Main Content

Recent Tornadoes Highlight the Efforts of State, Tribal, and Locals to Respond to the Needs of Survivors

Main Content

While FEMA always stands ready to assist our governors and emergency management partners during an emergency, we are not always the only or best option. By leveraging the strengths and capabilities of the entire team we can more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of disaster survivors. These storms, while tragic, also highlight the incredible work of local and state responders and the leadership of Governors to exercise the robust capabilities of their state to recover.

I talk a lot about this and how FEMA – while part of the team – is not the whole team. In looking at the most recent storms in the Midwest and South, I’m once again reminded and encouraged about how this concept works and the different resources available. There are many types of aid that our partners and teammates at the federal, state, tribal, and local level, as well as voluntary agencies and the private sector bring to assist in a time of need. You also hear us talk about our whole community approach to emergency management. It means we are all in it together. Neighbor helping neighbor – meeting the needs of everyone, even when FEMA assistance is not available.

Often when states choose not to pursue or do not receive a disaster declaration there may be other federal resources available to assist residents that have a need. In the aftermath of these recent storms, we’ve seen examples from across the affected areas of states finding resources to meet their citizens’ needs without the need for federal disaster assistance from FEMA. A specific example is housing. By looking at a state’s own resources identified in a state housing strategy, the state can often identify vacant housing units for eligible survivors. Federal partners, like HUD and the USDA Rural Development can start the process of identifying vacant housing in conjunction with the state without any special federal declaration. For homeowners and business, a state can also apply for assistance from the Small Business Administration. SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, and businesses that have been affected in an SBA declared disaster. Based on a survivors income and eligibility these disaster loans might be just want is needed to repair, rebuild and move forward.

And let’s not forget that individuals are a large part of the team. Taking proactive steps to purchase insurance can minimize a person’s exposure to the uncertainty of disasters. When FEMA supports states in joint preliminary damage assessments, one the biggest considerations we look at is whether people that were affected have insurance. The level of insurance can often be a major consideration when determining whether a state should request a FEMA declaration. Its also important to remember that even when a FEMA disaster declaration is made, FEMA cannot duplicate benefits. Insurance is the first and best line of defense and even where FEMA’s Individual and Public Assistance programs are made available, we do not provide assistance for damage that would otherwise be covered by insurance.

Even in the absence of a FEMA disaster declaration and after insurance claims have been paid, there might still be a need to address some unmet needs. So we look to another member of the team, voluntary organizations. As we highlighted a few days ago, this past year alone, the American Red Cross aided survivors and communities in response to storms, flooding, fires and tornadoes in 46 states and territories. But, the voluntary agencies that come to the aid of survivors include many more than the American Red Cross. Local organizations, faith based groups and access and functional needs partners often meet the needs without needing to go outside the community. For more information on Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters, take a look at one of our past blog posts by Deborah Ingram, Assistant Administrator, Recovery Directorate where she wrote about engaging voluntary agencies before, during, and after a disaster.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families as they continue to recover from the tornadoes and severe weather. FEMA and our federal government partners stand ready to assist communities when needed. But, as states recover from these recent storms, I want to applaud the wonderful work they are doing to meet their citizens needs.

Last Updated: 
06/16/2012 - 14:59


Why was Ohio denied aid???? During a conference call including local leaders and state agencies, Ohio Emergency Management Agency Director Nancy Dragani said it wouldn’t be practical to appeal the federal government’s decision because it would impede other forms of assistance.

Add new comment