FEMA Disaster Funding Requires Proactive Stormwater Action

Even with the best planning, natural disasters can wreak havoc on communities. Severe weather events, including hurricanes, can overwhelm any stormwater system and water control measures.

 

Recovering and rebuilding from these events requires municipalities to request support from many sources. Funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a critical lifeline that has helped many local communities remain resilient.

Securing FEMA resources for water control repairs and improvements requires both diligence after a disaster and proactive preparation in advance of a disaster

However, accessing federal disaster relief funds isn’t as simple as picking up the phone, notes Matt Burnette. A Senior Project Manager in Draper Aden’s Raleigh office, he manages water resources and stormwater projects for state and local governments. Burnette has significant experience helping municipalities secure FEMA funding.

 

His top piece of advice?

 

“Securing FEMA resources for water control repairs and improvements requires both diligence after a disaster and proactive preparation in advance of a disaster,” Burnette says.

Most localities understand the importance of carefully following FEMA guidelines. Yet, for localities that haven’t applied for FEMA funding in recent years, it’s crucial that they familiarize themselves with the agency’s new delivery model. The ways in which FEMA wants information packaged and delivered has changed. It’s wise to review this process before disaster strikes or partner with a consultant that has experience with the new delivery model.

Most importantly, though, FEMA is increasingly evaluating requests for funding based on a municipality’s maintenance of their infrastructure before an extreme weather event or another disaster occurs.

 

In short, what municipalities are doing now will have a significant impact on their ability to access FEMA funds in the future. That’s because the agency prioritizes localities that have established and thorough maintenance plans of their drainage systems.

 

Burnette recommends that municipalities, including appointed and elected leaders and professionals in Public Works, ask themselves the following questions:

    • How are we maintaining our system on an annual basis?
    • How are we evaluating the system’s performance and adjusting our proactive maintenance efforts?
    • Are we keeping detailed records?

Maintaining accurate records is a crucial, but often overlooked, component. Be sure to capture and update routine maintenance in detailed maintenance logs. Demonstrate that your locality has been budgeting money to ensure proper system maintenance as well.

 

Burnette adds, “These records can make a big difference for municipalities.”

 

A town, city, or county that has an established and well-documented record of routine maintenance for its stormwater system is in a much better position to receive FEMA funds compared to a municipality that is not conducting routine maintenance, such as cleaning out pipes or mowing around drainage systems.

FEMA is increasingly evaluating requests for funding based on a municipality’s maintenance of their infrastructure before an extreme weather event or another disaster occurs.

The biggest recommendation for municipalities is to ensure that you’re maintaining your drainage systems. Accurately track and log that maintenance while ensuring that you’ve budgeted appropriately to continue that routine maintenance.

 

Although no one has a crystal ball that allows us to see the future, localities around the United States should be prepared for a new reality of more extreme weather events. Recognizing this likely scenario, now is the time to prepare by ensuring proper maintenance of existing systems.  Not only will those systems perform better in a major storm, but your municipality will increase the likelihood of receiving FEMA funding to repair damage after a disaster.

 

This blog post is part of a series exploring projects and services that have helped clients realize their goals while preserving time and resources. Click here for additional blog posts in this series, which covers a variety of engineering challenges.