Recreation Providers' Role in Disaster Response


  • Cheryl A. Estes
  • Jon C. McChesney


Community festival, disaster response, consumer-orientation, marketing, partnerships, importance-performance.


While natural disasters are infrequent, responses typically include the provision of necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and counseling. During this time, less consideration is given to the need for diversion, play, and leisure experiences. However, following the severe flooding in eastern North Carolina in the fall of 1999, a class of recreation and leisure studies graduate students decided to plan a community festival to provide a celebration of community, health and recovery services, enjoyable diversion, and fund-raising to assist those affected by the disaster. These students believed that a community festival could help provide a holistic approach to regional disaster response efforts. The FunFest took place on a short time-line (just six weeks from inception to the event) and operated with no initial budget. As a result, creative management strategies including a consumer-orientation, the formation of many key partnerships, and action-oriented evaluations were utilized. Even though the time-line was very short, consumer involvement prior to the event, seen as one key to quality, occurred in the form of a focus group. Many partnerships were established with not-for-profit and for-profit agencies. The desire to assist people affected by natural disaster served as a powerful motivator for all contributors. FunFest included health and disaster relief services, arts and crafts, children’s games and rides, and a variety of entertainment and foods. Evaluation, based on the importance-performance marketing model, was conducted with both visitors and vendors. This type of evaluation tool was ideal for practitioners hosting special events (copies of the evaluations are included). Recommendations from the visitor evaluation focused on improvements that could be made in the variety and value of arts, crafts, food and children’s rides. Overall, the vendors were very satisfied with the management of the event, although they were dissatisfied with the number of visitors. The FunFest’s successes included the provision of health and disaster relief services for displaced persons, positive diversion, celebration of community and money raised for holiday gift certificates. Administrative challenges included executing a complex event in a short time period and generating crowds large enough to satisfy the vendors in the wake of a large-scale disaster. This model provides useful tools and tips for managers to apply in order to improve their community festivals. We recommend that recreation providers respond to disasters by incorporating the provision of health and disaster relief services in addition to more traditional festival activities.





Programs That Work