Post Disaster Engineering & Construction

Program and Project Management



By Bob Prieto

Jupiter, Florida, USA


Charles (Al) Whitaker

Texas, USA



The post-disaster environment changes both engineering and construction requirements as well as the framework within which it is undertaken. These changes drive post-disaster program and project managers to address different considerations than those encountered on a more traditional global scale program while simultaneously dealing with the added constraints imposed by an evolving logistical situation.

Previously in, “Personal Perspective: Program Management and Events of Scale” (PM World Today; July, 2008) the focus was on programmatic features common in the preparation and planning to resist, respond and recover from so-called events of scale. This paper looks more deeply at how the engineering and construction model changes post disaster and how various logistics affecting activities are modified from those employed on global scale programs undertaken in a non-disaster environment.

Types of Disasters

Before jumping directly into the post disaster environment it is worth spending a minute to understand the range of disasters that engineering and construction program and project managers are likely to be called to engage in. We have tried to characterize these simply as those with a broader scale (both natural and human caused) and those that are more discrete in nature. The later however may have consequences as severe as the broader scale disasters depending on the facility involved. We have specifically included so called “Natech” disasters or naturally induced technological failures. The most recent example of such a Natech disaster is at Fukashima.

  • Broader Scale Disasters
    • Human
      • War, civil strife, terrorism
    • Natural
      • Regional – wind, water, earthquake, geological
    • Discrete Disasters (Specific facility)
      • Human – terrorism, explosion, fire
      • Natural – tornado, fire
      • Natech – naturally induced, technological failure

Each of these disasters moves through three phases but in this paper we will focus only on the later two.

  • Resist (pre-disaster)
  • Response
  • Recover and reconstruct
    • Enhance resiliency for each phase

Simplified Engineering & Construction Project Model

In order to understand how the engineering and construction project model changes post-disaster, it is first necessary to construct a simplified model for the non-disaster scenario. Such a simplified model is reflected in the following figure and includes a set of project inputs which are transformed at a project site, within a well-defined framework, to deliver the desired project outputs.  Framework elements 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 September 2011.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Prieto, R. and Whitaker, C. (2011). Post Disaster Engineering & Construction Program and Project Management, Second Edition, PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VII, July 2020.  Originally published in PM World Today, Vol. XIII, Issue IX, September 2011. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/pmwj95-Jul2020-Prieto-Whitaker-post-disaster-program-and-project-management2.pdf



About the Authors

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.


Charles (Al) Whitaker

Texas, USA




 Al Whitaker has served as program manager for DOE, DOD, FEMA and other U.S. government agencies and programs and has been responsible for managing large federal programs in the area of environmental services (facilities permitting, design, and construction and site remediation) and disaster relief.   He was Fluor’s program manager for the FEMA Individual Assistance Technical Assistance Program.  This program provided temporary housing to disaster victims.  The scope for the program included full engineering, procurement, construction, and maintenance services.  As Program Manager his responsibilities included the execution of all task orders for disaster response anywhere FEMA is called upon to respond.  Task Orders included work in Florida, Wyoming, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Texas.  Revenues from this program exceeded $1.5 billion and over 900 million safe work hours were executed during 1976-1980.  Al Whitaker has a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering (Chi Epsilon, Civil Engineering Honorary Fraternity) from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA  (1976-1980); and a Masters of business Administration from Texas A&M University, Mays Graduate School of Business, College Station, Texas, USA (2002 – 2004).