Phases of an Event of Scale

from a Relief, Response and Reconstruct Perspective



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida, USA



Events of scale whether they are manmade or natural are becoming increasingly common events in an increasingly complex and networked world. The impact of natural events is further amplified by growing populations in vulnerable areas, prone to earthquake, wind or water driven disasters. Preparing for and addressing these events requires increased levels of engineering and logistical support, often requiring the mobilization and reconfiguration of global supply chains. Anticipating and understanding the nature of this engineering and logistical support and the prerequisites and lead times associated with effectively deploying it are essential to today’s disaster response and reconstruction efforts.

To assist in better planning for the deployment of engineering and logistical elements post-disaster, a phased event of scale framework is laid out in the following figure. The intent is not to suggest that each of these activities is sequential but rather to define major phases for purposes of delineating precursor activities and required capabilities. Only then can the often-missing event master schedule be created at an early stage.


Not all events of scale occur without warning and all do benefit from some degree of pre-planning and preparation. This paper will not look at preparedness as a precursor condition for an event of scale but rather only look at it in its aftermath. Having said that, certain events of scale do offer a narrow pre-event period. These may be measured in minutes to hours for tsunami and certain flooding events to days in the instance of major tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes. Pre-event activities during this period should include:

  1. Emergency notification, including a real time assessment of the emergency notification system for potential use during the event and the first response phase.
  1. Evacuation or sheltering, including an engineering and logistical assessment of evacuation routes or major shelters for the extent of the operation anticipated.
    1. For example, attempting to evacuate populations in excess of logistical capability may result in a more exposed population than under a partial shelter in place scenario
    2. Similarly, sheltering decisions should consider ability to withstand the anticipated event and begin consideration of first response challenges posed by the selected sheltering strategy deployed
  1. Pre-positioning of engineering first response and logistical teams
    1. Engineering first response teams should be focused on assisting first response efforts associated with life saving and rescue opportunities. Such activities may include structural advice associated with ruble entrapped individuals or continued habitability of damaged buildings. Risks to first responder operations would also be assessed.
    2. Damage assessment teams or dispatch and management functions related to such teams may be pre-positioned
    3. Logistical and communication teams may be pre-positioned during this period to quickly bring vital logistical communications up immediately after the event and to quickly identify available logistical routes and staging areas.


Engineering and logistical activities during the event and continuing into its immediate aftermath should be focused on predictive forecasting of the nature, type, extent and pattern of damage. Areas at risk from secondary effects (such as flooding) should be identified and prioritized. Geospatial models may need to be updated to reflect any significant modifications caused by the event itself (new or blocked flow channels or basins as an example).Additional event phase activities should include:



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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally published in PM World Today in July 2008.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. (2010). Phases of an Event of Scale from a Relief, Response and Reconstruct Perspective, Second Edition, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VI, June 2020.  Originally published in PM World Today, July 2008. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/pmwj94-Jun2020-Prieto-phases-of-an-event-of-scale-2nd-ed.pdf



About the Author


Bob Prieto

Chairman & CEO
Strategic Program Management LLC
Jupiter, Florida, USA


 Bob Prieto is a senior executive effective in shaping and executing business strategy and a recognized leader within the infrastructure, engineering and construction industries. Currently Bob heads his own management consulting practice, Strategic Program Management LLC. He previously served as a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world. He focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide and consults with owners across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies. He is author of nine books including “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry”, “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry”, “Capital Efficiency: Pull All the Levers” and, most recently, “Theory of Management of Large Complex Projects” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) as well as over 700 other papers and presentations.

Bob is an Independent Member of the Shareholder Committee of Mott MacDonald. He is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction, a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America and member of several university departmental and campus advisory boards. Bob served until 2006 as a U.S. presidential appointee to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth. He had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) and a non-executive director of Cardno (ASX)

Bob can be contacted at rpstrategic@comcast.net.

To view other works by Bob Prieto, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/bob-prieto/