RECOVERY: THE ABCs OF PDAs
Whether a severe storm, a catastrophic hurricane or a devastating wildfire has struck you area, opening the door to federal assistance in the wake of a disaster begins when local officials put pencil to paper in the Preliminary Damage Assessment process.
A Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is just what it says it is – an estimate providing as much information as it is possible to gather, hopefully within 10 days after a disaster has struck.
The goal is to provide clear evidence that the disaster has
caused serious damage to so many homes and businesses that the recovery process is beyond the capability of a local county and its resources.
Ben Patterson, Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Recovery Section Administrator, said: “We provide several resources to local officials to help them understand the PDA process. Representatives of the state – from Regional Liaison Officers to staff at TDEM’s Recovery Section – will be at your side to help you during this process. We also have several resources on the TDEM website that will be useful, including the Disaster Recovery Manual.”
The first step is for a county to submit a request package to TDEM on behalf of the county, as well as cities, towns and other local jurisdictions. Key elements needed from each county impacted are a Declaration of Local Disaster, a Letter of Request, and a Disaster Summary Outline (DSO) – all found in the Disaster Recovery Manual.
Patterson, who served as the State Coordinating Officer for the Hurricane Alex Joint Field Office, said: “When performing damage assessments, it’s critical that jurisdictions capture as much information as possible. We need to know whether a home has major or minor damage, whether it has been destroyed entirely, or whether it has simply been affected. Guidelines attached to the DSO help you understand each of these categories.”
When it comes to damages to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, community buildings, parks and other public property, Patterson said the key is for local jurisdictions to provide an estimate of actual damage. For example, Public Assistance monies could be available to repair the specific section of a road that has been damaged, but will not be provided for an entire segment of road.
“It would be a good idea to review the documents on our website and become familiar with the PDA process before disaster strikes,” Patterson suggested. “Otherwise you might overlook some key aspect of assistance that can help you recover – such as an estimate of overtime and comp time – or even the costs of running your Emergency Operations Center during the disaster.”
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Front Page Photo: FEMA and TDEM personnel walk through a neighborhood in Rio Bravo, Texas that sustained damage from Hurricane Alex and subsequent flooding. Photo courtesy of Mary Lover with FEMA.