and will be responsible for mainstreaming resilience into traditional community practices and communicating about resilience building activities to local stakeholders. The resilience team has ownership of the resilience building process and is thereby accountable for the resilience strategy development. In order to do this efficiently, the resilience team needs to divide responsibilities among its members.


The resilience team can be one main responsible person or a full team. However, the team should establish contacts to relevant departments and public/private organisations, local communities and other stakeholders to involve in the resilience building process, especially those representing minorities or disproportionately affected population groups. This can also include local businesses, academic institutions, cultural associations, and organisations from different governance levels that might support the process with financial and human resources.

Once the resilience team has been established, initial key information and data need to be gathered in order to define the objectives and scope of the resilience building process. This includes information about the community and historic area, data about relevant climate change related and natural hazards, data on relevant aspects of sustainability, climate change adaptation and resilience, as well as information about available funding and personnel resources. The goal is to limit the scope of the resilience building process to the most relevant hazards, set soft boundaries for the process based on available resources (time, personnel, and money), identify what actions have already been taken, and which key stakeholders and communities need to be involved.


Data and information to be gathered can include location and size of the historic area, information on ownership for buildings within the area, structural information on buildings, but also information on social, cultural and natural aspects related to the area, like existing community groups, associated local traditions, location and size of ecosystems, challenges and pressures that have led to the current situation, as well as the impacts those pressures have on various parts of the society, economy and environment, and the policies and measures already in place.

Data and information to be gathered can also include historical data about past impacts, past and current environmental and climate indices (e.g. from the ARCH Portal), potentially relevant climate change scenarios, shared socioeconomic pathways, and – where available – urban development scenarios.

After the resilience team has been established and initial data / information has been collected, a stakeholder mapping and analysis needs to be performed. This shall result in an external communication and stakeholder engagement process that describes how and when to communicate with stakeholders on hazards and impacts, as well as how to involve them in the resilience-building process. The best outcomes for the resilience building process can often be achieved through a highly consultative, participatory and flexible approach. This includes the engagement of local communities, but also decisions about how to communicate during the process with relevant stakeholders. The engagement process should take advantage of the possibilities heritage management and cultural activities can provide for these activities due to their high value for the local community. The resilience team shall use an inclusive mix of outreach options and channels.


Potential stakeholders could be related to the following places: Civil protection office, climate control centre, urban development department, health department, cultural heritage department, sustainability and resilience office, environmental department, transport department, finance department, commerce department, police and law enforcement, universities, schools, public and private research facilities, local businesses, local building owners, cultural associations, consultancies, industry associations, insurance agencies, financial institutions, non-governmental organisations.

In a next step, the objectives and scope of the resilience building process need to be defined. This includes specifying which hazards will be examined, which parts of the historic area will be examined (either spatially or based on other considerations), which stakeholders will be involved to what extent, and what the overall timing of the process is. These decisions depend on the time and resources available to the resilience team.

Once the resilience team has been assembled, initial data and information has been gathered, a stakeholder mapping has been performed, and objectives and scope have been defined, a resilience baseline review should be undertaken to evaluate the initial situation of the community and historic area. This baseline review should be repeated at regular intervals by the cross-sectoral resilience team and can take the form of a quick resilience assessment (e.g. using the ARCH Resilience Assessment Dashboard).

Additional tips

The political representatives of the community and the historic area should be included in the approval of the implementation of the Resilience Framework to ensure successful advocacy, city resilience championing, and visibility for the resilience building activities. They should share ownership for the creation of the resilience team or office from the start and should approve the resilience strategy and action plan development.

2. Assess vulnerabilities and risks

The second step of the ARCH Resilience Framework is all about identifying and assessing vulnerabilities and risks. The objectives here are to better understand the vulnerabilities and exposure of the community and historic area to different hazards and identify impacts from those hazards in order to

  • steer resilience building activities towards those parts of the community and historic areas that are most in need, and
  • ensure the right resilience actions are taken and receive appropriate funding.

Together with step 1, this step lays the groundwork for identifying, assessing and implementing all subsequent measures.

aaconsidering The first action to be taken in this step is to select the (combination of) hazards to be analysed, based on the initial information gathered in step 1. This should not only include existing (historic) hazards, but also future (expected) hazards, based on information from climate change scenarios.

After the hazards have been selected, a vulnerability and risk analysis needs to be conducted. Depending on your needs, available resources and data, as well as the required scope and level of detail, different approaches to vulnerability and risk analyses can be employed. These can range from Event-Tree Analyses, to risk matrix approaches, to approaches based on damage functions, as well as indicator-based approaches. Regardless of which approach you select, the vulnerability and risk analysis needs to cover

  • the identification of the main exposed elements, including all those elements of the social-ecological system that constitute the historic area and the community (e.g. tangible and intangible heritage assets, population, critical infrastructure and services, economic assets, as well as environmental assets);
  • the identification of sensitivities and capacities, i.e. the factors of the community and historic area that increase or decrease the vulnerability; and
  • the identification of impacts resulting from the hazard (combination). This includes cascading effects and should cover all the different elements of the historic areas, from the built environment to the natural environment, considering the socio-cultural aspects as well as the political and economic aspects of the historic area.

Ideally, the vulnerability and risk analysis will be conducted under different scenarios, including climate change scenarios, shared socioeconomic pathways, as well as development scenarios.

The data and information used for the vulnerability and risk analysis as well as the results of the analysis should be stored in a risk data and management system in order to support monitoring. The risk database and management system should also include detailed methodology and guidance to perform risk and vulnerability assessment.

Additional tips

In order to get the process going, the resilience team can undertake an initial rapid assessment to identify risks and vulnerabilities, which might cover fewer elements or use a less time consuming approach. If this way is chosen, the resilience team should plan to repeat the risk analysis process – in detailed format – later.

Whenever possible, the resilience team should try to disaggregate the vulnerability and risk analysis in a way that allows to assess the specific risk of disproportionately affected population groups. This includes identifying and mapping these vulnerable groups based on their capacities and sensitivities, including: economic and technological resources, social capital, availability of information and skills, institutional and community support systems, political and social in/equality, access to natural resources and services, and pre-existing stresses /risks / disadvantages. The risk analysis should also include the impacts on supporting infrastructures and services. The results should be documented in a Vulnerability Matrix showing the capacity and sensitivity.

The vulnerability and risk analysis should be conducted by a multi-disciplinary group of experts, including participants from the local community. This will facilitate knowledge sharing about the identified risks, promote a systems perspective about risks through discussing risk interdependencies, and awareness raising among participants.

On a larger scale, the resilience team should organise workshops or discussion sessions involving citizens to raise their risk awareness and increase the acceptance of the analysis results. As part of these workshops and sessions, participants should also receive active feedback about how their inputs have been taken-up in the process of measure identification.

 3. Identify measures

In the third step of the ARCH Resilience Framework, a portfolio of risk prevention and mitigation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, emergency response, and rebuilding/recovery measures as well as strategies to lower the risk and increase the resilience of the community and historic area is build. Which measures and strategies might be suitable depend on the outcomes of the vulenerability and risk analyses from step 2 as well as the information gathered in step 1. 

The result of this step is a set of all potentially suitable measures, which is assessed in the following step 4 in order to identify those measures than can (and should) actually be implemented.

To start this step, the resilience team needs to review and analyse the results from the risk and vulnerability analysis done in step 2 (or other previously conducted vulnerability and risk analyses), including cascading effects within the historic area, its community, and the wider socio-ecological system. 

As for the vulnerability and risk analysis in step 2, identifying potential resilience measures should be done with a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders, including local residents and building owners, non-government organisations, academic institutions, cultural associations, and local businesses, but also representatives from disproportionately affected stakeholder groups.

It is important to ensure that potential measures to not only cover ‘hard’ physical (protection) measures (e.g. dikes, urban greening), but also ‘soft’ measures, like new policies and processes to address resilience weak points identified in the baseline resilience assessment conducted as part of step 1, i.e. gaps in the resilience management process.

Specifically important for historic areas is to ensure that the resilience team and the involved stakeholders take note of local, traditional practices, and knowledge systems when identifying potential resilience meaures. Historic areas and their communities have often already experienced (and adapted to) multiple different hazards and we can learn from their experiences to design resilience measures. This also ensures that resilience measures are in keeping with local customs and requirements from heritage management (see also step 4).

When identifying potential resilience measures, the resilience team should also already try to identify first ideas for suitable funding opportunities and financing measures, including using public-private-partnerships. This will facilitate the assessment and implementation planning process in subsequent steps.

The final action to be taken in this step is to define a criteria catalogue that allows ranking and selecting resilience measures in step 4. 


A criteria catalogue might include criteria like environmental effectiveness, benefit-cost, potential co-benefits, long-term effect on the historic area (including enhancing the significance of historic areas), compatibility with heritage management practices, compliance with existing regulations and standards, general acceptability, potential for awareness raising, as well as long-lasting effects on the local communities, including the most vulnerable ones.

Additional tips

There exist extensive databases for resilience measures (e.g. the ARCH Resilience Measures Inventory) that should be used when identifying measures. However, the resilience team should also make sureto include local good practices in the portfolio of measurtes, including traditional practices and knowledge systems.

The identified measures should be described in an understandable and systematic way to facilitate assessment and selection in the next step.

To facilitate the next step of the Resilience Framework, the resilience team should try to already gather additional information for the identified measures. This can include the information asked in the criteria catalogue, such as effectiveness of measures, potential co-benefits, implementation restrictions, cost estimates, relevant standards and policies, and more. This information should be gathered from existing guidance material and other relevant example projects, consultations with experts, but also information from historical knowledge and local communities.

Increasing the awareness about all, or most, of the potential measures within the stakeholder group and local communities is an important part of risk mitigation. Therefore, the resilience team should endavour to provide easy to understand information to citizens about risks as well as identified potential adaptation, prevention and emergency response measures, and other processes / strategies.

4. Assess and select measures

In the fourth step, the previously identified resilience measures are prioritized in order to select those measures that will be implemented later. 

As the first action to be taken in this step, all identified measures need to be assessed according to the critera catalog defined in step 3. As previously mentioned, these measures can include effectiveness, benefit-cost, potential co-benefits, long-term effect on the historic area (including enhancing the significance of historic areas), compatibility with heritage management practices, compliance with existing regulations and standards, long-lasting effects on the local communities, including the most vulnerable ones, and other measures.

Afterwards, the measures need to be classified and prioritised, according to the individual community case and emergency phase. In addition, the resilience measures should also be ranked by topic (cost, speed, time to implement, etc.) and through a Multi-Criteria Analysis.

The selection and assessment process should include those stakeholders that will later also be involved in the implementation of the measures aas well as local communities and other stakeholders affected by the measures, in particular those in vulnerable positions.

While assessing and selecting the resilience measures, the resilience team should also analyse in detail the potential funding sources that were mapped in step 1 and evaluated in step 3. New funding sources may be identified and if so, should be added to the previously collected information.

The assessment and selection process is not linear, but iterative, and needs to be carried out across different timescales, with the resilience team, community, and other stakeholders continuously collecting information and data, synthesising results and cross-evaluating them. This includes the analysis of the available funding sources, and also includes estimates  regarding the financial resources needed for the creation of a resilience action plan in step 5.

Via the assessment of measures, barriers to their implementation, such as financial issues, existing policy limitations and/or acceptance of stakeholders will come up; these should be included in the assessment.

Additional tips

When assessing resilience measures along the criteria from step 3, the resilience team should consider the whole social-ecological system and the impacts resilience measures have on all of its elements in order to not loose sight of the wider effects.

Available time and resources for implementation should be considered when selecting resilience measures.

The resilience team should organise open consultation meetings and workshops with relevant stakeholders for the development and internal evaluation of the resilience strategy, before its release and for awareness-raising. 

At the same time, the resilience team should also engage with the general public to get feedback on their work and activities and conduct workshops to identify user-oriented approaches for the selection of measures.

5. Implement measures

In the fifth step, a resilience action plan is drafted and set in motion. This resilience action plan takes the results from the previous steps, and especially from step 4, to identify which resilience measures will be implemented, who is responsible, and what the timing for implementation is. In addition, the measures should be matched to the risks and resilience weak spots identified in steps 1 and 2. Lastly, the resilience action plan should establish a prioritization for implementation of different measures, taking into account special needs of disproportionately affected population groups as identified and mapped in step 2.

For each activity included in the resilience action plan the resilience team should explicitly allocate not only responsibilities, implementation timing and prioritization, but also the available resources (e.g. funding, personnel). The decision process for allocation of resources to actions should be documented to make the process transparent and repeatable later.

Once the activities have been put down into the action plan and responsibilities and resources have been allocated, the measures need to be openly communicated to the local community and stakeholers affected by them, using approriate and different communication channels (e.g. stakeholder workshops, leaflets, school visits, social media, podcasts, …)..

The resilience action plan shall link to existing emergency response plans (see step 7). If there is none in place, emergency response measures shall be set up, including regular drills and trainings with all relevant authorities, public and private organisations, communities, and local businesses. 

Additional tips

If possible, the resilience team should include community groups (especially nearby the historic area), businesses, NGOs, the responsible units for the historic area, regulators on national/EU/international level (e.g. UNESCO) and emergency response teams from neighbouring cities/regions in the implementation of resilience measures.

The resilience team should establish a continuous communication process with these stakehodlers to evaluate impacts and effects of the resilience building process on their normal, everyday operations.​

The resilience team should make extensive use of workshops to communicate with the stakeholders. The effectiveness of these workshops should be jointly assessed with the contributing stakeholders to ensure that they reach their objectives and are inclusive.

It might be helpful to establish different stakeholder subgroups to carry out different actions. This can help to put everybody work in the most effective way and increase implementation speed.

For some solutions (like Nature Based Solutions or blue-green infrastructures, etc.) collaborative governance models and long-term financing sources for maintenance will be beneficial.

When implementing emergency response systems, the resilience team should aim for interoperability with neighbouring cities, regions, and other authorities.

6. Establish monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes

Step 6 is about answering the questions “are we doing the right things?” and “are we doing the things right?”. That is, the resilience team needs to establish a process for monitoring and evaluating the implementation progress for the measures from the resilience action plan (“are we doing the right things?” or output-oriented monitoring) and at the same time establish a process to monitor and evaluate if the resilience building process is working as intended (“are we doing the things right?” or process-oriented monitoring).

To establish a process-oriented monitoring, evaluation, and learning process, the resilience team needs to revisit the objectives originally defined in step 1, as these provide the basis for the monitoring. As these objectives might have been formulated some time ago, the resilience team might need to revise them in light of the results from steps 2 to 5.

For both output- and process-oriented monitoring and evaluation processes, the resilience team needs to define indicators, i.e. objective measures to monitor progress. For output-oriented monitoring processes, these indicator can, e.g., focus on implementation progress. For process-oriented monitoring, the resilience teams will need to develop a theory of change, i.e. a set of testable hypotheses about how a set of measures is expected to lead to achieving the objectives of the resilience building process​. Only with such a theory of change can the resilience team establish a continuous learning process.

For the design of the monitoring, evaluation, and learning process, existing processes, e.g. in literature, but also within the local communities and archives in the historic area, should be consulted.

Once the monitoring, evaluation, and learning progress is defined, it is added to and documented in the resilience action plan. This documentation should include information about who is responsible for overseeing the monitoring, evaluation, and learning process. The responsible persons for overseeing the process should include the resilience team itself as well as the previously identified and new stakeholders from the historic area.

The monitoring process should not only cover implementation of measures and progress towards the objectives of the resilience building process, but also a continuous monitoring of vulnerabilities, risks, and impacts from climate change, natural hazards, as well as development pressures. Step 6 also includes monitoring potential disasters (using already existing early warning systems or early warning systems that might have been set-up as part of Step 5). Once a warning of an imminent disaster is given, Step 6 is used to activate the emergency response measures (as prepared in Step 5), which are executed in Step 7. In case a disaster occurs earlier than the end of Step 6, the regular process is interrupted, and Steps 7 to 8 become active.

As a last action in this step, the resilience team should start the process of a detailed resilience assessment (e.g. using the ARCH Resilience Assessment Dashboard), based on the resilience baseline review undertaken in step 1. This will help to establish how far along the ‘resilience journey’ the team and historic area already are and support the process-oriented monitoring.

Additional tips

The monitoring, evaluation, and learning process should be flanked by a continuous communicating mechanism to inform all relevant stakeholders, including decision-makers, but also local communities and other actors connected to and affected by the resilience building process. This process can, for example, be supported with a public (online) dashboard that shows the progress for all indicators used in the monitoring and evaluation process. Engaging stakeholders to determine which information channels are most appropriate will facilitate communication.

Whenever possible, the communication process should take advantage of the heritage value of the historic area as well as local culture and arts to activate citizens to act when confronted with climate hazards and natural disasters within their community.

7. Conduct emergency response procedures

The seventh step of the ARCH Resilience Framework covers all emergency response procedures required to safeguard humans lives, heritage assets, and essential services during a disaster (usually the first 72 hours after the initial occurrence).  

Emergency response procedures will have been defined during steps 3 to 5 and assign responsibilities for carrying out specific actions – usually within specific time windows and at specific places – to authorities, organisations, community groups, and individuals. These emergency response procedures are usually collected in one or multiple emergency response plans, to which the resilience action plan (see step 5) should link.

The emergency response plans do not only need to cover immediate actions to save lives, but they also need to address how to prevent theft of collapsed or damaged heritage assets (or fragments thereof).

It is important that the emergency response plans prioritise actions for assisting the vulnerable groups identified in steps 1 and 2. An additional priority should be placed on keeping essential services (e.g. electricity, water, communication, etc.) running. For both issues, it is important to engage all stakeholders relevant for vulnerable groups and essential services and include them in drills and trainings of emergency plans so that everybody knows what to do in case of an emergency.  

Additional tips

The essential services that need to be kept running include all infrastructure designates as ‘Critical Infrastructure’, i.e. infrastructure that is so vital to the maintenance of societal functions, health, safety, security, economic or social well-being that its disruption or destruction would have significant impact on the historic area and its ability to maintain these functions. Therefore, the resilience team should establish a communication protocol with the managers and operators of these Critical Infrastructures to ensure that everybody receives coherent and accurate information and can engage in a timely fashion.

A communication protocol should not just be established between the resilience team and the Critical Infrastructure operators and managers, but also between the first responders and the dedicated disaster response teams. While first responders will generally include immediate emergency services, like firefighters, police, or medical services, disaster response teams might include specialized services, like governmental disaster relieve organisations, civil protection agencies, NGOs, and (local) volunteers. Here, the resilience team should become a facilitator and connector between the different teams, ensuring consitency in communication and activities as well as making sure that the needs and requirements of the historic area and its communities are met.

 The resilience team should nominate a dedicated person, team, organisation, or department responsible for a salvage plan for movable and unmovable heritage items/buildings, should this become necessary. A salvage plan is a document that identifies objects that need to be removed (highlighting specific items that should be removed first due to their peculiar historical value or social value for the local population) and how this should be done.

8. Assess needs and impacts

Step 8 covers the assessment of damages, impacts, and needs after the initial phase of the disaster is over and emergency response procedures have been performed.

The results from this step should inform a subsequent update of the risk assessment before the reconstruction phase to inform decision making and support building back better.

Post-Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNA) are a harmonised approach to assessing, analysing and prioritizing damages, losses and needs. They are usually government-led and pull together relevant information into a single, consolidated report. 

​​For a historic area, a PDNA might cover the assessment of damages and impacts to tangible and intangible heritage, cultural and creative industries, housing stock and land resources, services and infrastructure, and the tourism sector, as well as the resulting economic losses to the affected population, especially the vulnerable one, from the interruption of services and use of assets.

A PDNA for historic areas should also pay special attention to (traditional) local knowledge and the potential such approaches can bring to resilient recovery.

To identify and prioritize needs under climate change scenarios, an additional detailed PDNA (potentially conducted after the initial PDNA) might be necessary. This PDNA should specifically focus on recovery with adaptation / mitigation options and should be conducted, as the initial PDNA, at the beginning of the recovery phase.

It is important to note that measures to address climate change impacts often fall outside the ‘comfort zone’ of the usual practice and often are associated with challenges to the cultural and political ‘status quo’, which is why a stand-alone PDNA might be necessary. 


A climate change-specific PDNA could assess the feasibility of implementing more climate-friendly technologies, e.g. solar energy systems, during the recovery phase where possible. Other examples can range from the use of traditional salinity-resistant seeds to counter increased risk of saltwater intrusion to changing zoning regulations to consider changing impacts due to climate change.

Any PDNA should also take specific care to address social justice issues, as the recovery process can otherwise reinforce already existing discrepancies due to gender, education, income, age, disabilities, and more. Considering these aspects in recovery in general and PDNAs specifically, facilitates a more effective response to the needs of individuals and communities, a more timely and targeted provision of assistance, a more comprehensive recovery that seizes on the strengths provided by including these diverse groups, and is an opportunity to promote more socially just relationships after the disaster.

During the performance of the PDNA, relevant data and information (e.g. from rapid risk assessments) need to be systematically collected to inform the following steps. This data and information need to be checked on a rotating and ongoing basis to make sure that there are no inconsistencies.

Additional tips

The resilience team should make use of  – or develop – an inventory of damages (e.g. using the ARCH Portal) to ensure systematic stock taking and monitoring. It should furthermore moderate between public authorities and local communities (e.g. decide on what can be restored and what should be classified as total losses).

9. Stabilize situation

Step 9 of the ARCH Resilience Framework handles the most urgent stabilising measures (e.g. retrieving and safely storing movable heritage assets like paintings, etc.) to enable the following recovery and building back better procedures. 

As in previous steps, the resilience team should coordinate and communicate with the stakeholders involved in implementing stabilising measures, including local, national, and international volunteers, community groups, and NGOs, as well as actors from the emergency response, planning and development sectors. This can include organising workshops or holding regular meetings.

To make coordination and communication easier, a headquarter or communication hub should be established. This headquarter should act as a single-point-of contact for information about the stabilising effort. Information about the location, purpose and operational procedures of this headquarter needs to be made available to the population, visitors, and other stakeholders before, during, and after the disaster.

The actual stabilizing measures to be implemented should be prioritised based on the post-disaster needs assessments done in step 8. This prioritsation should take into account human health, living conditions of residents, and the safety of the population before buildings and immaterial objects. The prioritisation (and evaluation) of stabilising measures needs also to take into account the specific needs of vulnerable groups, for example people in need of full-time access to electricity due to medical equipment requirements. Lastly, budgetary constraints will also have to be taken into account when prioritising measures.


The stabilizing efforts will need to cover a wide range of measures, including measures to secure primary resource needs, like food and water, measures to ensure the re-creation of community spaces to provide the population with a sense of place and belonging, measures to deliver medical and mental health support to those in need, as well as measures for financial and insurance support to the impacted population. Other measures might cover the retrieval and storage of movable heritage, the stabilisation of immovable heritage, as well as the re-establishment of the functioning of sensors for monitoring the conditions of heritage assets.

It is important to keep the identified potential stabilising measures updated (see also steps 3 and 10) in accordance with relevant local, national, and international guidelines, regulations, and decrees (e.g. on the safe storage of movable heritage). 

An issue that might come up during the stabilizing phase is the need to manage and communicate with tourists and individuals that are visiting the historic area to help them to be informed about the impacts of the disaster, so that they do not impede the stabilisation effort and do not put themselves in danger.

The stabilizing phase is also the time in the resilience building process to organise necessary temporary/transitional activities to bridge the gap between immediate emergency response, stabilising the situation, and starting the rebuilding efforts. 


Transitional activities can include setting up temporary housing, providing locations for food banks and schools, providing temporary hospitals, mortuaries and information centres on missing relatives, as well as supporting these necessary activities according to their priority.

At the end of the stabilising phase, the resilience team should take account of the available resources (in terms of personnel, budget, materials, equipment, etc.).

Additional tips

The effects that the implementation of stabilising measures might have should be assessed in detail,  especially regarding their effects on vulnerable population groups, their needs and special requirements when it comes to emergency response and disaster preparedness.

As in previous steps, the local community should also be involved in this step to raise the acceptance of all implemented measures and ensure their compliance with existing local traditions and habits.

Actions carried out during the stabilisation phase should balance safety considerations, the need to maintain heritage values, authenticity, and integrity, and the needs of community groups and local population.

The timing of implementation for stabilisation measures should take into consideration, amongst others; a) the nature and scale of the disaster, b) access to the affected area, c) the scale of the damages (see step 8), d) the significance of heritage assets, and e) the available (local) capacity.

Stabilising measures should be coordinated in such a way that they do not impede each other and the following recovery process. In addition, the stabilising measures should make sure that infrastructure is safe and potentially damaged infrastructure (e.g. damaged water or gas pipes or electric cables) don’t pose subsequent risks and are secured.

It will be hugely beneficial for the recovery phase – but also all other phases -, if the resilience team sets up a publicly available inventory of (movable) heritage assets that can be used during the emergency and stabilising phase to communicate, e.g. by informing about damage levels and priority for action. Ideally, this inventory is already set up in the pre-disaster phase.

The resilience team should set up a platform where relevant guidelines and indicators can be reached at any moment by everybody. This should be linked to the inventory of heritage assets and – if available – to any monitoring dashboard established as part of step 6. For monitoring purposes it will also be helpful to make use of satellite and geo-information services (e.g. as provided by the ARCH Portal)

The resilience team should create (or make accessible) guidelines on how to deal with ‘disaster tourists’, taking into account the requirements and needs of the local authorities and communities.

Whenever possible, stabilising measures should be designed in such a way that they allow access to heritage assets for the population groups (e.g. storage depots that allow access to stored movable heritage).

10. Recover & building back better

The final step of the ARCH Resilience Framework tackles the recovery and rebuilding phase, including revisiting steps 1-6 to update the results of these steps based on the new situation in the community and historic area.

This step is also a very good opportunity to include – or increase – climate change adaptation actions and in this way fulfil the need to build back better and ‘bounce forward’ in terms of resilience. However, all measures implemented in this step need to take the needs of the local communities and – potentially – also the heritage management needs into account to ensure that the community and historic area is rebuild in alignment with local customs.

The first action in this step is to select recovery and building back better measures for implementation. Ideally some measures will already have been pre-selected in steps 3-4. However, the final selection needs to be based on an updated risk assessment (informed by the damage and needs assessments from step 8) and an updated identification and assessment process (see step 3 and 4).

The selection of rebuilding and recovery measures needs to include impact assessments, e.g. what effects do recovery measure have in term of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

As in steps 3 and 4, it is important to identify – or update – financing and funding measures to fund the recovery and rebuild process. This might include setting up accounts/services to receive and distribute funding to relevant organisations and affected people. In addition, the resilience team needs to assess for which rebuilding and recovery efforts public funding will be used and for which private funding – including co-funding and crowd-funding – might be (more) suitable.

In this step it is also necessary to update institutional arrangements, including with international NGOs supporting the rebuilding effort. In case external agencies are involved in the rebuilding effort it is paramount to include the local community in this process and ensure that their wishes and needs drive the rebuilding process. Otherwise, the risk is high that the historic area might be rebuilt in a way that is non-compliant with local custom.

The resilience team needs also to identify potential parts of the historic area which should be abandoned due to damage beyond repair or high risks in subsequent events. At the same time, the resilience team should reiterate the importance of heritage to developers and (international) organisations involved in the rebuilding effort to avoid demolition (instead of restoration) of heritage due to economic concerns.

The resilience team will also need to coordinate with regional, national, and international organisations as well as local service providers to implement new resilience strategies or changes to existing policies to avoid future damages and raise the resilience of the historic area in the long term.

Lastly, the resilience team needs to use this phase to update the baseline information gathered in step 1 with new and up-to-date information. This also includes updates to the risk and resilience assessments, as well as the potential resilience building measures, based on post-disaster information.

Additonal tips

Constant communication with local communities and between all actors involved in the rebuilding effort should be ensured. As part of this effort explanatory panels and other awareness and communication materials explaining the disaster and its consequences might be installed in the community and historic area.

The resilience team should identify which changes in the social, economic, cultural, political, and environmental (natural and built) elements of the community and historic area have occurred due to the disaster. This includes, for example, taking into account post-disaster changes to the composition of the inhabitant mix within and around the historic area and the subsequent emergence of new local communities.

It might be necessary to mediate conflicting opinions on the value of historic areas for different local communities amid political and identity tensions as reconstruction can also trigger conflict when one community/authority might claim their historic area and reject that of other communities.

The resilience team should be aware of traditional gender stereotypes and the differentiated needs of men, women, minority groups, and other disproportionately affected population groups. Subsequently, the resilience team should make special efforts to include women, minorities, and other disproportionately affected population groups (and their skills, knowledge, etc.) in the rebuilding effort.

The resilience team should be aware that people benefiting from recovery projects have a vested interested in the continuation of these projects and might be less inclined to criticize them or discuss problems.

When deciding on rebuilding activities, the resilience team should address conflicts between heritage building methods and modern building requirements (e.g. energy efficiency). Here, it is important to take into account criteria that are compatible with heritage and local traditions (e.g. use of local materials as a means to implement measures with lower carbon footprint).

During the rebuilding effort, temporary activities – potentially already started during the stabilising step to provide necessary services and relief – need to be set-up or continued. This includes food banks, schools, medical services, but also cultural traditions that provide a sense of normalcy and sense of place (e.g. markets, festivities).

After the rebuilding and recovery efforts have finished, the resilience team should draw up and publish a public report, analysing and detailing the disaster response and showing avenues for further improvement.

At the end of this step, the results of steps 1-6 should be updated, specifically the following ones:

  • Step 10.1: Identifying and evaluating, if any information and characteristics of the historic area and associated people and assets changed.
  • Step 10.2: Updating the risk and vulnerability assessment based on damage and needs assessment.
  • Step 10.3: Updating risk prevention/mitigation, climate change adaptation, emergency response, and recovery measures.
  • Step 10.4: If needed, reassessing and revising measures and procedures.
  • Step 10.5: If needed, implementing selected measures and preparing updated emergency responses.
  • Step 10.6: Revising and updating monitoring, evaluation, and learning procedures, including monitoring and evaluation of rebuilding and rehabilitation processes and measures.

The ARCH Resilience Framework