California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Integrated Waste Management Disaster Plan

Executive Summary


The Integrated Waste Management Disaster Plan has been prepared pursuant to Assembly Bill 2920 (Lee, 1992, Stats. 1992, c.436). This legislation requires the Board to develop a plan that provides for the handling, storage, processing, transportation, diversion from disposal sites, or disposal where absolutely necessary, of solid waste, resulting from a state or local emergency. This mandate is codified in Public Resources Code (PRC) section 43035.

The Plan has been prepared in consultation with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (OES) with input from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Local Enforcement Agencies, local emergency services personnel, local solid waste coordinators, and the public.

Board role

The California Integrated Waste Management Board (Board) is committed to assuring that solid waste is properly managed in the event of a natural disaster or emergency.

One of the Board's goals is to assist in the expeditious recovery of areas affected by natural disasters or emergencies while providing for the protection of public health and safety. To the maximum degree feasible, the Board will form partnerships with local jurisdictions in the development of debris management plans to recycle, reuse, or otherwise divert disaster debris from disposal.

Advance planning

The key to a successful disaster debris management program is advance planning. In the aftermath of a disaster, the primary focus is restoring and maintaining public health and safety. Consequently, debris diversion programs such as recycling and reuse can quickly become secondary, to be established only if there are time and staff to undertake the effort, if at all.

Preparedness will assist the State in diverting significant amounts of valuable materials that would otherwise be disposed of. Furthermore, there will be the added benefit of preservation of the State's landfill capacity.

Need for plan

The debris left after a major disaster such as an earthquake, fire, or flood can be massive and create its own set of public health and safety problems.

Given the magnitude of the cleanup efforts after the Northridge earthquake in 1994 and the devastating fires in Oakland and Malibu in 1991, it became clear that having a debris management plan in place before a disaster is critical to diverting massive amounts of debris from landfills.

Had recycling and reuse programs not been established after these disasters, more than a million tons of disaster debris would have been disposed of. The City of Los Angeles' Earthquake Recycling Program alone (established after the 1994 Northridge earthquake) saved 1,629,788 tons, or about 5,350,000 cubic yards of landfill space.


This plan is designed to provide guidance and assistance to the disaster preparedness planning efforts of local government. Its primary purpose is to assist local jurisdictions in writing a disaster debris management plan for their communities and to encourage the establishment of diversion programs for the debris generated after a disaster.

To this end, the plan provides an overview of the debris management issues that a solid waste manager will face after a disaster and highlights those diversion programs that have been proven to be successful.


Attached to the respective chapters of the plan will be supporting documents such as sample disaster debris removal contracts that provide for waste diversion, a model mutual aid agreement, and other guidance documents to assist the Solid Waste Recycling Coordinators in their efforts related to emergency disposal and diversion of disaster debris.

Plan organization

The plan is divided into 17 chapters that cover the various aspects of a debris management strategy. Because these chapters were prepared and can be used as stand-alone documents, some material is repeated in various chapters.

There are four major parts to the plan:

  1. Chapters 1-12 focus on government coordination, predisaster planning, and debris management programs.
  2. Chapters 13-16 focus on the emergency management system.
  3. Chapter 17 consists of case studies of the 1991 Oakland Firestorm, and the City of Los Angeles and the City of Santa Clarita responses to the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
  4. Checklists at the beginning of chapters summarize the tasks to be undertaken by local government, primarily the designated debris manager and team.


Abbreviated checklists are included below to provide a summary of the tasks to be undertaken in implementing diversion programs. These checklists can be used as a shortcut to determining the debris strategy to be undertaken and the programs to be implemented.

Only those chapter checklists related to debris programs [those denoted with an asterisk (*) ] are included for easy reference in the Plan. The remaining chapters contain a brief description of the chapter highlights.

Debris manager

The checklists are intended for the debris jurisdiction's manager; that is, the person designated with the responsibility for coordinating the debris clearance/removal activities and establishing diversion programs for the disaster debris. It is also assumed that a debris "team" will be established to assist in the debris management operations.

The following table of contents links to a short summary of each chapter. Please return to the main table of contents on the home page to access the detailed descriptions and the chapters themselves.

Chapter Title
1 Government Coordination
2 Predisaster Assessment
3 Debris Management Programs
4 Temporary Storage Sites
5 Contracts
6 Reimbursement
7 Mutual Aid
8 Curbside Collection Program
9 Building Demolition Program
10 Household Hazardous Waste Program
11 Public Information Program
12 Rebuilding Using Recycled-Content Products
13 Standardized Emergency Management System
14 Emergency and Disaster Declaration Process
15 State Natural Disaster Assistance Act (NDAA) Program
16 Federal Public Assistance Program

Case Studies

  • Oakland Firestorm, October 20, 1991
  • Northridge Earthquake, January 17, 1994: City of Los Angeles curbside pickup program
  • Northridge Earthquake, January 17, 1994: City of Santa Clarita earthquake response

Chapter 1: Government Coordination

Background: In the event of a disaster, local government officials must know whom to contact for assistance and must understand the roles and responsibilities of the other governmental agencies involved in order to effectively coordinate recovery efforts. This chapter outlines the roles and responsibilities of the local, state, and federal agencies with respect to disaster debris management.

In addition, it is critical that a jurisdiction establish effective coordination within its own organization. Information covered includes:

  • A description of an emergency organization in terms of who is responsible for what; identification of departmental relationships;
  • Designation of a debris manager and team;
  • Identification of a management structure;
  • Identification of available resources (staff and equipment); and description of mutual aid agreements.


Step 1: Define intradepartmental relationships, designate a debris manager and establish a debris "team."
Step 3: Outline and evaluate potential for specific disaster events and develop functional checklists by disaster for debris manager and team.
Step 4: Become familiar with emergency plans, procedures, and the Standardized Emergency Management System.
Step 5: Identify local, state, and federal agencies involved in disaster debris management.

Chapter 2: Predisaster Assessment

Background: This chapter discusses the need to conduct a program assessment in each community to determine the quantity and types of materials likely to be generated in a particular disaster. This is important because development of particular diversion programs will depend on the type and amount of debris generated as well as the end-uses identified for the materials.

Further, by conducting a pre-disaster assessment, a jurisdiction will have identified the specific areas that must be developed in a debris management plan.

Contents: Brief descriptions of the other types of information to be included in this assessment are:

  • Identification of type of disaster likely to occur in a particular locality.
  • Identification of transportation corridors and development of alternate routes.
  • Identification of recyclers, haulers, and processors in the area available to handle the debris.
  • Contingency plans for waste disposal.
  • Identification of temporary storage or staging areas for debris.
  • Facilities to handle/process debris and the amount that can be handled.
  • Markets for the generated materials.

Preplanning: Preplanning is the most effective way to ensure diversion activities are carried out after a disaster. By having local policies in place to require that recycling or other diversion programs be implemented after a disaster, or routinely, can lend critical support to a jurisdiction's request to receive FEMA reimbursement for recycling or other diversion programs.


Step 1: Develop local checklists of available resources.
Step 2: Conduct a disaster event analysis and waste characterization analysis.
Step 3: Identify temporary storage sites.
Step 4: Identify end uses and markets.
Step 5: Identify facilities and processing operations.
Step 6: Identify processing techniques and barriers.
Step 7: Identify processing equipment needs.
Step 8: Review funding options.
Step 9: Determine contract needs.
Step 10: Review Mutual Aid Agreements.
Step 11: Identify labor needs.
Step 12: Review local ordinances.

Chapter 3: Debris Management Programs

Background: This chapter contains the "how-to" information a local jurisdiction would need to establish a debris management program. Three programs are highlighted: curbside collection, building demolition, and household hazardous waste. The primary issues and the minimum requirements that should be considered in establishing such programs are presented below:

  • Guidelines for establishing a curbside pickup program, building demolition program, or household hazardous waste collection program.
  • Temporary storage areas.
  • End-uses for materials generated.
  • Type and quantity of equipment needed for debris removal.
  • Labor, facility, and processing requirements.
  • Contract and ordinance language to ensure diversion of disaster debris.
  • Preparation and distribution of materials to the public, including non-English speakers.


Step 1: Make diversion programs a priority.
Step 2: Become familiar with federal debris removal criteria and guidelines.
Step 3: Develop a debris removal strategy.
Step 4: Identify project scope.
Step 5: Select debris management program(s).
Step 6: Set program goals.
Step 7: Identify labor needs.
Step 8: Identify processing equipment needs.
Step 9: Determine method of operation.
Step 10: Adapt program length.
Step 11: Review funding options.
Step 12: Establish public information program.
Step 13: Develop monitoring and enforcement program.
Step 14: Identify program barriers.
Step 15: Develop a contingency plan.
Step 16: Pursue regional coordination.
Step 17: Develop incentives for diversion.
Step 18: Set up accounting/tracking system for debris programs.
Step 19: Develop a training program.
Step 20: Set up records retention system and archives.
Step 21: Prepare a final report of program activities and results.

Chapter 4: Temporary Storage Sites

Need for: Local governments have identified temporary storage sites as the primary obstacle in establishing a debris management program. Without the ability to stockpile or store the disaster debris until such time as a jurisdiction can turn its attention to processing and marketing the materials, the debris is probably destined for the landfill.

Do beforehand: Securing storage sites is best done before a disaster so that arrangements, such as leases and permits for the land, can be accomplished quickly. Given that the immediate response is for lifesaving activities, recycling and diversion programs often become secondary in importance. Having storage sites available in advance gives a jurisdiction additional time to develop diversion strategies and programs to handle the disaster debris.

Contents: This chapter will discuss determining the need for temporary storage sites and the criteria to use in selecting such sites.

Waiver of standards: In addition, the emergency waiver of standards regulations can provide some additional options for jurisdictions in establishing temporary storage sites. (The regulations are found in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 7, Chapter 3, Article 3, sections 17210 through 17210.9).

If authorized by the Local Enforcement Agency, an emergency waiver of standards can be granted to a solid waste facility operator to establish a locally-approved temporary transfer or processing site in the event of a proclamation of a state of emergency.


Step 1: Determine need for facilities.
Step 2: Develop criteria to evaluate potential sites.
Step 3: Identify temporary storage sites.
Step 4: Consult with local solid waste facility operator and Local Enforcement Agency on Emergency Waiver of Standards regarding establishment of temporary storage or processing areas.
Step 5: Identify permits or variances.
Step 6: Perform environmental review of site.
Step 7: Prepare a site development and operation plan.
Step 8: Prepare inspection and site management guidelines.
Step 9: Prepare a site restoration plan.

Chapter 5: Contracts

Importance of: Contracts and franchise agreements are pivotal to ensuring a successful debris management program. Unless diversion is specified, it is likely the collected debris will be disposed of. By developing model contracts for debris removal and recycling, and by prequalifying contractors in advance, a jurisdiction can save valuable time in implementing its recovery operations.

Regardless of the diversion program selected, the best way to divert disaster debris from landfills is to ensure that the contracts for debris removal include provisions requiring that the disaster debris be diverted from landfills through reuse, recycling, or other waste diversion techniques. Examples of contract language requiring diversion of disaster debris are included for reference.

Options: The jurisdiction has a number of options available in preparing contracts, depending upon the nature of the disaster and the expected recovery time. This chapter presents the time and material, lump sum, and unit price contracts, describing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Contract agreements are often the vehicle through which the debris removal and recycling operations will occur. As a result, it is important for a jurisdiction to work closely with its waste hauler or franchise prior to a disaster to determine the services and equipment they can provide in a disaster. These companies can provide essential services and equipment as a jurisdiction develops its debris management strategy and programs.


Step 1: Perform contract services assessment.
Step 2: Coordinate with haulers.
Step 3: Assess need for short- and long-term operations.
Step4: Select and execute contract.
Step 5: Determine need for special engineering organization.
Step 6: Develop project quantity/cost estimates.
Step 7: Develop diversion language for contracts.
Step 8: Review general considerations.
Step 9: Review accounting considerations.
Step 10: Review contract administration procedures

Chapter 6: Reimbursement

Background: A disaster can be devastating to a jurisdiction's resources, both in personnel and in funds. The job of protecting lives and property will begin immediately after the disaster; however, funding from the State and FEMA will not follow so quickly.

To get started in its recovery efforts, a jurisdiction must be knowledgeable about the state and federal reimbursement programs and the process for requesting funding. This chapter also provides guidelines for receiving reimbursement for recycling programs even if they are not "least cost" as is FEMA's policy.

Chapter 7: Mutual Aid

Statewide system: Because California's disaster planning is based on a statewide system of mutual aid, this will be one of the first options a jurisdiction will use to get additional staffing and equipment.

Each local jurisdiction relies first on its own resources, then calls for assistance:

  • City to city.
  • City to county.
  • County to county.
  • County to the regional office of the Office of Emergency Services, which relays the request to the State. 

This chapter provides an overview of the different mutual aid agreements that a jurisdiction can develop or become a signatory to:

  • Public Works Mutual Aid.
  • Public Information Officers Mutual Aid.
  • Emergency Managers Mutual Aid.

Chapter 8: Curbside Collection Program

Program type: One of the primary methods used by jurisdictions to remove material after a disaster is a curbside waste pickup program. Cities and counties implement curbside pickup programs to remove debris from the street after businesses and homeowners have placed the materials in front of the property.

Requirements: In any curbside pickup program, there are some basic requirements that need to be addressed and implemented. Following is a partial list of topics discussed in more detail in the Plan.

  • Processing and facility needs.
  • Labor and equipment needs.
  • Funding requirements.
  • Method of implementation.
  • Contract requirements.
  • Temporary storage requirements.
  • Public information strategy.
  • Market requirements.


Step 1: Identify/quantify material.
Step 2: Determine processing and facility needs.
Step 3: Identify labor and equipment needs.
Step 4: Secure program funding in advance.
Step 5: Select method to locate curbside waste.
Step 6: Determine method of implementation.
Step 7: Identify temporary storage areas.
Step 8: Identify/establish markets for collected materials.
Step 9: Review contract requirements.
Step 10: Develop tracking/documentation system.
Step 11: Develop public information program/strategy.
Step 12: Develop methods to encourage diversion.
Step 13: Develop monitoring and enforcement program.
Step 14: Prepare final report.

Chapter 9: Building Demolition Program

Contents: This chapter sets forth general guidelines for establishing a building demolition program, emphasizing diversion (reuse, recycling) of waste generated as a result of the demolition. The information presented here is taken primarily from the:

  • City of Los Angeles' building demolition and debris removal program initiated after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and the County of Humboldt's demolition program after the 1992 earthquake.
  • These demolition programs are offered as examples of how two jurisdictions approached the task of setting up such a program.

Maximize diversion: In addition, ideas on how to maximize diversion opportunities, and hints and policy actions undertaken by other jurisdictions after past disasters are offered to help others avoid common pitfalls in implementing a building demolition program.

Eligible work: The planning phase is important in identifying the types of building demolition work eligible for federal public assistance demolition funding. This information in turn will help determine the types and scope of building demolition programs a jurisdiction may choose to undertake.


Planning Phase

Step 1: Review Section 403, Essential Services, of the Stafford Act, to determine the types of building demolition work eligible for federal public assistance demolition funding.

Predemolition Phase

Step 1: Prepare demolition plan.
Step 2: Identify affected properties.
Step 3: Conduct historic preservation review.
Step 4: Prepare video documentation.
Step 5: Establish haul routes.
Step 6: Obtain waivers and releases.
Step 7: Prepare contract.
Step 8: Select contractor(s).

Demolition Phase

Step 1: Identify hazardous materials in damaged buildings.
Step 2: Obtain proper permits.
Step 3: Deploy field staff.
Step 4: Notify residents and utilities of demolition schedule.
Step 5: Remove hazardous materials.
Step 6: Recycle demolition debris.
Step 7: Develop a plan to handle special wastes.
Step 8: Demolish building.
Step 9: Remove, transport, dispose of remaining debris.

Postdemolition Phase (Closing Project)

Step 10: Issue reports as required by city.
Step 11: Inspect properties.
Step 12: Videotape and photograph the completed site and area, by lot.
Step 13: Maintain contract records.
Step 14: Complete processing of claims for funding and project closeout.
Step 15: Participate on an as-required basis in the negotiations of settlement of claims.

Chapter 10: Household Hazardous Waste and Disaster Planning

Purpose: The purpose of this chapter is to provide assistance to local jurisdictions in developing a disaster plan for the collection of household hazardous wastes (HHW). The purpose of disaster planning for HHW is to minimize potential public health and safety impacts, as well as to minimize costs and confusion.

While many local jurisdictions already have comprehensive collection programs for HHW, these programs may need to be modified to allow the program to operate adequately during a disaster. A good disaster plan can help meet these needs.

Coordinate plan: For cities that participate in a county collection program, a disaster plan should be developed in conjunction with the county. In addition, a disaster plan should be developed in consultation with the following:

  • Local/regional emergency management agencies.
  • Fire departments.
  • Police.
  • Other local entities that may be involved in disaster and/or HHW collection programs.

Focus is HHW: While some of the information contained in this chapter may apply to hazardous materials emergency response, the focus of this chapter is on household hazardous waste collection programs.


Develop household hazardous waste (HHW) collection program disaster plan.

Step 1: Describe existing HHW collection program.
Step 2: Designate a Local HHW disaster coordinator.
Step 3: Develop lists for local and emergency personnel.
Step 4: Enter into Mutual Aid Agreements.
Step 5: Identify potential collection sites and equipment.
Step 6: Prepare contractor/hauler agreements.
Step 7: Assess need for special Household Hazardous Waste Collection events.
Step 8: Provide public information/notification.
Step 9: Establish or expand load checking programs.
Step 10: Apply for State Household Hazardous Waste permits.
Step 11: Apply for State and Federal assistance/funds.
Step 12: Document costs, quantities, and types of Household Hazardous Waste collected.

Establish a household hazardous waste collection program.

Step 1: Define roles and responsibilities.
Step 2: Establish a planning committee.
Step 3: Establish goals.
Step 4: Determine funding availability.
Step 5: Decide who the program participants will be.
Step 6: Gather information about HHW laws and regulations, types and quantities of HHW that may be collected.
Step 7: Gather information about other jurisdictions' HHW programs.
Step 8: Generate public involvement.
Step 9: Establish waste acceptance criteria.
Step 10: Select type of collection program.
Step 11: Select HHW contractor/hauler.
Step 12: Develop a site operation plan.
Step 13: Develop a health and safety plan.
Step 14: Develop an emergency response plan.
Step 15: Establish segregation and sorting protocols.
Step 16: Establish reuse/recycling program

Chapter 11: Public Information Program

Background: The success of a diversion program lies with the effectiveness of its public information or outreach program. An effective public information program will realize two goals:

  • Provide adequate advertisement of the debris collection program.
  • Educate the residents and contractors involved in carrying out the program.

Unless this program is taken seriously and resources applied to implement it, plans to recycle and otherwise divert the disaster debris may go unrealized.

Good communication is paramount to achieving coordination and consistency within a jurisdiction's various departments and with the state and federal agencies assisting in the disaster recovery. As such, elevating the importance of the public information function will assist the debris manager in carrying out the selected diversion programs and in accomplishing the program goals.


Step 1: Establish a public information or media center to handle debris management questions from the public.
Step 2: Develop contact lists for the media.
Step 3: Set up a hotline for the public to call regarding debris management programs and/or for debris pickup.
Step 4: Coordinate jurisdiction's outreach materials for debris management program with jurisdiction's Public Information Officer and Office of Emergency Services.
Step 5: Advertise recycling and diversion programs.
Step 6: Identify all target groups.
Step 7: Determine need for interpreters and translators.
Step 8: Provide fact sheets to the public.
Step 9: Develop public information campaign.
Step 10: Develop a Public Information Mutual Aid Plan.

Chapter 12: Rebuilding Using Recycled-Content Products

Background: After the disaster recovery is well underway, residents and businesses will begin rebuilding. Rebuilding includes two aspects that are important for disaster planning:

  • Selecting recycled-content products (RCP) for building.
  • Separating materials at the construction job site to maximize recovery.

Products: The key to diverting construction and demolition (C&D) debris is to promote products using the debris as feedstock. Recycled-content construction products are discussed in two categories:

  • Inerts.
  • General building products.

Suggested actions: This chapter presents the following lists of actions to:

  • Promote recycled-content products with public works personnel.
  • Encourage RCP selection.
  • Assist manufacturers with financing or assistance with permits if they are expanding or in startup phase.
  • Encourage separation and recycling of construction waste at new construction sites.

Also included are sources of information on construction-related RCPs.

Chapter 13: Standardized Emergency Management System

Background: As a result of the 1991 East Bay Hills Fire in Oakland, Senate Bill 1841 was passed by the Legislature and made effective 1/1/93. The law is found in Section 8607 of the California Government Code. The intent of this law is to improve the coordination of state and local emergency response in California. The Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) regulations took effect in September of 1994.

The use of SEMS is required for state response agencies. Local government agencies must use SEMS if they are to receive state funding for extraordinary response personnel costs resulting from a disaster.

Five levels: SEMS consists of five organizational levels which are activated as necessary:

  • Field response.
  • Local government.
  • Operational area.
  • Regional.
  • State.

This chapter discusses the five SEMS organizational/ response levels and their place in the overall emergency response system.

Chapter 14: Emergency and Disaster Declaration Process

Process: The process to request state and/or federal assistance after a disaster or emergency is initiated when the local governing body or Governor submits a formal request to the appropriate state or federal office.

Assistance: Program and financial assistance will vary depending on:

  • The type of declaration or proclamation declared.
  • Whether the situation constitutes an emergency or a disaster.
  • The assistance required.

Topics: This chapter covers the declaration of a local emergency, funding for the NDAA program, and the assistance available with a Governor's Proclamation of a State of Emergency.

Chapter 15: State Natural Disaster Assistance (NDAA) Program

Background: The Natural Disaster Assistance Act (NDAA) is activated after:

  • A local declaration of emergency.
  • Governor's Proclamation of a State Emergency.
  • A Presidential Declaration of a Major Disaster or Emergency.

Once the NDAA is activated, local government is eligible for certain types of assistance, depending upon the specific declaration or proclamation issued. This chapter outlines the types of assistance available and the application procedure for requesting that assistance.

Chapter 16: Federal Public Assistance Program

Background: It is the responsibility of the local communities and the State to respond when a natural disaster occurs; however, the results of the disaster may overwhelm their combined efforts to effectively handle the recovery. In these instances, the State can request federal assistance to supplement the state and local efforts.

This chapter provides an overview of federal assistance available under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act and the Federal Response Plan.

Chapter 17: Case Studies

Three case studies are included in this plan--the 1991 Oakland Firestorm, and the City of Los Angeles and the City of Santa Clarita responses to the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The case studies examine how each city established diversion programs to handle the disaster debris generated within their communities and offer some lessons learned and planning guidelines for future events.

This information is presented in the hope that other jurisdictions can learn from these cities' experiences and incorporate these suggestions into their own predisaster plans by maximizing water diversion efforts and utilizing existing resources to the greatest benefit.

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Last updated: January 1, 2000
Disaster Preparedness and Response
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