By Elizabeth Stands and Susan Gembrowski, FEMA External Affairs, EM 3356 PA
On Oct. 29, as Hurricane Sandy was approaching, President Obama approved a Federal Emergency Declaration for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that allowed immediate access to federal emergency resources in advance of the impending disaster.
While a Major Disaster Declaration provides aid based on actual disaster damage and the post-disaster needs of survivors, Emergency Declarations provide assistance for a state to lean forward to save lives, protect property and secure public health and safety.
The approval of Direct Federal Assistance under the Emergency Declaration for Pennsylvania permitted the delivery of emergency commodities such as food, water, generators and other vital supplies, as well as specialized emergency services.
A Mission Assignment – a work order issued by FEMA to another federal agency for emergency tasks – was one mechanism that provided specialized services to Pennsylvania. At the request of the Commonwealth, FEMA tasked a specialized U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Emergency Power Planning and Response Team to install generators in locations such as medical facilities, emergency operation centers and emergency shelters. FEMA also acquired and transported 239,703 liters of water, 103,668 meals, 10 infant toddler kits and 43 generators. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency coordinated the distribution of many of those emergency supplies.
Emergency Declarations also can include an allocation of funds for eligible costs such as debris removal and emergency protective measures. When these costs are not included in an Emergency Declaration, such as was the case in Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth may still request reimbursement for a portion of these funds through the Public Assistance program if a major disaster is declared.
To determine if Pennsylvania would be eligible for a Major Disaster Declaration, FEMA, Commonwealth and local officials conducted Preliminary Damage Assessments to assess post-storm damage, to discover the unmet needs of residents and businesses, and to calculate the cost of proactive emergency response measures taken in preparation for Hurricane Sandy’s arrival.
Individual Assistance assessments were done to determine the amount of damage and losses suffered by individuals and households in Berks, Franklin, Lehigh, Montgomery, Monroe, Northampton, Philadelphia and York counties. Public Assistance Preliminary Damage Assessment teams looked at damage and obtained information on losses in Bucks, Wyoming and Lackawanna counties.
Middletown Township, Pa., Nov. 7, 2012 – Township Fire Marshall Jim McGuire (left), Bucks County Emergency Management Specialist Susanne Dudek, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Specialist Rick Weiberg, FEMA Public Assistance Specialist Jim Teats and FEMA Media Relations Specialist Renee Bafalis discuss the Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) completed on local infrastructure with reported damage. PDAs are a required component in Pennsylvania's request for Hurricane Sandy federal disaster assistance. Photo: George Armstrong/FEMA