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Disaster Deductible

August 15, 2016

DISASTER DEDUCTIBLE

By Jake Unguren, DEM Recovery Program Manager

The cost of disasters is enormous. A 2014 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report about issues with FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund states that, “Congress provided roughly $120 billion for Hurricane Katrina and $60 billion for Hurricane Sandy recovery, and even in years with relatively few major disasters, it is not uncommon for the federal government to annually appropriate between $2 billion and $6 billion to help pay for recovery projects.” For many years Members of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General have been calling for FEMA to change the way the federal government provides post-disaster assistance to states, especially to reduce the amount of funding the federal government provides.

2010 Flood St George

INCREASE DISASTER DAMAGE THRESHOLD

One alternative being considered to reduce the amount of federal disaster funding is to simply increase the per capita indicator (disaster damage threshold), which is currently $1.41 per person, or $3.9 million in Utah as explained here. While increasing the threshold would reduce the cost to the federal government, it would do so by passing the costs onto states and local governments, thus increasing the burden on them. This has already been a topic of conversation for several years, as the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 2012 study that states “the indicator is artificially low.” We recently published an article that discusses the high likelihood of the threshold seeing a significant increase in the near future.

DISASTER DEDUCTIBLE

FEMA is also currently exploring the concept of a Disaster Deductible, which has been proposed to incentivize states to be better prepared for disasters while reducing costs of future disasters for both states and the federal government. States could potentially receive credit toward their deductible requirement through proactive pre-event actions such as adopting enhanced building codes, establishing and maintaining a disaster relief fund or self-insurance plan, or adoption of other measures that reduce the risk from disaster events.

The Deductible Concept is considered a better approach to reduce disaster costs. Rather than waiting around for the next disaster to happen and anticipating post-disaster recovery funds from the federal government, the Deductible Concept would require states to take a more proactive approach. It encourages local and state governments to invest in pre-disaster mitigation and resilience using their own funds to essentially “buy down” the deductible.

Disasters occur at the local level, and citizens in the disaster area, their local governments, volunteer agencies, and other nearby local entities are normally the first to respond. Therefore, it makes sense for the Disaster Deductible to start at the local level. The Deductible aims to also put more responsibility of mitigation, resilience, prevention, and preparedness onto local citizens and governments.

This approach would be a significant change and FEMA is committed to a transparent stakeholder engagement effort to explore how and if it should be adopted. Earlier this year, FEMA requested ideas, comments, and questions from the public on the Deductible Concept through the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The development of the Disaster Deductible Concept applies only to Public Assistance funding, and has no impact on FEMA’s funding to states through the Individual Assistance program. FEMA is not currently proposing to implement this concept, although local governments and State agencies should follow this discussion closely, as it has serious implications of shifting the responsibility of reducing the costs of disasters onto states and local communities.

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Utah’s Disaster Threshold

August 10, 2016

UTAH’S DISASTER THRESHOLD

By Jake Unguren, DEM Recovery Program Manager

After the President declares a Major Disaster, FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Program provides supplemental grants for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and permanent restoration of infrastructure.

2005 Washington County Flooding

How do local and State governments qualify for PA funding after a disaster? One of the factors used to evaluate requests for federal disaster assistance is the estimated cost of the disaster discovered during preliminary damage assessments. The cost estimate works a lot like a financial threshold that must be exceeded before federal funding can be authorized. To calculate the cost estimate threshold, FEMA uses a statewide per capita impact indicator of $1.41 (FFY16) per person. The assumption is that each state can cover this level of public damage without federal assistance. More information about the per capita impact indicator is found here.

Utah’s current statewide threshold is approximately $3.9 million per disaster based on the 2010 census population. In other words, the combined damage estimate from affected jurisdictions in a single disaster would likely need to exceed this amount before the State could request PA funds. (A disaster of this magnitude could last for several days or even weeks.) Any disaster that doesn’t reach the threshold amount will likely not receive any federal assistance, leaving State and local governments to foot the bill.

The threshold usually increases a couple of cents per person every October. If the threshold increases by just one cent, Utah’s threshold would increase by nearly $28,000. By 2021, Utah’s indicator will likely exceed $5 million. This is based on the projected population increase expected for the 2020 census along with the anticipated annual increases to the per capita indicator based on Consumer Price Index changes.

FUTURE CHANGES TO THE IMPACT INDICATOR

The current impact indicator is subject to increase at any time, and could increase as early as October 1, 2016. Although the increase could be as little as 1 cent per person, many feel the indicator needs to be increased by much more.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 2012 study that states “the indicator is artificially low.” Their report explains that the indicator was not adjusted for inflation from 1986 to 1999, and would have been $2.07 in 2012 if they were to apply a “catch-up adjustment.” The indicator would have been $3.57 in 2011 had it been adjusted for increases in per capita income. FEMA estimated in 2014 that this number could be as high as $4.37.

As shown in the table below, if FEMA were to suddenly increase the per capita indicator based on the GAO’s report, Utah’s indicator would dramatically rise, possibly to over $12 million. This would make it much more difficult for Utah to receive a federal disaster declaration, and it’s possible that none of Utah’s four most recent disasters would have reached the necessary level to receive a declaration, leaving a large financial burden on local and State agencies.

Per Capita Indicator table

 

CONCLUSION

Utah’s loss exposure to disasters already exists, since the threshold is $3.9 million dollars before federal public assistance can be authorized. With the looming possibility of a significantly higher disaster threshold, local and State governments should begin discussions about how to fund disasters that don’t exceed the threshold.

How the threshould could change

 

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FEMA PDM & eGrants

April 15, 2016

The Utah Division of Emergency Management Mitigation and Recovery Section created and held a Pre-Disaster Mitigation Workshop. The goal of the workshop was to help those who are planning to apply for a FEMA PDM grant to better understand the grant and walk step by step through the eGrants process.

The presentation slides are linked below.

Pre-Disaster Mitigation Workshop

PDM eGrants Training 

PreDisaster Mitigation Grant (PDM) 2016

April 12, 2016

Utah Division of Emergency Management

FEMA 2016 Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Competitive Grant Program

Notice of Interest

The Utah Division of Emergency Management (DEM) is announcing that all new prospective applicants are required to complete a Notice of Interest (NOI) for each proposed eligible PDM mitigation activity. A completed NOI is NOT required IF you are resubmitting a previous PDM application; in lieu of the NOI, you must email us to say you intend to use an application which was not awarded during a previous year.

Utah DEM is NOW accepting NOIs. To be considered for the 2016 PDM Grant cycle, NOI must be received by DEM no later than April 15, 2016.

Utah DEM, Mitigation and Recovery Section, will review the NOI for basic eligibility requirements, then provide notification of our determination. Only applications that have been approved through the State NOI process will be accepted.

The FY 2016 PDM application cycle opens March 15, 2016. Grant applications must be submitted through eGrants to DEM by May 15, 2016.

It is important to remember that PDM funds are awarded on a nationally competitive basis. A competitive project must:

  • mitigate a natural hazard;

  • address the most imminent or reoccurring natural hazards;

  • have a source of non-federal matching funds (at least 25% local funds) that will be available at the time of the grant award;

  • have a benefit-cost ratio >1 using the FEMA BCA Model 5.2.1 and,

  • the Federal online eGrants application system must be used to apply for the grant. (http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/hma/egrants.shtm)

    • Must have a DUNS and EIN Number to apply

 

 

PDM Presentation 

https://goo.gl/SNavam

Link to Reimbursement Instructions:

https://goo.gl/vgZdXy

Link to eGrants Instructions:

https://goo.gl/gWCfPr

Fill out the PDMC16NOI

More information concerning the 2016 PDM-C grant can be found http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html?keywords=FMA

 

Please contact if you have any quesitons

Brad Bartholomew (801) 673-5854, bbart@utah.gov or

Jake Unguren (801) 597-1320, junguren@utah.gov

Building Resilience through Mitigation

March 10, 2016

Resilience. Sounds like another one of those fancy buzzwords, and maybe it is. Everyone seems to be talking about resiliency, almost like it is a brand new concept. For those of us who have been engaged in mitigation, we have been building resilient communities without actually calling it that for over two decades. And though it sounds like a buzzword, it is so much more.

Resilience is the capacity of systems whether they be individuals, communities, institutions, or businesses to survive, adapt, and thrive through any kind of chronic stress or shocks. These stresses and shocks could be anything from an earthquake or flood to a housing shortage, or economic downturn– or something we have never experienced before. Building resilience to one of the stresses or shocks creates resilience to others.

Worldwide natural disasters caused nearly $100 billion of economic damages in 2014. While this is below the ten year average of $162.5 billion, the overall trend of natural disaster costs are increasing. As an example, the Colorado flooding disaster in 2013 caused an estimated $2 billion in damages, and this does not include economic losses due to closed business, lost crops and inventory.Though not located in the U.S. the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 has cost an estimated $40 billion and has left an empty downtown area with decades of rebuilding and recovery ahead. The earthquake is similar to one we could experience along the Wasatch Front.

According to Koshi Okamoto, “50% of business which sustain interruptions of a week or more due to problems at the primary site never recover” and “25% of companies stricken by California earthquakes closed”.

Returning your community back to the “new normal” after a disaster is a long process, taking years and sometimes decades depending on the size of the disaster. Building resiliency now, speeds this process up. The longer it takes to open roads, restore water, power and gas services, and get schools operational, the fewer business and residents will return.

Disasters are devastating to a community, yet they can also be a catalyst for rebuilding stronger. Asking citizens and elected officials to invest above and beyond, and to prepare for an event before it occurs, is difficult. People are much more likely to make changes after a disaster. How do we reduce the cost of disasters while at the same time build systems that not only recover quicker but recover stronger, without having to wait for the next disaster?

The easiest ways to accomplish resiliency can also be the most challenging. Only 2/3 of the U.S. are covered by building codes and regulations. While establishing codes and regulations has little effect on budgets, it can take political capital from politicians and communities not easily convinced that codes/regulations are needed.

In 1999, the City of St. George established an Erosion Hazard Zone (EHZ). Understanding they had erosion issues, the EHZ extended beyond the floodplain and prohibited building within the zone. In 2005, 28 homes fell into the Santa Clara River; they did not flood, the soil eroded from underneath the foundations. Only two of the homes lost were within the identified flood area. Because of St. George’s foresight and willingness to enact difficult ordinances, the only homes lost were built prior to the EHZ ordinance. A FEMA study conducted after the flood estimated the EHZ ordinance saved $5 million in response and recovery expenses.

StGeorgeEHZ

 

Several communities in Washington County have implemented projects to recover from flood incidents and to mitigate future damages. They have reinforced many miles of banks of the Santa Clara and Virgin Rivers. Many projects have been funded with federal funds, like FEMA’s Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) programs, or the NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection Program, yet those communities acknowledged that federal funding might not always be available and started the Washington County Flood Control Authority (WCFCA). Residents in St. George, Santa Clara, and Washington City pay an additional $1.50 fee on their monthly water bill. This money is used by the WCFCA to address key regional flood concerns, maintain previous projects, and provide the non-federal match for federal disaster and mitigation grants. Residents who are part of the WCFCA are contributing to build a resilient community. This is a great example of municipalities working cooperatively on a regional level to solve flood control issues and prevent future damages.

The HMA program provides assistance to help fund mitigation projects, but building resilience is much more than mitigation and projects. Building resilience involves adapting to our environments and fully understanding our risks. Like in Washington County, where they have committed to maintaining the river ways through fees, those who live in the Wildfire Urban Interface (WUI), and those who live in high earthquake zones and other vulnerable areas need change their approach and mind sets.

Having a hazard mitigation plan is another tool to build resilience. Mitigation plans identify a community’s hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities. Knowing the vulnerabilities allows the development of mitigation strategies to prioritize projects that reduce risks and build resilience. The most effective mitigation plans are those tied to comprehensive plans and capital improvement lists. Planners and emergency managers should be key stakeholders at the table when updating comprehensive and mitigation plans.

The Community Rating System (CRS) reduces flood insurance premiums, reduces risks from floods, and encourages more National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies which buys down risks when there is a flood. Participating in the CRS can help a community attract businesses and residents who are looking for a safe community to work and live in. Currently there are only 11 communities in Utah participating in CRS. Chances are, you have already implemented many (if not all) of the requirements and joining would take minimal effort.

Acknowledging the future will not be like the past is the first step in creating and building resilient communities. As we change our approach to natural hazards and learn to live with them, we build strong communities that are able to survive, adapt, and thrive through any kind of chronic stress or shocks.

 

2016 Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant

March 7, 2016

Utah Division of Emergency Management

FEMA 2016 Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Competitive Grant Program

Notice of Interest

The Utah Division of Emergency Management (DEM) is announcing that all new prospective applicants are required to complete a Notice of Interest (NOI) for each proposed eligible PDM mitigation activity. A completed NOI is NOT required IF you are resubmitting a previous PDM application; in lieu of the NOI, you must email us to say you intend to use an application which was not awarded during a previous year.

Utah DEM is NOW accepting NOIs. Download the NOI here: PDMC16NOICapture.JPG and submit it to bbart@utah.gov. To be considered for the 2016 PDM Grant cycle, NOI must be received by DEM no later than April 15, 2016.

Utah DEM, Mitigation and Recovery Section, will review the NOI for basic eligibility requirements, then provide notification of our determination. Only applications that have been approved through the State NOI process will be accepted.

The FY 2016 PDM application cycle opens March 15, 2016. Grant applications must be submitted through eGrants to DEM by May 15, 2016.

It is important to remember that PDM funds are awarded on a nationally competitive basis. A competitive project must:

  • mitigate a natural hazard;

  • address the most imminent or reoccurring natural hazards;

  • have a source of non-federal matching funds (at least 25% local funds) that will be available at the time of the grant award;

  • have a benefit-cost ratio >1 using the FEMA BCA Model 5.2.1 and,

  • the Federal online eGrants application system must be used to apply for the grant. (http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/hma/egrants.shtm)

    • Must have a DUNS and EIN Number to apply

 

More information concerning the 2016 PDM-C grant can be found http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html?keywords=FMA

 

Please contact Brad Bartholomew (801) 673-5854, bbart@utah.gov or

Jake Unguren (801) 597-1320, junguren@utah.gov

Hazard Mitigation in Utah using FEMA programs

November 17, 2015

FEMA offers three Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) grant programs – the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HGMP), the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program and the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program – to help States, Territories, Indian Tribal governments, local communities, private non-profits and businesses implement cost-effective, long-term mitigation measures for all natural hazards.

Local Utah communities received approximately $20 million through the PDM and HMGP programs from  2006 to 2015 for many different mitigation activities including seismic retrofits of critical structures, mitigation planning, flood erosion protection, and others activities.

Utah has applied for and expects to receive nearly $2.5 million from FEMA in 2016 through the PDM program. The funds would be used to update several mitigation plans, acquire and demolish homes in a landslide area, and seismically retrofit two schools.

Click this link to learn more about FEMA HMA grant programs.

 

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