How to Request a Federal Disaster Declaration for Tribal Nations

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Federally recognized tribal governments have the option to request a presidential emergency or major disaster declaration independent of a state.

Tribal governments may still choose to seek assistance, as they have historically, under a state declaration request. 

This tribal declaration process was incorporated on January 29, 2013, when President Obama signed the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, which amended the Stafford Act.

How to Request a Disaster Declaration

After a Tribal Nation is affected by a disaster, the Tribe can take initial steps to begin the disaster declaration process.

The first five steps are optional for tribes, but may help the tribe prepare its formal declaration request.

Download the Process

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1. Activate Emergency Plan

The Tribal government first activates its emergency plan, dedicates resources to response activities and requests mutual aid from partners and voluntary/government organizations.

2. Collect Damage Estimates

Tribal government collects initial damage estimates to identify needs.

3. Determine Remaining Need

After all resources are exhausted, Tribal government confirms there is still need.

4. Conduct Damage Assessment with FEMA

Chief Executive requests joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) from the FEMA Regional Administrator or decides to participate in the joint FEMA-state PDA.

5. Decide if Stafford Act Assistance is Needed

Tribal government reviews results of joint PDA and determines whether Stafford Act assistance may be needed.

6. Submit Request to FEMA

If requesting directly, the Chief Executive submits a request to the President through the FEMA Regional Administrator within 30 days of the end of the incident. The Chief Executive can also request an extension.

7. FEMA Sends to President

FEMA reviews the request and sends a recommendation to the President.

8. President Makes Decision

The President makes a determination. FEMA notifies the Chief Executive.

FEMA Tribal Recovery Video Series

These videos outline:

  • Tribal declaration pilot guidance
  • Disaster assistance process
  • Key decision points for tribal leaders

Watch on YouTube

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Thumbnail of Ricardo Zuniga introducing the trailer for the FEMA Tribal Recovery Video Series.

This series is hosted by External Affairs Officer Ricardo "Zuni" Zuniga


These resources are intended to help tribal government understand the disaster declaration process, as well as the various disaster assistance programs they may receive.

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