March 29, 2021

Online course from Purdue hastens, heightens disaster recovery planning and execution

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A seasoned construction professional dispatched in response to Hurricane Katrina, Randy Rapp found out fast that a disaster recovery job presents special challenges, with time of the essence, unanticipated and difficult conditions in play, and immediate, accurate and thorough responses required literally around the clock.

“I had the background in construction, but I was missing the nuances that make disaster recovery different,” said Rapp, an associate professor in the School of Construction Management Technology in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

Rapp’s experience prompted him to develop an online course from Purdue University that teaches a working knowledge of how disaster recovery differs from conventional construction and techniques for addressing almost any type of disaster. The course, offered through Purdue Online, enables those who take it to better plan, and execute plans, for disaster recovery.

Conventional construction professionals who want to gain disaster recovery skills can benefit from Purdue’s Disaster Recovery Certificate course, as can individuals looking to gain practical knowledge in project management and the construction field in general. The course also is useful for professionals in careers involving disaster management, such as employees of cleanup firms and insurance companies, and for personnel from government agencies who may guide disaster recovery efforts and work with contractors.

The curriculum is built around recovering from a larger regional disaster with the idea that if a professional can plan and execute a response to a major disaster, then adapting to a smaller disaster should come naturally. The emphasis is on preparing someone to get up to speed quickly in disaster situations.

Beyond disaster project management techniques, the fully online Disaster Recovery Certificate helps disaster professionals ask the right technical questions about restoration and employ people with suitable technical skills. It features four modules introducing different kinds of damage, including water damage, smoke and fire damage, microbial damage and personal property damage.

Topics range from the impacts of various disasters and the differences between disaster recovery and conventional construction to communications and documentation. The curriculum also covers basics of bids, proposals, delivery mechanisms and contracts as well as logistics, material management and procurement.

The online course is self-paced and includes supplemental materials in addition to virtual interaction with the instructor and other students where desired. The modules take about five hours each to complete, 20 hours for the entire course, but Rapp said the course can be completed in as little as a week, for example, in preparation for being dispatched to a disaster recovery job. Completing the course earns a Purdue Disaster Recovery Certificate. The course costs $295.

Rapp has extensive disaster recovery experience, including serving as project controls manager and deputy program general manager of Restore Iraqi Oil. He also served in management and technical disaster recovery contractor positions for hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. He’s the author of the textbook “Disaster Recovery Project Management,” which comes with the course at no additional charge.

For more information about Purdue’s online Disaster Recovery Certificate, visit the course website.

Writer: Greg Kline, 765-426-8545,

Source: Randy Rapp,

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