The destructive and deadly nature of debris flows has motivated research into empirical rainfall thresholds to provide situational awareness, inform early warning systems, and reduce loss of life and property. Disturbances such as wildfire and land-cover change can influence the hydrological processes of infiltration and runoff generation; in steep terrain this typically lowers empirical thresholds for debris-flow initiation. However, disturbance impacts, and the post-disturbance recovery may differ, depending on the severity, nature, extent, and duration of the disturbance, as well as on the prevailing hydroclimatic conditions. Thus, it can be difficult to predict impacts on debris-flows hazards in regions where historically such disturbances have been less frequent or severe. Given the increasing magnitude and incidence of wildfires, among other disturbances, we seek to develop a conceptual framework for assessing their impacts on debris-flow hazards across geographic regions. We characterize the severity of disturbances in terms of changes from undisturbed hydrologic functioning, including hillslope drainage and available unsaturated storage capacity, which can have contrasting influences on debris-flow initiation mechanisms in different hydroclimatic settings. We compare the timescale of disturbance-recovery cycles relative to the return period of threshold exceeding storms to describe vulnerability to post-disturbance debris flows. Similarly, we quantify resilience by comparing the timescales of disturbance-recovery cycles with those of disturbance-recurrence intervals. We illustrate the utility of these concepts using information from U.S. Geological Survey landslide monitoring sites in burned and unburned areas across the United States. Increasing severity of disturbance may influence both recovery timescales and lower the return period for debris-flow inducing storms, thus increasing the vulnerability to disturbance-related hazards while also decreasing system resilience. The proposed conceptual framework can inform future data acquisition and model development to improve debris-flow initiation thresholds in areas experiencing increasingly frequent, severe, and even overlapping landscape disturbances.