Proper Debris Management



Moving to Long-Term Recovery

Following the emergency response phase — or after enough debris has been cleared for streets to be re- opened — it is time to develop a long-term debris recovery strategy. A commonly used approach is to divide the disaster area into grids and then establish a timeline for debris-removal passes.

These debris-removal passes should be widely publicized to ensure that property owners and volunteers know when more space will open up on the right-of-ways. When creating the timeline, an end date for the passes should be projected and then discussed with state and FEMA project specialists.


While FEMA typically does not have hands-on involvement in the debris-removal process, the agency does bring in debris specialists to ensure that debris removal is conducted in accordance with FEMA policy.

One task performed by a FEMA debris specialist, assigned to an applicant organization, is a thorough review of debris-removal contracts to determine —

Procurement in accordance with policy 4 is required, and the burden of action and proof for proper procurement of debris contracts falls on the applicant. Pre-disaster selection and procurement of debris contractors helps to ensure adequate compliance. The debris-removal operation is onerous in itself, so it is better to have the proper procurement process in place, should disaster occur. It will also expedite the start of the debris-removal process following a disaster.

How Debris-Removal Contractors Work

There are two main types of debris-removal contractors — local and national. Each has its advantages and disadvantages:

Types of Contracts

There are many types of debris-removal contracts, however, due to the uncertainties associated with debris (different types and amounts, location, etc.) a unit price contract is generally the best.

If an emergency process is used for selecting a contractor, it is still important that proper procurement procedures be followed and that the aforementioned considerations in establishing a pre-disaster plan be applied. When requesting bids and/or quotes, the approximate quantity of debris and the disposal location(s) should be specified and the following should be obtained:

It is a good idea to specify the type and size of equipment to be used. Also to be considered is whether the contractor should be required to obtain bid and performance bonds.

Additionally, the contract should address salvage. Large amounts of woody debris, for example, can sometimes be sold to an energy company or to a landscaping company to be converted into mulch. Selling the debris not only helps offset the removal cost, it also eliminates tipping fees which can be the most expensive element of debris removal.

If there is salvage, the contract should address which party is entitled to it. The contract should also specify who will pay the tipping fees and if the contractor is to be reimbursed for them. Tipping fees charged by the disposal location(s) should not be marked up.

It is also important that the contract address liability for damages caused during the debris removal. Contractors might be unable to see fire hydrants,...