California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) 

Integrated Waste Management Disaster Plan

Chapter 2: Pre-Disaster Assessment (Steps 1-6)

Background: Performing an assessment or inventory of your resources is the first step in determining your jurisdiction's preparedness to effectively handle debris generated after a disaster.

The purpose of this assessment is to identify the kind of debris management strategy needed and diversion programs to consider. It will also show the areas that need to be developed in order to prepare an effective disaster debris response.

More detailed information on specific diversion programs is contained in Chapter 3, Debris Management Programs.

Contents: This chapter contains 12 sections and is divided into steps one might follow to develop a debris management strategy.

Step Section Assessment will provide
1 Develop local checklists overall resources (staffing, equipment) available and those needed; facilities, markets, and temporary storage sites available and those needed
2 Conduct a disaster event analysis and waste characterization analysis types of disasters a jurisdiction is likely to encounter and its vulnerability to each; types and amounts of waste likely to be generated
3 Identify temporary storage sites list of potential sites that can be used as a pre-staging area for debris until it is processed or transported
4 Identify end-uses and markets markets, processing requirements, and types of facilities needed to handle the disaster wastestream
5 Identify facilities needed recycling, reuse, and disposal facilities available and needed
6 Identify processing techniques and barriers specific equipment and processing techniques based on materials to be processed and their end-uses
7 Identify processing equipment needs specific equipment and processing techniques based on materials to be processed and their end-uses
8 Review funding options funding options available to fund diversion and recovery programs until state and federal funding becomes available
9 Determine contract needs type of contracts needed and contracting options
10 Review Mutual Aid Agreements type of assistance available from neighboring jurisdictions; types of agreements to consider developing
11 Identify labor needs estimate of the types of labor and equipment needed and options for securing them
12 Review local ordinances ordinances that might affect planned diversion programs or those that could be enacted to help establish such programs

Step 1: develop local checklists

Checklists: Developing checklists in advance of a disaster can save valuable time in establishing debris management programs as well as in directing the overall recovery operations.

These checklists will be specific to a jurisdiction's situation and will reflect the resources available and those that will be needed.

Primary checklists: The primary checklists that need to be developed are listed below. Some of these, however, are more applicable to the city or county emergency services staff. In this case, check with your city/county OES to see what has been developed.

The other checklists or resource inventories will probably be developed by the staff responsible for establishing the diversion program, i.e. the city/county Solid Waste or Recycling Coordinator. Much of this information can be developed as each step in the following assessment is completed .

Emergency services and response

  • Emergency Organization Alert List;
  • Available resources: staffing, equipment;
  • Local, state, federal agencies involved in disaster debris management (see chapter 1 on Government Coordination for examples);
  • Non-profit organizations (e.g., American Red Cross, Salvation Army);
  • Mutual Aid agreements;
  • Equipment and supply summary, both public and private sectors;
  • Directories of field and regional locations;
  • Maps, charts, diagrams of transportation corridors; and
  • List of TV, radio, wire services.


  • Recycling, reuse, and disposal facilities;
  • Maps of transportation corridors to facilities and alternate routes.


  • End-uses for generated materials;
  • Markets for generated materials;
  • Haulers/brokers/processors and materials, amounts they can handle;
  • Construction and demolition (C&D) brokers/processors;
  • RMDZ businesses/local and state government contacts;
  • Waste exchanges (CALMAX and national exchange list) and/or local exchanges;
  • C&D recyclers (use CIWMB's list and/or local lists);
  • salvage yards; and
  • non-profit organizations.

Temporary storage sites

Mutual aid agreements

Contracts and franchise agreements


Step 2: conduct a disaster event analysis and waste characterization analysis

Purpose: Identify the types of disaster(s) your city/county is likely to encounter. Different disasters will generate different types and amounts of debris, which in turn will affect the selection of a diversion strategy.

For each disaster event, evaluate its potential severity and your community's vulnerability to such a disaster.

Actions to take:

  • Identify disasters likely to occur.
  • Analyze nature of disasters and jurisdiction's vulnerability to each.
  • Estimate amount and types of wastes that could be generated.
  • Estimate amount and types of waste that could be generated as a result of recovery phase.
  • Estimate construction and demolition (C&D) disposal tonnage.
  • Develop list of materials that could be included in a diversion program.

Disaster event table: The table below gives a general idea of the types of materials typically generated after a particular disaster.

Disaster event analysis

Disaster Event Damage Materials Generated Secondary Impacts
Urban Fires Foundations;
Burned Cars
Concrete; Foundations;
Charred lumber and wood;
Sand bags;
Houses on hills, erosion & large amounts of earth move downhill.

Can be caused by firefighting efforts, heavy rains after fire, earthquake.

Earth, trees, and boulders fall on other homes, creating more structure debris.
Wildfires Firestorm through trees and brush without wind, leaves nothing.
With wind may leave dead but standing trees.
Foundations, chimneys, burned cars.
Downed trees;
Charred lumber; and wood;
Erosion problems (same as urban fires)
Dam failure
Damage to homes: lumber, wallboard, carpets, furniture. (Mud) sediments deposited on public and private property and discarded belongings.
Landslide debris - soil, gravel, rock, construction materials.
Household hazardous waste
Downed trees;
Brown goods (e.g., furniture);
White goods;
Household hazardous waste;
Earthquake Infrastructure damage - concrete and asphalt highways, overpasses, bridges. Concrete, cement block, stone retaining walls, smashed vehicles. Asphalt from damaged parking lots. Building material, personal property, sediments caused by landslides. Concrete;
Secondary damage such as fires and explosions may result from disruption of utility systems.

Waste generated from new construction and renovation.

Hurricane Remains of damaged buildings, sediments, trees, personal property. Wallboard;
Brown goods;
White goods;
Household hazardous waste;
Tornado Damaged and destroyed structures, trees, personal property. Wallboard;
Brown goods;
White goods;
Household hazardous waste;
Sand Bags;
Civil Unrest Damaged and destroyed structures, personal property. Wallboard;
Brown goods;
White goods;
Household hazardous waste;


Volcanic Eruption Ash, downed trees, molten rock. Ash  
Terrorist Acts Damaged and destroyed structures.    

Waste characterization of disaster debris

Project types and amounts of debris: Project the amounts and types of waste likely to be generated after a disaster. This will be one indicator of the types and scope of diversion programs that should be planned.

This will be your "best guess" based on the variables below:

  • the type and severity of disaster;
  • location and extent of the damage;
  • building types and their age (residential, commercial, etc.);
  • number of buildings affected; and
  • population affected.

Purpose: Although this waste characterization will only provide a general idea of the materials to be handled, some assumptions can be made about the facilities, processing, staffing, equipment, and markets that will be needed.

List of materials: The list below shows those materials typically generated after a disaster. Generally, the post-disaster waste stream is composed of construction and demolition materials and personal belongings.

  • concrete;
  • asphalt;
  • metals;
  • greenwaste;
  • plastic;
  • sand bags;
  • dirt;
  • wallboard;
  • wood; and
  • glass.

Materials (cont'd):

  • white goods - refrigerators, washers, dryers, stoves;
  • brown goods - furniture (sofas, chairs) and other bulky goods;
  • bricks; and
  • household hazardous waste.

Other debris: Keep in mind that other debris will be generated during the course of recovery . Examples include plastic water bottles and plastic sheeting associated with mass care (i.e. tent shelters); sand bags and dirt remaining after a flood or wildfire or used for erosion control.

Another factor can be the additional waste generated in the long-term from construction and renovation activities as well as ongoing demolition projects.

Step 3: identify temporary storage sites

Purpose: This assessment will indicate whether adequate temporary storage space for the projected types and amounts of disaster debris is available, the options for diversion programs given the ability or inability to store the materials, and example tasks to complete in order to secure storage areas.

Refer to Chapter 4 for more detailed information on temporary storage sites.

Actions to take:

  • determine need for temporary storage areas;
  • develop criteria for siting temporary storage or pre-staging areas'
  • make a list of all possible sites: public and private;
  • consider pre-approving sites and receiving permit in advance, to be activated upon declaration of disaster/emergency;
  • consult with solid waste facility operators and Local Enforcement Agency on need to request emergency waiver of standards for waiver of certain minimum standards at landfill or to request establishment of a temporary storage or processing area;
  • Identify permit and environmental compliance requirements and time needed to process;
  • decide the type and level of environmental assessment and monitoring needed to be performed at site;
  • negotiate in advance the use or lease of public or private land;
  • develop Site Operation Plan; and
  • develop Site Restoration Plan.

When to use: The better strategy is to transport the disaster debris directly to the landfill or recycling/processing facility rather than using a temporary storage site.

In this way, labor and transportation costs are paid once, whereas hauling to the temporary storage site and then hauling again to the recycling facility and increase costs significantly.

And, FEMA may not pay for these additional costs. Prior to establishing a temporary storage site, contact FEMA to obtain prior authorization and to ensure reimbursement for these program costs. Refer to Chapter 6, Reimbursement, for more information.

Emergency waiver of standards regulation: The Board has adopted the emergency waiver of standards regulations, which are found in California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Division 7, Chapter 3, Article 3, sections 17210 through 17210.9.

The regulations allow Local Enforcement Agencies to issue emergency waivers to solid waste facility operators, upon request, in the event of a state of emergency or local emergency. The waiver grants an operator temporary relief from specific state minimum solid waste standards or terms or conditions of the operator's solid waste facilities permit.

The waiver applies to the following:

  • origin of waste;
  • the rate of inflow for storage, transfer, or disposal of waste;
  • the type and moisture content of solid waste;
  • the hours of facility operation; and
  • the storage time before transfer or disposal of wastes, at a solid waste facility.

A waiver can also be granted to an operator for the establishment of a locally-approved temporary transfer or processing site, if authorized by the LEA.

Criteria: Examples of evaluation criteria for establishing temporary storage (pre-staging) areas are included in Chapter 4, Temporary Storage Area.

List sites: Prepare a list of potential temporary storage sites based upon the types and amounts of materials projected to be collected, processed, and transported.

Check on available public and private sites for use as temporary storage, recycling, or disposal sites. Explore the possibilities of using city/county-owned land, state lands, and private property. Private property will probably be the last resort given the liability associated with this.

Examples: Examples of sites to consider include the following:

  • landfill;
  • recycling facility;
  • right-of-way;
  • vacant lot;
  • corporation yard;
  • parks;
  • parking lot; and
  • private property.

Do beforehand: Securing storage sites is best done before a disaster strikes so that arrangements, such as leases and permits for the land, can be accomplished quickly.

Realistically, if sites are not designated in advance, it is unlikely that a jurisdiction will have enough time to do so when trying to manage the disaster recovery at the same time.

Step 4: determine end-uses and markets for materials collected

Purpose: This assessment will provide an overview of the markets needed, the processing requirements for the identified end-uses, and the type of facilities needed to handle the wastestream.

For purposes of this report, markets are considered outlets for raw or processed materials. End-uses are the products themselves that are made from the disaster debris e.g., crushed concrete, soil amendment.

Actions to take:

  • Determine end-uses and market specifications for disaster debris.
  • List the local brokers and processors, materials they handle, and end-uses.
  • Identify market specifications for the selected end-uses.
  • Identify processing requirements for selected end-uses.
  • Identify potential markets.
  • List the existing markets your jurisdiction is currently using, the materials accepted, and end-uses.
  • If located in or near a Recycling Market Development Zone, list the recycling businesses within the Zone and the secondary materials they accept and process and the end-products.
  • List local, state, and national waste exchanges available.
  • Identify potential projects within your city/county programs for materials collected (e.g., parks, public works).
  • Identify markets still needed after evaluating existing, available markets for materials and quantities projected.
  • Identify market barriers.

Determine end-uses

End-uses: Determine end-uses for materials before processing them. If materials are processed before the end-uses are determined, this may preclude their use for certain applications, thereby limiting their marketability.

For example, if concrete is ground too finely or is mixed with wood or brick, it cannot be used for certain road applications.

Market spec's: Ensure that processed materials will meet market specifications. For example, most crushed asphalt and concrete is used as road base on Department of Transportation (CalTrans) or local public works road projects. Most local governments, particularly in northern California, rely on CalTrans specifications for road materials. Many local governments in southern California rely on specifications in the Greenbook. (For a more detailed discussion of road base specifications, see the fact sheet Recycled Aggregate in Attachment A).

If specifications are not met, the material will be rejected. However, more relaxed standards may apply when using the processed material for less structural applications such as temporary roads at landfills or parks.

Also refer to Attachment B for a more detailed discussion of processing techniques and equipment.

Identify markets

Markets: Determine if established markets exist for the materials that will be collected. Identify the recyclers, processors, and brokers who can divert the designated materials and the amounts they can handle. This is best done beforehand so that arrangements can be made quickly and the materials moved off site immediately.

Potential markets: Consider the following as possible markets for the disaster debris:

  • City/county use for future projects such as temporary roads at landfills (concrete, brick, asphalt), daily cover (dirt), erosion control, parkways (mulch), and riprap;
  • City/county use for aggregate base and subbase in public works road projects.
  1. See CalTrans Standard Special Provisions, which allow reclaimed asphalt and concrete in aggregate base and subbase, as described in fact sheet Recycled Aggregate (Attachment A).
  2. See Greenbook, which allows recycled material in crushed Miscellaneous Base and processed Miscellaneous Base. Both are described in fact sheet Recycled Aggregate.
  • State agencies (Dept. of Parks & Recreation - mulch);
  • CalMAX, the materials exchange program run by the California Integrated Waste Management Board. (See Attachment C for more information on how to use CalMAX);
  • Recycling Market Development Zone businesses. Contact your RMDZ administrator if there is a zone in your county.
  • National waste exchanges (see Attachment D for a listing);
  • CalTrans use for aggregate base and subbase in road projects. See CalTrans Standard Special Provisions, which allow reclaimed asphalt and concrete in aggregate base and subbase, as described in fact sheet Recycled Aggregate (Attachment A).
  • To market to CalTrans projects, review "going contracts" as described in the fact sheet CalTrans and Recycled Construction Products, (Attachment E).
  • Salvage operations and local materials exchanges;
  • Non-profit organizations;
  • Out-of-state markets and brokers shipping to the Pacific Rim and Mexico.

Markets used: The following table provides examples of the markets used by a number of jurisdictions for disaster debris:

Jurisdiction Materials Markets
Humboldt County
1992 earthquake
  • Redwood and fir lumber
  • Insulation
  • Fixtures, appliances, carpets, roof shingles
Reuse by non-profit organizations; cogeneration
Reuse by non-profit organizations
City of Oakland
1989 Firestorm
  • Partly burnt or obstructing trees and branches
  • Metals - Ferrous: cars, appliances
  • Metals - non-ferrous: copper plumbing, aluminum siding
  • Concrete/brick from destroyed foundations, walls, chimneys, driveways, fireplaces
Biomass fuel
Composting/mulch. Soil amendment/fertilizer. Landfill cover (mixed with sewage).
Firewood/logs. Used as firewood or as logs for construction.
Sold to mills and smelters in U.S. or Pacific Rim for varied end uses ) new cars, appliances
Road construction material (Class II aggregate base. Meets CalTrans specifications)
City of Santa Clarita
1994 Northridge earthquake
  • Gravel
  • Drywall
  • Metals
Cemetery base; gravel on ranch sites; backfill in sidewalks
City of Los Angeles
1994 Northridge earthquake
  • Concrete; combination of concrete, red clay brick, and other inerts
  • Rubble
  • Gypsum wallboard
  • Red clay brick
  • Wood and green materials that could not be traditionally processed
  • Well-screened dirt
Landfill winter deck
Landfill roads
Landfill cover
Winter deck
Decorative gravel
Aggregate road base
Included in fines for daily cover
Roofing amendment, decorative gravel
Alternative daily cover at landfills
Soil amendment

Identify market barriers

Barriers: Identify the market barriers to recycling the collected materials. They can include:

  • expense to collect, transport, and process the materials;
  • low market price for materials;
  • cheap virgin sources;
  • limited end-uses and markets for materials; and
  • few or no temporary storage sites.

Limit materials collected: Based on the analysis of market barriers, a jurisdiction may decide to limit the materials to be collected in its diversion program, thereby increasing the likelihood of recycling those that are collected.

Example: The City of Santa Clarita experienced a 97% diversion rate of their disaster debris after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. In large part, their success can be attributed to two factors:

  1. a collection program limited to the following materials: concrete, asphalt, block wall, rubble, masonry, cinder block, clay brick, metals, and wood waste; and
  2. the City's requirement for curbside separation of the waste. 

Step 5: identify facilities and processing operations

Purpose: This assessment will help identify the recycling, reuse, and disposal facilities available or needed to process and/or store the disaster debris. Processing operations include wood chipping, concrete and asphalt crushing, and drywall recycling.

Given the projected amounts and types of debris anticipated, assess whether these facilities can handle the debris quickly, particularly if there are limited temporary storage sites.

Actions to take:

  • Prepare a list of existing facilities and their ability to store, handle, and process waste: facilities include source separated, mixed recycling, and disposal
  • Prepare list of facilities in neighboring jurisdictions that could be used.
  • Map transportation routes to facilities and develop alternate routes.
  • Review list of disaster debris likely to be generated and collected.
  • Complete facility assessment form for each facility.
  • Review list of potential end-uses and markets for collected materials.
  • Based on the above, develop a list of facilities needed.
  • Negotiate with franchise haulers, facility operators/owners, processors, and neighboring jurisdictions to use facility to collect, process, and/or divert disaster debris.

Facility types: The following facility descriptions are used throughout this document.

Facility Type Description [1]
Source separated facilities accept materials such as concrete and asphalt exclusively for recycling
Mixed recycling facilities accept both source-separated and all mixed debris, from which recyclable materials are processed for recovery and residuals are disposed of
Disposal facilities accept materials for landfilling only

Assessment factors: To assist in the facility capacity assessment, determine the following for each facility. This should give an indication of whether to modify existing facilities or establish new facilities.

  • expected waste types and origin of waste;
  • materials accepted;
  • remaining disposal capacity;
  • processing capacity;
  • processing barriers;
  • description of on-site recycling facilities;
  • expected storage capacity for disaster debris;
  • on-site processing capability;
  • proximity to disaster area; and
  • disaster debris disposal/diversion reporting formats.

Site capacity: From the information gathered during the preliminary damage assessment, a jurisdiction should be able to determine whether the existing recycling facilities have the capability to process the expected volumes and types of debris and whether landfills have sufficient capacity for the expected volumes of debris. If not, consider the following:

  • expanding an existing recycling facility;
  • adding a temporary storage area at a landfill for recycling operations;
  • establishing a new recycling facility; or
  • expanding existing landfills for additional disposal.

Mix of facilities: Identify any mixed or segregated construction and demolition recycling facilities in the area. If one is not available, consider establishing one, particularly if the materials collected will not be source separated.

To keep the average recycling tip fees at the lowest possible level, maintain a mix of source separation recycling facilities and mixed debris recycling facilities.

Negotiate in advance: Negotiate with franchises, haulers, and facility operators/owners in advance to ensure that the facility will:

  • be available when needed,
  • be able to handle the amount and type of materials expected to be generated, and
  • establish a diversion program for the materials collected, if one does not already exist.

Contingency plan: In the event that major roadways are closed or landfills and recycling facilities are closed or damaged, develop a contingency plan to deal with the disaster debris until the roads and facilities are open.

  • Develop a plan for temporary storage of the collected materials.
  • Develop a policy to deal with putrescibles and with waste from the public until a diversion program is implemented.
  • If the landfills you use are closed, make arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions or, if applicable, private landfill owners to use their facilities. Do this before a disaster strikes since it may take valuable time to negotiate the agreement and receive approvals, particularly from the local government governing body.
  • Develop alternate transportation routes to facilities.

Step 6: identify processing techniques and barriers

Introduction: This section presents an overview of the barriers to recovering or reusing the construction and demolition (C&D) material and of the equipment and processing techniques involved in structured demolition and materials recovery.

Purpose: This information can help jurisdictions plan and contract for the removal of structures. It will also help in the selection of equipment and processing techniques based on the materials to be processed and their end-uses. Refer to Attachment B for a more detailed discussion on processing techniques and equipment.

Actions to take:

  • Develop a processing strategy based on composition of C&D materials and their end-uses.
  • Select a processing strategy.
  • Review processing techniques for wood and concrete for projected end-uses.
  • Identify processing barriers and develop programs accordingly.

Processing strategy
Two Points: [2]

The processing strategy to recover or reuse C&D materials depends on two things:

  1. the composition of the C&D materials, and
  2. the end-uses for the recovered materials.

Composition refers to the types of materials and the form in which it is received by the processors, either clean or mixed.

Presort: Presort all C&D materials as much as possible by unloading similar materials on specific areas, picking with front-end loaders, etc. Bulky items such as furniture, white goods, and major pieces of rubble or wood are often presorted.

Equipment: For clean, sorted debris, the reduction equipment, such as impactors, jaw crushers, hammermills, and stump grinders, can provide quality end products.

Evaluate costs: With mixed loads, it is important to evaluate the cost of separation versus land disposal. Certain loads may be so contaminated or mixed that separation may not be economical.

Select a processing strategy [3]

Basic strategies: There are two basic C&D processing strategies. The processing strategy to use depends on the nature of the mixed material.

  1. Sort and separate, then crush and reduce. For mixed material containing significant amounts of plastics, paper, rags, or other contaminants, it makes sense to sort and separate and then crush and reduce.
  2. Crush and reduce, then sort and separate.

For fairly clean materials with a large portion consisting of rubble and wood, crushing and reducing the material first may be acceptable before sorting and separation.

Separate the rubble and wood first. Even small amounts of wood will disqualify aggregate from use as road base.

Processing strategy Description
Salvaging The traditional means of C&D recovery include salvaging of C&D materials on-site by contractors. These materials are then sold and provide additional revenues to contractors.
Dump and pick This is also an old practice for the recovery of a limited amount of material. This practice reduces the bulkiness of C&D material by simply dumping the material on the ground and spreading it out using heavy equipment. Items that can be recycled are then hand picked during the process.
Separate soil and rock After bulky material is removed by presorting, an effective first step for mixed material processing is to separate the soil and rocks beforehand picking out the cleaned and uncrushed recyclables. Soil and rocks are recyclable.

Identify processing barriers

Identify requirements: Identify processing requirements or barriers for collected materials. Determine the processing barriers that might limit the processing capability and hence the marketability of the collected materials.

Contamination: Contamination of materials is one of the biggest barriers that results in the landfilling of materials. Depending on the processing equipment being used, certain contaminants (nails in wood, rebar in concrete, wood mixed with the concrete) can preclude the materials from being recycled at all.

In addition, the debris may contain paint or asbestos that could be fragmented if crushed and would contaminate large amounts of C&D materials.

To minimize contamination, source separate the materials upon collection, and ensure that they remain separated during transport and processing.

For more info: For more information on handling asbestos, refer to Attachment F.

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Last updated: November 16, 2004
Disaster Preparedness and Response
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