The Patchwork Quilt: A Creative Strategy for Safe and Long Term Post-Disaster Rebuilding

Edward A. Thomas, Esq. and Sarah K. Bowen, CFM
Posted on: 11/19/2008 - Updated on: 11/06/2018

Posted by

Rachel Gregg



Individuals, residents, business owners, community leaders, and taxpayers are increasingly frustrated with the hardship and costs associated with repeatedly rebuilding structures in areas that suffer natural disasters, especially floods, year after year. Modern advances in the sciences of hydrology and hydraulics, coupled with the National Flood Insurance Program’s efforts to create maps of all areas of the United States that are especially prone to flooding, make it possible to have a fairly good understanding of the velocities, depth and future location of floods. People living in hazardous areas know only too well the high costs and emotional trauma associated with rebuilding, only to face another devastating flood or other disaster. The costs of rebuilding from repeated disasters, especially floods that are this nation’s most frequent and costly natural disaster, go well beyond the repair of individual structures. We must all work together to bring about a successful, safe redevelopment. This safe redevelopment can involve simple landscaping, elevation, wet or dry floodproofing, relocation, demolition/reconstruction, acquisition/relocation, or some sort of selective voluntary buy-out program for a neighborhood or even an entire community. To achieve this goal of safety, we must utilize what can be called a “Patchwork Quilt” approach. This concept is based on the American idea that scraps of “this and that” can be turned into a useful, warm, and very valuable object by one or more persons who possesses a vision of the final product. This paper is based on a concept Ed Thomas developed while serving as the President’s representative, the Federal Coordinating Officer, in Iowa following the Great Midwest Floods of 1993. This article is a total update of an article Mr. Thomas authored with Barbara Yagerman of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that was published by the Association of State Floodplain Managers in 1994.


Thomas, E.A. and Bowen, S.K. (2008). The patchwork quilt: A creative strategy for safe and long term post-disaster rebuilding. Special Edition of November 20, 2008 for the National Floodproofing Conference IV New Orleans, Louisiana. Available at… 

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