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)
Emergency Management Blog – Eric Holdeman, May 22, 2011
Yesterday’s announcement that cell broadcast alerts will be available soon in New York City just touches the surface of a comprehensive plan. FEMA, the FCC, the Mayor of New York and cellular company executives announced that a program called PLAN, Personal Localized Alerting Network, will be launched in NYC late this year. … A number of important points:
1. The word “launch” is important. What was announced was that new mobile devices shipped to NYC will soon be equipped to receive the alerts. That doesn’t mean that all mobile devices will receive them…only new ones from participating carriers. (Most major carriers are participants.) …
For full text of article, visit Personal Localized Alerting Network Just Touches the Surface.
Topographic and Bathymetric Data Inventory, www.csc.noaa.gov/topobathy/
The first comprehensive inventory of elevation data sets for the nation is now available. NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have worked together to inventory elevation data, both topographic and bathymetric, for all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
The NOAA inventory initially focused on coastal elevation data, and a partnership with FEMA allowed expansion to the interior of the country. The inventory’s data viewer provides
- searching of the NOAA and FEMA inventories,
- enhanced functionality to create data reports,
- new zooming capabilities,
- printable custom maps of elevation resources,
- an innovative design for displaying information about data sets, including quality, and
- direct links to the data source whenever available.
The inventories can be used not only to locate the data needed when developing elevation models, but also to discover where data gaps exist. The data sets and data quality information found in these inventories are critical components of efforts to address issues related to flooding, beach nourishment, and erosion.
The NOAA inventory includes both topographic and bathymetric data and covers many coastal areas of the nation. This inventory represents data sets found during an exhaustive search for elevation data and portrays a snapshot in time of the elevation resources for a region. The FEMA inventory includes topographic data and covers the entire nation, including Puerto Rico. This effort was conducted January through June 2010 to support FEMA’s internal planning. It focused primarily on large data sets available for an area rather than an all-inclusive collection.
The next steps for this project are to incorporate information verification done by U.S. Geological Survey liaisons and combine the inventories for a single look at elevation resources for the nation.