FEMA Mitigation funds can now be expedited within 30 days of a presidential disaster declaration, in large part because of a productive partnership between the hazard mitigation teams at the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management (OEM) and FEMA Region 6.
Working together over several years, OEM and FEMA streamlined the process of applying for hazard mitigation grant funds following disasters in Oklahoma. The cooperation started last summer (2012) during Oklahoma disasters DR-4064 and DR-4078. It really came into its own during DR-4117, a presidential disaster declaration prompted by severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding between May 18 and June 2, 2013.
“This is the first time nationally that we have been able to expedite mitigation funds within 30 days of the initial declaration,” said Danielle Brown-Rainwater, a Region 6 Hazard Mitigation Assistance Specialist currently deployed to DR-4117 at the Joint Field Office in Oklahoma City. “It sets an example for all other states that it can be done and this is how you can do it.”
The key to success, Brown-Rainwater added, is continuously working with OEM prior to the disasters taking place rather than trying to develop and solicit applications from communities after a destructive event has already occurred. During joint training, workshops and other meetings with the state and local communities, FEMA Mitigation specialists help their OEM counterparts prepare complete applications and then review those applications “on the shelf” to make sure they are ready for submittal and award once a disaster strikes.
“In doing this, it expedited the funds in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) prior to the 12-month lock and before the application period deadline,” Brown-Rainwater explained. “This accelerated the disbursal of funds to the state and local communities, as well as getting funds on the street faster.” State Hazard Mitigation Officer William Penka was quick to note the value in the partnership.
“This will provide a greater benefit to the entire community,” said Penka.
Between the three declarations, these mitigation funds have been used for a variety of projects including disaster planning, tornado warning sirens and more than 1,406 individual safe rooms.