SAN JUAN, PR – As the peak of the hurricane season rapidly approaches and to manage accurate expectations, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials explain the response process to an emergency event and the course of action for any potential federal declaration.
“At the local, state and federal governments we are prepared and ready to effectively respond to, recover from, and mitigate against any disaster, but it is important to highlight that it also takes all aspects of a community, volunteer, faith and community-based organizations, the private sector, and the public, including survivors themselves, to prepare because it is possible that assistance could take up to 72 hours to arrive ,” explained FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division Director, Alejandro De La Campa.
When an emergency incident occurs, whether a natural or man-made event, the local, state and federal governments engage in a series of responding procedures, which include emergency response measures, communication protocols, organizational structure, terminology and key resources to achieve an even surge of efforts in responding to incidents at all levels of government.
In Puerto Rico, as well as in the United States, if an effective response is beyond the capability of local and state governments and voluntary organizations, the magnitude and severity of the damage is assessed to determine if federal assistance is needed. This evaluation, known as a preliminary damage assessment (PDA), is conducted by local, state and federal governments and estimates the extent of the disaster and its impact on individuals and public facilities.
The Governor of Puerto Rico must request a disaster declaration to the President of the United States through the Regional FEMA office. Puerto Rico is under the jurisdiction of FEMA Region II based in New York, which serves New York, New Jersey and US Virgin Islands, as well. The request should explain the insufficiency of state and local resources and include: damage estimates, committed resources and requested assistance.
Normally, the PDA is completed prior to the submission of the Governor's request. However, when an obviously severe or catastrophic event occurs, the Governor's request may be submitted prior to the PDA. Nonetheless, the Governor must still make the request.
A presidential declaration activates assistance under the Stafford Act that includes Individual Assistance for individuals and family households, Public Assistance for government infrastructure and Hazard Mitigation, which grants assistance to local, state governments and certain nonprofit organizations to implement hazard mitigation measures in the declared jurisdiction.
If you want to learn more about your community emergency evacuation plan, contact your local emergency management office. Further information on how to prepare for an emergency is available at www.fema.gov or www.ready.gov.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.