Natural disasters are known to have devastating impacts on local, national, and international economies. With natural disasters estimated to affect 218 million people on average per year, it is crucial that municipalities and their partners source quality data to help implement post-disaster economic recovery plans. These plans ensure a speedy recovery for communities and economies affected by these events.

Location intelligence, built on human mobility patterns, aids municipalities and economic development organizations (EDOs) in building these plans by providing insight into the members of the community they serve and are looking to help. Here are three key applications for location intelligence in the post-disaster economic recovery planning process:

1. Identify high-impact zones

While communities might engage in pre-disaster planning, municipalities will still often rely on post-disaster economic impact studies from outside organizations or partners to help them determine which areas were impacted the most following a natural disaster. Reports like these typically include information around damage to infrastructure and/or property, job losses, and any loss of productivity in the community (e.g., if businesses had to close or had service interrupted).

These studies can help EDOs or other organizations identify highly impacted areas after a disaster occurs, but they only provide a broad view. When paired with location intelligence, these organizations can further understand any changes in human mobility patterns from before, during, and after an event occurs to dive deeper into how this disaster has truly affected a community. For example, foot traffic data can show areas that were normally high traffic prior to a natural disaster but have drastically decreased in traffic after the event. This could possibly signal that infrastructure in the area was impacted.

2. Rebuild community businesses

Natural disasters often leave an impact on local businesses, with many having to quickly figure out how to recover and what their next steps are. When rebuilding is finished and a business has received any insurance money, aid will often end there, leaving the rest up to business owners and communities to solve. What if there was a way that EDOs and municipalities could help these businesses more when it comes to their recovery?

Location intelligence can support community businesses in their recovery by giving them the information they need to determine the best places to relocate to, if needed. Foot traffic data patterns can highlight areas with high consumer activity that could make suitable options for relocation. Municipalities and EDOs can use this data when working with businesses in the local community to find the areas with a high concentration of potential new customers. One example of this would be a community pet store that was hit hard by a natural disaster and needs to relocate. This pet store would likely succeed in an area with a high concentration of consumers who frequently visit pet stores, businesses that provide pet services, and local pet events. The city municipality along with other organizations can engage with these businesses to identify the best areas for a relocation that would ensure success.

3. Reveal opportunities for new job creation

The three core parts of a smart growth economic development strategy are supporting businesses, workers, and quality of life, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). These factors are all crucial to developing an effective recovery plan and development strategy and can be enhanced by location intelligence. But how can location intelligence specifically help with job creation following a natural disaster?

Let’s say a manufacturing plant was destroyed by a hurricane, effectively halting business and causing workers to lose their jobs. With the help of location intelligence, EDOs and the local municipality could support the manufacturing company in selecting an area suitable for rebuilding. Foot traffic patterns are an indicator of where people most frequently go, how far they usually travel, etc., which could help determine if the area would have job seekers interested in working at the plant.

Effectively, any businesses that need help relocating following the occurrence of a natural disaster can work with their local municipality and use location intelligence insights to secure the information they need to rebuild in an area that is frequently visited by the right talent and is attractive to those looking for jobs.

Using Location Intelligence in Post-Disaster Economic Recovery Planning

The insights that location intelligence provides aids municipalities, EDOs, and any disaster response partners in building well-rounded and data-backed economic recovery plans. As a result, these groups can better help communities and economies rebound following a natural disaster or hazard.


Jeff White

Jeff White is the founder and CEO of Gravy Analytics. Prior to founding Gravy, he founded several companies and led them to successful exits. These companies include mySBX (sold to Deltek in 2009) and Blue Canopy (sold to a private investment firm in 2007). White has more than two decades of experience leading successful companies and was awarded the D.C. Technology Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011. White is passionate about building real products for real people and loves to start with a blank canvas (or whiteboard).

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