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Hurricane Dorian: FEMA and Additional Storm-Related Resources

Changes from August 28, 2019 to August 30, 2019

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This Insight provides a brief overview of emergency and major declarations and federal assistance programs potentially available to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. It also lists resources for forecast information, hurricane and flooding information, and selected CRS reports on federal emergency management policy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued watches and warnings for Hurricane Dorian, a storm east of the southeasterncentral Bahamas on August 2930. The storm reached hurricane strength as it passed east of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, August 28. The forecast on August 2930 anticipates Dorian to continue to strengthen as it moves west-northwest toward the northern Bahamas. NOAA expects heavy rain, with the potential for flash floods, as well as life-threatening surf and, rip current, and storm surge conditions to begin affecting the southeastern U.S. coast in the next few days. PossibleLocation-specific impacts to the continental United States remain unclear; the August 2930 forecast states that the likelihood of hurricane-force winds along the east coast of Florida over the weekend continuecontinues to increase.

On August 27, President Donald J. Trump signed an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico (August 27) and the U.S. Virgin Islands (August 28). Other emergency declarations may be forthcoming. As authorized under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended; 42 U.S.C. §§5121 et seq.), the President may issue an emergency declaration in anticipation of an incident to support state and local efforts to save lives, protect property, and lessen or avert the incident from becoming a major disaster. As Hurricane Dorian makes landfall, and the storm warrants further federal assistance, the President may issue a major disaster declaration. This allows for a broad range of federal assistance programs to be made available to state, local, and territorial governments, private nonprofit organizations, and individuals through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies.

FEMA has announced the following preparations for Hurricane Dorian:

  • On August 28, FEMA activated its National Response Coordination Center to Level I.
  • An Urban Search and Rescue Team and two Disaster Medical Assistance Teams deployed to Puerto Rico.
  • FEMA deployed Incident Management Assistance Teams to Puerto Rico ahead of Tropical Storm Dorian that are based in San Juan, Ponce, and Aguadilla.  A team is also in the U.S. Virgin Islands and additional teams are on standby.
  • FEMA's Mobile Emergency Response Support Disaster Emergency Communications teams are in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • FEMA logistics staging and transportation teams are in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Life-sustaining commodities have been pre-positioned throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The stock levels of these commodities are well above what was in place on the islands during the 2017 hurricane season.

FEMA's National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) is activated to Level I (the highest activation level).
  • FEMA, through the NRCC and its regional offices, is monitoring the effects and track of Hurricane Dorian and remains in contact with state and tribal emergency management officials.
  • FEMA Region IV deployed a liaison officer and a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team to the Florida Emergency Operations Center.
  • FEMA logistics staging and transportation teams are in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to support response efforts.
  • FEMA's Mobile Emergency Response Support Disaster Emergency Communications are in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help support local emergency communication systems.
  • Types of FEMA Assistance Provided for Major Disasters

    FEMA provides three major categories of assistance for major disasters:

    • Public Assistance (PA) provides grants to tribal, state, territorial, and local governments, and certain private nonprofit organizations, for emergency protective measures, debris removal operations, and repair or replacement of damaged public infrastructure.
    • Individual Assistance (IA) provides aid to affected individuals and households, and can take the form of housing assistance, other needs assistance, crisis counseling, case management services, legal services, and disaster unemployment assistance.
    • Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) funds mitigation and resiliency projects and programs, typically across the entire state or territory.

    The forms of assistance authorized by a major disaster declaration may vary by the designated areas, per the declaration (subject to amendment). The President can also amend major disaster declarations to decrease the state cost-share requirements for some PA grants.

    National Flood Insurance Program

    The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is the primary source of flood insurance coverage for residential properties. Homeowners and tenants with NFIP flood insurance can make flood damage claims using the normal NFIP claims process. There does not have to be an emergency or disaster declaration in order to make an NFIP claim.

    As of July 31, 2019, the NFIP had $6.004004 billion available ($4.897 billion in the National Flood Insurance Fund and $1.107 billion in the reserve fund), as well as $9.9 billion of borrowing authority from the Treasury and up to $2.12 billion of reinsurance for a single flood event with losses over $4-$6 billion.

    Additional Hurricane and Flooding Resources

    Forecast Information:


    FEMA Programs and Resources:

    CRS Resources

    Hurricane and Flooding Resources

    Federal Disaster Assistance—Process and Programs