After wildfire flames die out, hurricane winds subside, or floodwaters recede, the hard work of disaster recovery begins.

“Climate change has created an entirely new workforce … that comes in after storms, floods, and fires to rebuild homes and hospitals and entire cities,” Saket Soni says.

Soni is executive director of Resilience Force, an initiative that supports the people doing this work. 

He says they’re often migrant workers who travel from one disaster zone to another.

They’re hired by contractors to do dirty and sometimes dangerous work — fixing roofs, clearing debris off roads, and cleaning out damaged homes.

“You have workers wading into toxic floodwater or sifting through debris that’s burned by a fire, full of ash and smoke and toxic substances,” Soni says.

He says many workers are not adequately protected or compensated.

So his group pushes for better oversight of disaster recovery work and for higher wages and health benefits.

And he calls on lawmakers to grant legal status to those workers who are undocumented.

“Resilience workers are the essential workers of the climate era,” Soni says.

So he says they should be valued and protected.

Also see: Safety tips: How to clean up after a hurricane

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media