SUMMARY: Initial damage assessment is the process of collecting preliminary estimates of damage to public infrastructure and private property following a disaster. These raw estimates are used to determine if there is sufficient damage county-wide to qualify for state and/or federal disaster assistance.
There are two overall classifications of damage:
These two classifications are handled differerently.
Public Damage: Qualified (eligible) damage to public infrastructure in the disaster area is reported to the EOC by the responsible agency or department based on their own preliminary assessment. Those figures from the reporting departments will be assembled and reported to the State Emergency Operations Center to be included in the overall estimate. When it appears as though the cumulative local damage estimates meet a "substantial impact" threshold, joint local-state-federal Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) teams are deployed to ground proof the initial estimates. The PDA quickly reviews the findings, and makes a recommendation for further action.
Private Damage: Information about damage to private residences and business is collected by direct reporting to the Department of Emergency Management or by field observation by local damage assessment teams. If it is believed that there has been a "substantial impact" on the community, a report is generated by the EOC and a request is made for a Individual Assistance PDA team to further verify the impact.
Eligibility for Presidential Declaration: The cumulative damage figures derived from the Public and Individual PDA effort are forwarded to the President by the Governor along with a State Disaster Declaration and request for federal assistance. Aid is not released until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines there was sufficient total estimated damage. The President may make a federal Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance or Individual Assistance or both as appropriate under the rules of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Assistance and Relief Act.
Once a Presidential Disaster Declaration is made FEMA activates a complex of relief operations are initiated and procedures are announced for filing claims for disaster assistance. The claim process differs between IA and PA. For IA, persons with damage to their primary residences are encouraged to call an "800" number released by FEMA. They are given a claim processing number and further instructions as to how to proceed. The PA process involves a series of on-site briefings coordinated by the State Emergency Management Division.