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Bruce Gordon, Director of Communications
Lead PIO  (651) 201-7477
June 21, 2012
Northeast Minnesota Flood Update - Number 10
Preliminary Damage Assessment Is the First Step in the Declaration Process
ST. PAUL — Following an assessment by state authorities, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) today requested preliminary damage assessment teams from FEMA. The teams will join state and local representatives to begin the preliminary damage assessment process in areas affected by recent storms and flooding throughout the state, including northeast Minnesota.

The request includes assessment of damage to public infrastructure in 14 Minnesota counties and one tribal government: Aitkin, Carlton, Cook, Crow Wing, Dakota, Goodhue, Kandiyohi, Lake, McLeod, Meeker, Pine, Rice, Sibley, St. Louis and the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe.

The damage assessment teams are scheduled to be on the ground in those areas early next week.
The preliminary damage assessment is the first step in determining if Governor Mark Dayton will make a request for a presidential declaration of disaster.
  1. Local and state officials conduct an initial impact assessment.
    This happens when damages can be seen after flood waters recede. Officials identify facilities impacted, damage, impacts to the community and its demographics.
  2. HSEM requests FEMA to conduct a preliminary damage assessment.
    Teams from the affected county, HSEM and FEMA conduct the assessment. They view the damage and collect the cost estimates from county officials. The teams review local emergency response records, American Red Cross records if individual homes are involved in the assessment, and compile figures for all affected counties. If the damage exceeds the federally determined damage threshold of $7.2 million statewide, the process continues.
  3. HSEM prepares the governor’s request for a disaster declaration.
    Letter details the event and cites National Weather Service data. It must document factors that determine severity, magnitude and impact. It also documents what local officials did to respond to the emergency.
    Local input regarding impact to the community is gathered and incorporated in the letter. This includes the amount and type of damage, impact on infrastructure, impact on essential services, concentration of damage, level of insurance coverage, assistance available from other sources, and if there is an imminent threat to public health and safety.
  4. Governor submits the letter to the president through FEMA.
    FEMA reviews and sends the letter, with its recommendation to the president.
    The president is the only one with authority to grant a Presidential Disaster Declaration.  If assistance programs are approved, HSEM officials work in partnership with FEMA to assistance disaster victims in their application for funds.
Federal Highway Emergency Relief Funding

The Federal Highway Emergency Relief Program helps repair or reconstruct federally-funded highways—including interstates, state highways and some county roads—that have serious damage from natural disasters. To be eligible, damage to highways must be severe, occur over a wide area and result in unusually high expenses. The minimum cost eligibility is $700,000.

The program allows streamlined procedures and approval processes to fix highways as quickly as possible. Still, this process takes time and requires a proclamation from the governor or president, request for funding from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and tour of damage and approval from the Federal Highway Administration.   

Repair procedures differ depending on the type of repair—emergency or permanent. An emergency repair occurs during and immediately following a disaster to restore essential traffic, to minimize the extent of damage or to protect the remaining infrastructure. Emergency repairs occur first, and the funding paperwork happens later. Permanent repairs restore the highway to its condition before the natural disaster and the FHWA must approve the project before work begins.

MnDOT is doing everything it can to ensure the process moves quickly.

Damaged city streets and some county roads that are not federally-funded may get be repaired through Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public assistance program, which requires a presidential disaster declaration.  

FEMA declaration process backgrounder

Contact: Phone:  (651) 201-7477

445 Minnesota Street, Suite 100 | Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101-5155 |