Be Ready for the Next Disaster - and the Public Assistance Process!


First responders to a disaster event are usually community safety departments such as police, fire, medical and public works. Police, fire and medical teams might conduct search and rescue operations, oversee evacuation measures, do sandbagging, supply security forces, provide emergency medical care and initiate road closures. Public works crews might also assist with emergency protective measures, as well as oversee repairs to roads, bridges and other government infrastructure.

Facilities departments will be involved in many types of repairs. Parks and recreation personnel will respond to damages to the affected properties. Departments of health and social services may be involved in evacuations and establishing temporary shelters. The information technology (IT) department could be called upon to install emergency communication systems.

Keep in mind that at the onset of an occurrence —whether man-made or natural — it won’t be immediately known if the event will develop into a large enough catastrophe warranting a presidential declaration and federal intervention. Department heads and supervisors will need to be able to differentiate between a manageable occurrence and one that has the potential to escalate.

Once an occurrence does become a declared disaster, the likelihood of a community being able to obtain eligible funding in a timely manner will be contingent upon its ability to accurately and expeditiously document costs incurred for equipment use, rented equipment, labor, materials, etc., and if applicable, mutual aid and donated services.

Accounting for Disaster-Related Costs

It is important that the system a department utilizes to track work orders for labor, equipment usage and materials be able to differentiate between eligible disaster work and normal duties. These systems can range from simplified handwritten work orders and time cards, to sophisticated computer software programs. Whatever system is implemented, it is very important to be able to track all disaster- related labor, equipment, materials, etc., by date and hours. This can be done by attaching a coded work description.

When a community incurs an extraordinary event, all work attributable to that event...

“Whatever system is implemented, it is very important to be able to track all disaster-related labor, equipment, materials, etc., by date and hours.”