Summer storm season is upon us and many local governments are experiencing local storm damage. But many local governments only conduct damage assessments when there is a prospect for a FEMA declaration. Technology and workflow improvements have made damage assessments more efficient to conduct, thus, enabling the Emergency Manager to execute their damage assessment process to document local storm damage.
But what are the benefits to the local government in doing so? Here are five:
- Constituent Insurance Claims. For smaller storms, where only a handful of structures experience damage, insurance companies sometimes require proof that a weather event in fact took place. From an insurers perspective, this due diligence prevents fraud. They may ask the policyholder for proof that an event took place and/or that other damage has occurred surrounding the claim in question. NWS typically provides this proof by collecting storm information themselves or from local emergency managers after a disaster takes place. By having the damage assessment information readily available, you may speed the process for NWS to make their official reports and help your constituents process claims.
- Building Safety Condition Placarding. If a structure is severely damaged, your building code enforcers may be required to conduct an inspection to ensure the structure is safe for occupancy. Many of the standard forms used for building safety condition placarding can be used for Emergency Management damage assessments. Therefore, local storm damage provides an excellent opportunity for Emergency Management and Building Code Enforcement to collaborate in conducting a damage assessment.
- Prepare for FEMA. Sometimes you don’t immediately know just how bad the damage is from a storm until more damage reports come into the EOC. By being proactive in understanding the damage from a storm, you will be able to react more easily in passing preliminary damage assessment information to the state to qualify for a declaration. Furthermore, if you do not qualify for a declaration for this event, having the damage documented may help you qualify for a future event. FEMA considers recent multiple disasters as a factor for assistance when a local government responds to repeated events within 12 months.
- Situational Awareness. Does your local government executive call you for a situation report after a small storm? By regularly executing a damage assessment process for small storms, you will be able to provide your executives and the public with storm assessment information soon after a storm strikes. Having a trigger for when your damage assessment team activates (either when your EOC is on notice or when a weather warning is put in place) will help ensure these activities are in your standard operating procedures.
- Training. Launching your damage assessment team for local storm damage will help keep the damage assessment process and tools fresh in their minds. If you have multiple damage assessment teams, you may want to rotate them on smaller storms so each team stays ready.
Today’s disaster management software can help make the damage assessment process more efficient so as not to overburden your staff. By using these tools and methods more frequently on small local storms, you can be assured that your damage assessment teams will be ready when you need them most.