Bruce R. Lindsay, Analyst in Emergency Management Policy
Francis X. McCarthy, Analyst in Emergency Management Policy
Congressional Research Service, June 21, 2011
SUMMARY: The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the Stafford Act) is the principal authority governing federal emergency and disaster response in the United States. The act authorizes the President to issue three categories of declaration: (1) major disaster, (2) emergency, or (3) fire assistance declarations in response to incidents that overwhelm the resources of state and local governments. Once a declaration is issued, a wide range of federal disaster assistance becomes available to eligible individuals and households, public entities, and certain nonprofit organizations. Disaster assistance authorized by the Stafford Act is appropriated by Congress and provided through the Disaster Relief Fund.
Emergency declarations supplement and promote coordination of local and state efforts such as evacuations and protection of public assets. They may also be declared prior to the impact of an incident to protect property, public health and safety and lessen or avert the threat of a major disaster or catastrophe. Major disaster declarations are issued after an incident and constitute broader authority to help states and localities, as well as families and individuals, recover from the damage caused by the event. Fire assistance declarations provide grants to state and localities to manage fires that threaten to cause major disasters.
Recently there has been discussion that the Stafford Act should be amended to include a fourth category, generally called a “catastrophic declaration.” If approved, catastrophic declarations could be invoked for high-profile, large-scale incidents that threaten the lives of many people, create tremendous damage, and pose significant challenges to timely recovery efforts.
This report examines concerns expressed by policymakers and experts that current Stafford Act declarations are inadequate to respond to, and recover from, highly destructive events, and presents the arguments for and against amending the act to add a catastrophic declaration amendment. This report also includes data analyses of past and potential disasters to determine what incidents might be deemed as catastrophic, and explores alternative policy options that might obviate the need for catastrophic declarations.
- Tribal Sovereignty Disaster Legislation Introduced (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Lawmakers consider governance in disaster (bendbulletin.com)
Secrecy News of the Federation of American Scientists posted a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that provides maps of seismic hazards and population centers near nuclear power plants in the United States. “CRS determined the coordinates of plant sites using web-based applications and overlaid the sites on base maps of: 1. Quaternary faults, 2. Seismic hazards in terms of percent gravitational acceleration, 3. Levels of horizontal ground shaking (gravitational acceleration) that have a 2-in-100 (2%) probability of being exceeded in a 50-year period, and 4. Metropolitan populations.”
For PDF copy of the report, visit: “Nuclear Power Plant Sites: Maps of Seismic Hazards and Population Centers,” March 29, 2011.
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2008, Issue No. 109
November 10, 2008
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
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COMMERCIAL SATELLITE IMAGERY SHEDS LIGHT HERE AND THERE
As the quality and availability of commercial satellite imagery continue to improve, the technology is adding a new dimension to public understanding of world events, while both enhancing and challenging national and global security.
“Last month, the most powerful commercial satellite in history sent its first pictures back to Earth, and another with similar capabilities is set for launch in mid-2009,” wrote Peter Eisler in USA Today last week. “The imagery provided by those and other commercial satellites has transformed global security in fundamental ways, forcing even the most powerful nations to hide facilities and activities that are visible not only to rival nations, but even to their own citizens.” See “Google Earth helps yet worries government,” November 7.
Iraqi insurgents, among other non-state actors, have also taken advantage of the new capabilities offered by satellite imagery. A 2006 dispatch prepared by the DNI Open Source Center (first reported by USA Today) documented “the use of Google Earth for tactical planning of rocket attacks against U.S. military targets in Iraq.” See “Iraqi Insurgency Group Utilizes Google Earth for Attack Planning,” July 19, 2006.
A newly disclosed GeoEye commercial satellite image of the site of a suspected Syrian nuclear facility at Al Kibar that was taken on November 23, 2007, some two months after it was bombed by Israel on September 6, 2007, shows rather rapid reconstruction of the destroyed facility.
“I’d say it confirms that the Syrians were in a really big hurry to get the site covered up,” said Allen Thomson, a former CIA analyst who has studied the case. “The previously available DigitalGlobe picture of 24 October 2007 showed only a mound of dirt. By a month later (the GeoEye pic), what appears to be a thick slab (you can see that it casts a shadow) was in place. And January 11 imagery shows the new building up and the roof in place.”
The new image was released last week courtesy of GeoEye / Space Imaging Middle East. It appears on page 1170 of an extensive open source compilation (large pdf) on the Israeli Strike in Syria prepared by Mr. Thomson.