In disaster situations, local/county governments are the first line of response. They use their own
resources to protect people and property and to implement recovery measures. Local/county governments
are encouraged to report such occurrences to the WEM Regional Directors.
Many times, disasters occur which are beyond the capability of local/county government. In such instances, the first recourse is to call upon the resources of neighboring jurisdictions to assist in the response and recovery effort. Many local/county governments have mutual aid agreements which are put into effect on a routine basis. Such agreements exist in the police, fire, emergency medical, public works and other services.
One of the main functions of the Emergency Police Services (EPS) Program within the Division of Emergency Management is to coordinate mutual aid agreements on an area-wide basis among law enforcement agencies. When a jurisdiction is in need of law enforcement mutual aid, the in-place agreement is activated by the Sheriff who has been elected as the Area Director of Emergency Police Services for his/her area, or by the Deputy Director of Emergency Police Services within WEM.
When the capabilities of local/county governments, including available mutual aid, have been exhausted the county emergency management director notifies Wisconsin Emergency Management of the situation. WEM coordinates obtaining the appropriate resources and assistance from state agencies, the federal government, the private sector or the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).
Such requests for assistance should be made to the WEM Duty Officer. The Duty Officer is responsible for obtaining an initial situation report from the county emergency management director. The initial report will provide information on the extent of injuries or damage, describe the response effort by the affected jurisdictions and indicate the types and extent of assistance needed. The appropriate Regional Director and Response and Recovery Bureau Director will report to the scene to obtain additional information, ensure all local resources including mutual aid are exhausted and verify if state or federal assistance is needed.
To facilitate the assessment process and to ensure proper documentation, the Regional Director will request that the county emergency management director submit to WEM a Uniform Disaster Situation Report form (UDSR) within 24 hours of the occurrence. (The UDSR is the Division's standard damage assessment report form.) The county director is encouraged to submit a second and more complete UDSR as the situation evolves and as time permits.
When local/county capabilities, including mutual aid, are exhausted and additional resources are still needed, state resources, e.g., personnel, equipment, technical assistance, are used to support local operations. WEM coordinates with the appropriate state agencies to ensure that local priorities and needs are met. The Division encourages all requests for State agency assistance to be made through the appropriate chain of command, i.e., from the county emergency government director to the WEM Duty Officer to WEM Management Staff. This is particularly important with requests for National Guard Assistance.
In the case of requests for National Guard assistance, the Division requires that the chain of command be followed. Instructions have been sent to all county emergency government directors detailing the procedure to be used when requesting assistance from the National Guard. We have requested that county directors make distribution to local officials. Local officials are advised that circumvention of the chain of command could result in unnecessary delays in providing assistance.
If the situation warrants, WEM activates the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to coordinate the efforts of state agencies in support of local governments. Agencies staffing the EOC and most often involved in disaster response and recovery include the State Patrol, the Departments of Natural Resources; Health and Family Services; Transportation and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, as well as the National Guard.
When State agency involvement is considerable, WEM will recommend that the Governor declare a State of Emergency. In effect, this puts the force of law behind State agency involvement, directs the agencies to provide the required resources and make response and recovery efforts their top priority. The Law states, “The Governor shall….Determine responsibilities of state departments and independent agencies in respect to emergency management and by order direct such departments and agencies in utilizing personnel, facilities, supplies and equipment before and during a state of emergency.”
The State of Emergency Proclamation opens the door for assistance to be made available through the Wisconsin Disaster Fund. The assistance provided by the State, as indicated above, is oftentimes not financial, but is basically in the form of personnel, equipment, and/or technical assistance. It is important to ensure that the media reports the purpose of the Proclamation accurately and that impacted communities and individuals clearly understand its intent. There are a limited number of state assistance programs, each specific in scope, which are described in the following section.
Wisconsin Disaster Fund
This funding is made available when the state or counties are denied federal disaster assistance or do not meet the federal eligibility criteria. Communities that meet an established per capita threshold in public sector damages can request assistance through the county emergency management director who applies to the Administrator of Wisconsin Emergency Management. Tribes can apply directly to WEM. Funding is intended to help local and tribal governmental units recover from disasters. Grants are available on a 70/30 cost share basis for debris clearance, emergency protective measures and damage to road systems.
CDBG – Housing- Emergency Assistance Program
This program is administered by the Department of Commerce and can be made available after any disaster occurrence. WEM notifies the program coordinator in Commerce of the occurrence and the coordinator then works with the county emergency management director or other appropriate local official who applies for and administers the program. It makes grants available to low-to-moderate income households to restore their homes to pre-disaster condition. It covers only uninsured real property losses and not personal property.
CDBG – Public Facilities – Emergency Assistance Program
This program is also administered by the Department of Commerce and can be made available after any disaster occurrence. WEM notifies the program coordinator in Commerce of the occurrence and the coordinator then works with the county emergency management director or appropriate local official to begin the application process. The program makes grants available to local units of government to repair municipal public facilities damaged as a result of a disaster.
Flood Damage Aids Program (State statute 86.34)
Administered by the Department of Transportation, this program covers restoration of damages caused by flooding to roadways or roadway structures that are not on the State Trunk Highway System. County highway commissioners, who receive annual training on the program, make application through the DOT District Highway Office.
This agency provides grants of up to $5,000 to help with emergency housing needs. Grants usually go to Red Cross or the Salvation Army to help offset the costs they’ve incurred in meeting the immediate housing needs of disaster victims.
Each disaster situation must be closely examined to ascertain if state and local capabilities have been exhausted and if the affected individuals and municipalities can recover from the disaster without federal assistance. WEM makes a recommendation to the Governor based on the information submitted on the Uniform Disaster Situation Reports (UDSR) and from on-scene assessments by WEM personnel. WEM ascertains what unmet needs the impacted individuals, businesses and governments have and then determines which federal programs best meet those needs.
In terms of the private sector (homes, businesses, agriculture), WEM looks at the number of injuries and deaths, people evacuated, in shelters or homeless. WEM considers the number of homes and businesses destroyed or suffering major or minor damage. Another key factor is whether essential services (gas, electricity, sewer, water) have been disrupted and the potential length of the disruption. Other considerations are the number of people unemployed as a result of the disaster and the socioeconomics of the area (elderly, per capita income, minority populations and the overall unemployment rate.) The amount of insurance coverage is important, as federal programs only cover uninsured losses. In a tornado disaster the percent of coverage is usually in the range of 85% or better, as opposed to a flood situation where there is minimal coverage. Thus, it is far less likely that a county would be eligible for federal assistance subsequent to a tornado than a flood.
Regarding damage to the public sector, WEM looks at the costs being incurred by local units of government and state agencies in responding to the disaster and the municipally owned facilities that have been damaged or destroyed. Again, the amount of insurance coverage is considered. WEM evaluates whether or not essential services have been disrupted and the anticipated length of the disruption, the extent of the debris clearance problem, the amount of money spent on emergency protective measures and the estimated cost to effect essential repairs and provide essential services. The budgets of the affected jurisdictions are also examined to weigh the impact of the disaster. As with the private sector evaluation, the socioeconomics of the area are also considered.
There are three main federal assistance programs which are most often considered and requested; the Farm Services Agency Emergency Loan Program, the Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program and Presidential Disaster Assistance.
Farm Services Agency Emergency Loan Program
Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Program
The first step in requesting Presidential Assistance is to conduct a federal-state-local Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA). The Federal Emergency Management Agency, together with WEM and local governments, organizes and dispatches assessment teams to the disaster area. The PDA verifies the information which was provided by the counties on the Uniform Disaster Situation Report (UDSR)
When the PDA has been completed, all figures are compiled by FEMA and WEM to obtain an overview of the situation. Based on the results of the PDA, WEM must make a recommendation to the Governor as to whether or not to proceed with a request.
Generally speaking, if WEM asks for a PDA to be done, it will almost always recommend that a request be made. In other words, WEM would not do a PDA if we didn’t feel the situation was deserving of Presidential Assistance. Unless the PDA shows that our original damage reports (UDSRs) were extremely inaccurate, WEM will almost always recommend that the State go through with the request.
Wisconsin Emergency Management prepares the request letter for the Governor (for either a Major Disaster or Emergency Declaration) which is addressed to the President through FEMA, Region V. FEMA provides a template for the letter which consists of an overview of the disaster situation, including estimated dollars of damage, a description of the official state and local government actions taken in response to the disaster, a specific statement identifying the types of assistance being requested (e.g., public assistance, individual assistance, hazard mitigation), a listing of the counties for whom assistance is being requested and a set of supporting attachments.
In the letter the Governor indicates who will be his Authorized Representative and his State Coordinating Officer (usually WEM management) for the declaration, if received. The Governor also certifies that he has directed execution of the State Emergency Response Plan and that he will make available the required state match for the various disaster programs if the declaration is received.
The attachments include tables estimating the requirements for individual assistance, public assistance and assistance required from other federal agencies, i.e., SBA and FSA; a summary of the State and local dollars committed to the disaster; an impact statement describing the unique problems that have or will result from the occurrence; and a socioeconomic profile of the affected counties.
Some of the services that a DRC may provide:
You can register for assistance at a DRC or you can register online or by calling 1 (800) 621-FEMA (3362). The TTY number is 1 (800) 462-7585 for those who are speech- or hearing-impaired. (FROM FEMA WEBSITE)