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Response to a Disaster Declaration



his section describes how local, State, and Federal governments respond to a disaster and/or a disaster declaration. The topics are:

Emergency management at the local, State, and Federal levels.

The disaster response and recovery cycle.

Requesting Federal assistance.

The Federal Response Plan.

Local Response and
Recovery Activities

Local governments are the first line of

defense against emergencies and are primarily responsible for managing the response to emergencies and disasters. At the local level of government, the primary responsibility for the protection of citizens belongs to such local elected officials as mayors, city councils, and boards of commissioners.

When a local

government receives a warning that an

emergency could be

imminent, its first

priority is to warn citizens and take

whatever actions are needed to minimize damage and protect life and property. If necessary, an evacuation may be ordered.

When a disaster occurs, fire, police, medical, and rescue personnel rush to emergency sites to provide aid immediately following the emergency. The local government works to ensure public order and security. Vital services (e.g., water, power, communications, transportation, shelter, and medical care) are provided, and debris removal begins. Public and private utility company crews, along with other emergency teams, begin restoring essential services. In addition, the local government coordinates efforts with local voluntary agencies that assist individuals and families in need.

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Local Response and
Recovery Activities

When a local government responds to an emergency, the level of the response and the types of resources required are determined by several factors, including the:

Speed of onset of the emergency.

Potential need for evacuation.

Magnitude of the situation.

Projected duration of the event.

Extent of the threat to the citizens.

In an emergency, the local government is responsible for responding to the event in a way that will contain the emergency, protect people and property, and minimize damage. The local government is also responsible for overall management and coordination of an effective response.

State Response and
Recovery Efforts

All States have laws that describe the

responsibilities of the State government in emergencies and disasters. These laws provide Governors and State agencies with the authority to plan for and carry out the necessary actions to respond to and recover from emergencies. State emergency management legislation describes the duties and powers of the Governor, whose authority includes the power to declare a state of emergency and to decide when to terminate this declaration.

State Emergency Management Offices

Many of the responsibilities to perform and maintain the provisions of emergency management legislation are generally delegated to the State emergency management offices. These offices are organized in a number of ways and have different names. Emergency managers are responsible for preparing for emergencies and coordinating the activation and use of resources controlled by the State government when they are needed to help local governments respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters.

Role of the State Emergency Management Office

In its coordinating role, the State emergency management office is involved in virtually all serious emergencies or disasters. This organization is responsible for receiving the situation reports from local agencies. Based on these and other data, emergency management officials work in consultation with other agency representatives and members of the Governor's staff to determine what types of resources and personnel should be deployed to the affected areas. Using procedures specified in the State Emergency Operations Plan, the State emergency management organization will coordinate deployment of State personnel and resources to the affected areas.


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The Declaration Process

Let's take a closer look at the declaration

process. There are four steps in this


Step 1. A joint FEMA/State Preliminary Damage Assessment.

Step 1.

Step 2.

Step 2. The Governor's request for assistance.

Step 3. FEMA's recommendation to the President regarding the request.

Step 4. The Presidential Declaration.

A joint FEMA/State Preliminary Damage Assessment. FEMA and State representatives complete a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA). This step involves an inspection of the area to document the impact of the event and to make an initial estimate of the dollar amount of the damage. This assessment establishes a foundation for any request for assistance the Governor may decide to make and provides details on the types of assistance needed. It also provides background for FEMA's analysis of the recommendations on the request and supplies information that will be helpful to those who will manage the recovery operation.

The Governor's request for assistance. This request, by law, must declare that State and local resources are inadequate. It must also include a damage estimate, describe the State and local resources committed to response and recovery, describe the assistance being requested, and agree to cost share.

Step 3.

Step 4.

FEMA's recommendation to the President regarding the request. The Governor's request is addressed to the President through the FEMA Regional Director. The Regional Office transmits the request to FEMA Headquarters along with an analysis and recommendations. The request is reviewed by FEMA Headquarters staff to ensure that it meets all the requirements of the Stafford Act. FEMA's Director then recommends a course of action to the President, and the request is hand carried to the White House.

The Presidential Declaration. After a White House review, the President decides whether to declare that a major disaster exists, thereby making assistance available under the Stafford Act. The President also appoints a Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) to oversee the disaster operations.

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