Disaster Declaration Process 1
The Declaration Process
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The Stafford Act (§401) requires that: "All requests for a declaration by the President that a major
disaster exists shall be made by the Governor of the affected State." A State also includes the
District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Marshall Islands and the Federated States of
Micronesia are also eligible to request a declaration and receive assistance.
The Governor's request is made through the regional FEMA office. State and Federal officials
conduct a preliminary damage assessment (PDA) to estimate the extent of the disaster and its impact on
individuals and public facilities. This information is included in the Governor's request to show that
the disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of
the State and the local governments and that Federal assistance is necessary. 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.
As part of the request, the Governor must take appropriate action under State law and direct
execution of the State's emergency plan. The Governor shall furnish information on the nature and
amount of State and local resources that have been or will be committed to alleviating the results of
the disaster, provide an estimate of the amount and severity of damage and the impact on the
private and public sector, and provide an estimate of the type and amount of assistance needed
under the Stafford Act. In addition, the Governor will need to certify that, for the current disaster,
State and local government obligations and expenditures (of which State commitments must be a
significant proportion) will comply with all applicable cost-sharing requirements.
Based on the Governor's request, the President may declare that a major disaster or emergency
exists, thus activating an array of Federal programs to assist in the response and recovery effort. Not
all programs, however, are activated for every disaster. The determination of which programs are
activated is based on the needs found during damage assessment and any subsequent information
that may be discovered.
Some declarations will provide only individual assistance or only public assistance. Hazard mitigation
opportunities are assessed in most situations.
Last Updated:
06/13/2012 - 16:58
Public Assistance: Preliminary Damage Assessment
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Disaster Declaration Process 2
The Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is a joint assessment used to determine the magnitude
and impact of an event's damage. A FEMA/State team will usually visit local applicants and view
their damage first-hand to assess the scope of damage and estimate repair costs. The State uses
the results of the PDA to determine if the situation is beyond the combined capabilities of the State
and local resources and to verify the need for supplemental Federal assistance. The PDA also
identifies any unmet needs that may require immediate attention.
Next Step: Presidential Disaster Declaration.
 What does the Subgrantee need to do to participate in the PDA process?
Last Updated:
09/18/2012 - 16:21
Washington – Severe Winter Storm, Flooding, Landslides, and
Declared March 5, 2012
On February 21, 2012, Governor Christine O. Gregoire requested a major disaster declaration due to
a severe winter storm, flooding, landslides, and mudslides during the period of January 14-23, 2012.
The Governor requested a declaration for Public Assistance for eleven counties and Hazard
Mitigation statewide. During the period of February 6-10, 2012, joint federal, state, and local
government Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) were conducted in the requested counties and
are summarized below. PDAs estimate damages immediately after an event and are considered, along
with several other factors, in determining whether a disaster is of such severity and magnitude that
effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected local governments, and that
Federal assistance is necessary.1
On March 5, 2012, President Obama declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Washington.
This declaration made Public Assistance requested by the Governor available to state and eligible
local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency
work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe winter storm, flooding,
landslides, and mudslides in Clallam, Grays Harbor, King, Klickitat, Lewis, Mason, Pierce,
Skamania, Snohomish, Thurston, and Wahkiakum Counties. This declaration also made Hazard
Mitigation Grant Program assistance requested by the Governor available for hazard mitigation
measures statewide.2
Summary of Damage Assessment Information Used in Determining Whether
to Declare a Major Disaster
Individual Assistance - (Not requested)
• Total Number of Residences Impacted:3 Destroyed - Major Damage - Minor Damage - Affected - • Percentage of insured residences:4-
Disaster Declaration Process 3
• Percentage of low income households: 5• Percentage of elderly households: 6• Total Individual Assistance cost estimate: N/A
Public Assistance
The Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) process is a mechanism used to determine the impact and magnitude
of damage and resulting needs of individuals, businesses, public sector, and community as a whole. Information
collected is used by the State as a basis for the Governor’s request for a major disaster or emergency declaration, and
by the President in determining a response to the Governor’s request (44 CFR § 206.33).
2 When a Governor’s request for major disaster assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and
Emergency Assistance Act, as amended (Stafford Act) is under review, a number of primary factors are considered
to determine whether assistance is warranted. These factors are outlined in FEMA’s regulations (44 CFR § 206.48).
The President has ultimate discretion and decision making authority to declare major disasters and emergencies
under the Stafford Act (42 U.S.C. § 5170 and § 5191).
3 Degree of damage to impacted residences:
o Destroyed – total loss of structure, structure is not economically feasible to repair, or complete failure to major
structural components (e.g., collapse of basement walls/foundation, walls or roof);
o Major Damage – substantial failure to structural elements of residence (e.g., walls, floors, foundation), or damage
that will take more than 30 days to repair;
o Minor Damage – home is damaged and uninhabitable, but may be made habitable in short period of time with
repairs; and
o Affected – some damage to the structure and contents, but still habitable.
By law, Federal disaster assistance cannot duplicate insurance coverage (44 CFR § 206.48(b)(5)).
Special populations, such as low-income, the elderly, or the unemployed may indicate a greater need for assistance
(44 CFR § 206.48(b)(3)).
6 Ibid (44 CFR § 206.48(b)(3)).
7 Based on State population in the 2010 Census.
8 Statewide Per Capita Impact Indicator for FY12, Federal Register, October 1, 2011.
9 Countywide Per Capita Impact Indicator for FY12, Federal Register, October 1, 2011.
Primary Impact: Damage to utilities
• Total Public Assistance cost estimate: $32,345,445
• Statewide per capita impact: 7$4.81
• Statewide per capita impact indicator: 8$1.35
• Countywide per capita impact: Clallam County ($3.57), Grays
County ($7.21), King County ($3.97), Klickitat County ($113.46),
Lewis County
($13.86), Mason County ($9.72), Pierce County ($12.87), Skamania
County ($83.72),
Snohomish County ($7.72), Thurston County ($13.00), and Wahkiakum
County ($3.49)
• Countywide per capita impact indicator:9 $3.39