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Technical Resources-Storm Readiness, Response & Recovery

 If you live in Illinois, your community is subject to high winds, tornados, floods, snow storms and the possibility of an earthquake. Natural Disasters happen. Just as humans prepare for these natural disasters, there are ways to manage the urban forest so that the trees are better prepare for disasters. Since storms are inevitable, they must be a consideration in our municipal management regime and a decision making variable in managing our municipal forests. Urban Forest Management should always include strategies for building a resilient forest and a resilient community.


Readiness is the first step. There are several ways to get ready for a storm. Planning for a resilient forest is the first way. This includes making good decisions as a community and as individuals.  Planning Commissions and local decision makers need to think about the natural processes and zone accordingly to help reduce the potential for flooding. New housing should not be allowed where there is a high risk or known flooding potentials.  Always know the water flow. Keep natural areas that help reduce the potential for increased flooding.

Water is also critical to tree survival. Knowing the flood tolerance or drought tolerance of trees is important to helping you select the "RIGHT TREE FOR THE RIGHT LOCATION".   In planning the composition of your urban forest or your yard make sure that you selecting many different species that are hardy to your region and that are of good quality. Here is more information: (Selection and Planting)

Caring for the trees is the next step. IDNR recommends a systematic approach to tree care and pruning.  Many Tree City USA communities have implemented a four to eight year pruning cycle.  They have noted in sections of their community where pruning has not occurred there was more tree damage after a straight-line storm. A managed municipal forest is a cost-effective and safer forest.  Pruning techniques can also impact storm soundness of trees.  Lions-tailing (or simply pruning up the tree trunk or up the lateral branches and leaving tuffs of leaves at the tip to the tree branch) can lead to increased branch breakage. Always hire a certified arborist or professional forester or degrees landscaper that knows not to lions-tail your trees.  Knowing when to prune your trees is important to keeping them strong and healthy and alive. For example, do not prune oak trees in Illinois from the end of March to the late September to help avoid the movement of oak wilt which kills oak trees.

Readiness can also be achieved by using your tree inventory system.  A tree inventory is critical in helping a community get accurate estimates of the potential debris after a storm.  The inventory is a basic component of a good local municipal forestry program. It is necessary in helping the community select tree species, removed the higher risk trees first and generally keeping the local forest healthier.  A tree inventory can be used to pre-calculate the potential debris.  i-Tree Storms is a tool mentioned below that can do that for you.

FEMA recommends that each community have an Emergency Operation Plan and a Debris Management Plan. Also useful is the Tree Emergency Plan Worksheet ​established by the USDA Forest Service for setting up a plan to deal with natural disasters to the urban forest


When the unfortunate happens this stage is called Response.  In spite of all the best laid work and plans, Mother Nature is a strong force.  In situations where there are tornadic winds, the best management strategy is to be ready to respond with predetermined debris locations.  Since debris removal is reported as the most significant storm-related problem, a FEMA Debris Management Guide can be found on the FEMA website which provides guidance in planning, organizing, mobilizing, and controlling a debris removal and disposal operation, If you have created a local Emergency Operation Plan and Debris Management Plan and Tree Emergency Plan Worksheet, then you should be ready to start with the Tree Emergency Plant worksheet to take action on working with your trees.  If your community lacks the expertise to assess the safety and condition of the trees then the Strike Team may be of assistance.

Strike Team - A new initiative has been put into place by the USDA Forest Service in partnership with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources is called the Strike Team Initiative. Illinois DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program has recently partnered with the NA USDA Forest Service to train a state  STRIKE TEAM . This team can be activated after a major tornado to conduct tree risk assessments. Contact: IDNR for more information or assistance.  Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) is a disaster response and recovery project initiated by the U&CF programs in Virginia and North Carolina in 2007 and supported by the Southern Group of State Foresters (USDA FS Region 8). The UFST concept has been implemented by the northeastern and mid-western states (USDA FS Northeastern Area) and the regional programs are operated as a single program with shared resources. UFST has responded to more than 11 disasters in 11 states since its inception. Deployments have ranged from multiple teams to single UFST crews.  Illinois trained a Strike Team Crew in 2014 through the USDA Forest Service’s Urban Forest Strike Team program.


Recovery is the stage after the major storm and post-debris removal.  It is a time when people start to rebuild their community.  After a storm Recovery is the strategy for re-creating a livable environment for the community. Trees are a part of that healing and re-building process.  Storm mitigation and recovery has always been an integral part of the national and state urban and community forestry programs. Urban and  community forestry partners often banned together after a storm event to help communities find resources  to restore the lost tree canopy. Always remember to plant a diversity of trees in your local forest especially those well suited to the region.  IDNR has partnered with Trees Forever and others on Tornado Re-Leaf efforts. and others on Tornado Re-Leaf efforts.

Tools for Communities

The USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area, the Northeast Center for Urban and Community Forestry, and the Davey Tree Expert Company have been developing an effective tool for communities to use concerning storm management. It is called i-Tree Storm.  The  i-Tree Storm establishes a standard method to assess widespread damage immediately after a severe storm in a simple, credible, and efficient manner. This assessment method is adaptable to various community types and sizes, and it provides information on the time and funds needed to mitigate storm damage.

In the i-Tree Storm Protocol, methods are provided to estimate the following:

  • The potential (pre-storm) and actual (post-storm) amount of tree debris in cubic yards generated from a natural disaster, and costs for its removal.
  • The potential and actual man-hours and costs required for approved tree removals.
  • The potential and actual man-hours and costs for hazard pruning.

The Storm Damage Assessment Protocol is intended to provide this information in a timely fashion immediately after a storm. It is important to keep in mind that the Protocol is not a replacement for the more extensive full-scale surveys or estimates of damage to trees that would typically occur in the days and weeks after a storm emergency. Full-scale surveys are needed to estimate damage more accurately and direct cleanup work after a storm.


Here is a list of References that might be of assistance in your Readiness, Response and Recovery efforts.