Federal Support Capabilities and Technical Assistance
A fundamental premise of the NRP is that most incidents are handled at the lowest jurisdictional level. Local authorities must assess the situation and request assistance as required at the State level. After the situation is assessed, the Governor may declare a State of Emergency and request assistance from the Federal government, through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). A joint assessment is made to determine whether sufficient damage has occurred to justify a request for a Presidential declaration of a major disaster. However, higher risk areas should coordinate their projected need for Federal resources in advance through State authorities. One comprehensive source for information on Federal assistance noted in the “Other Information Resources” section of this primer is www.disasterhelp.gov.
Evacuation operations often occur prior to an event, which would require special arrangements to obtain Federal resources in advance of a Presidential declaration. There are ways for the Federal government to establish stand-by contracts based on jurisdiction-projected need or to declare an emergency prior to an event, which would open avenues for potential reimbursement and the immediate pre-event staging and delivery of resources. For example, as a part of preparations prior to the start of the 2006 hurricane season, the U.S. DOT worked with the State of Louisiana, the city of New Orleans, and the DHS to establish stand-by contracts for buses to aid in evacuating New Orleans, if needed. The local jurisdiction should work to identify potential needs for evacuation support as a part of the planning process to ensure rapid support from both State and Federal sources of aid2. Figure 1 illustrates the flow of requests for assistance.
Figure 1. Request for Federal Assistance
Benefits of Including Transportation-Related Federal Support Efforts
The Federal government has access to many transportation resources through either standing or emergency contracts. For Hurricane Katrina, the Federal government was able to contract for buses, airplanes, AMTRAK passenger service, and boats, all of which were valuable transportation assets. In addition, the government can arrange for the use of trucks to deliver needed supplies.
The U.S. DOT agencies have significant expertise in all modes of transportation and can be an important technical resource to local and State agencies. They can assist prior to an evacuation as well as with recovering vital transportation services after an incident.
The National-level Evacuation Liaison Team (ELT) is another transportation Federal support capability designed specifically to aid State and local authorities in managing evacuation operations. The FHWA participates as a member of the ELT which also includes members from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The ELT serves as the focal point for coordination and communication among States during an evacuation. The Federal government will automatically activate the ELT for Category 3 or higher hurricanes that may necessitate multi-State evacuations. When activated, ELT activities are coordinated from the FEMA Regional Operations Center in Atlanta. This organization is a tool for obtaining information and advice on the severity and direction of a storm and actions taken by neighboring jurisdictions.
2. Appendix 5 of the National Response Plan provides an overview of initial Federal involvement under the Stafford Act. The process to request Federal Assistance is laid out in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act).
Local emergency requests assistance from State
Then, Governor of State makes request to DHS/FEMA Emergency Preparedness and Response (FEMA EPR) Office (request may be in advance of event).
The, State/Federal preliminary damage assessment.
Then, Federal resources flow to State and Local requestorsback