About FEMA
Project Impact


Response and Recovery

Table of Contents
Basic Plan
Emergency Support Function Annexes
Recovery Function
Support Annexes
Incident Annexes
Figure Directory

Appendix D - Overview of a Disaster Operation

  • In PDF format

    This overview illustrates response and recovery actions Federal agencies likely will take to help State and local governments that are overwhelmed by a major disaster or emergency.  Key operational components that could be activated include the Regional Operations Center (ROC), Emergency Response Team — Advance Element (ERT-A), National Emergency Response Team (ERT-N), Emergency Support Team (EST), Emergency Response Team (ERT), Disaster Field Office (DFO), Catastrophic Disaster Response Group (CDRG), and Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).

    1. FEMA’s National Emergency Coordination Center continually monitors potential disasters and emergencies.  When advance warning is possible, FEMA may deploy, and may direct Federal agencies to deploy liaison officers and personnel to a State Emergency   Operations Center to assess the emerging situation. A ROC may be activated, fully or partially. Facilities, such as mobilization centers, may be established to accommodate personnel, equipment, and supplies. 

    2. Immediately after a disaster, local jurisdictions respond using available resources and notify State response elements.  As information emerges, they also assess the situation and request State assistance if needed.  The State reviews the situation, mobilizes State resources, and informs the FEMA Regional Office of actions taken.  The Governor declares a state of emergency, activates the State emergency   operations plan, and requests a Presidential disaster declaration.  The State and FEMA jointly conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment to validate the State’s request and determine the kind of Federal assistance needed. 

    3. After the declaration, a ROC, staffed by regional personnel, coordinates initial regional and field activities such as deployment of an ERT-A.  The ERT-A assesses the impact of the event, gauges immediate State needs, and makes preliminary arrangements to set up operational field facilities.  (If regional resources appear to be overwhelmed or if the event has potentially significant consequences, FEMA may deploy an ERT-N.) 

    4. An interagency EST, composed of Emergency Support Function (ESF) representatives and FEMA support staff, carries out initial activation and mission assignment operations and supports the ROC from FEMA Headquarters. 

    5. A Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO), appointed by the FEMA Director on behalf of the President, coordinates Federal activities.  The FCO works with the State Coordinating Officer to identify requirements. 

    6. The FCO heads the interagency ERT.  The ERT works with the affected State and conducts field operations from the DFO.  ESF primary agencies assess the situation and identify requirements. Under FEMA mission assignments or their own authorities, agencies supply goods and services to help the State respond effectively. 

    7. The CDRG, composed of representatives from FRP signatory agencies, convenes at FEMA Headquarters when needed to provide guidance and policy direction on coordination and operational issues.  The EST supports the CDRG and coordinates with the ERT. 

    8. As immediate response priorities are met, recovery activities begin in the field.  Federal and State agencies helping with recovery and mitigation convene to discuss State needs. 

    9. Teleregistration is activated and has a toll-free telephone number disaster victims can call to apply for assistance.  A toll-free disaster helpline is established to answer common questions.  One or more DRCs may be opened where victims can obtain information about disaster assistance, advice, and counsel.  The affected area is inspected to determine the extent of damage, and funds for approved assistance are obligated. 

    10. Concurrently, Applicant Briefings are conducted for local government officials and certain private nonprofit organizations to inform them of available assistance and how to apply.  Applicants must first file a Request for Public Assistance.  Eligible applicants will then be notified and will define each project on a Project Worksheet, which details the scope of damage and a cost estimate for repair to a pre-disaster condition.  The Project Worksheet will be used as the basis for obligating funds to the State for eligible projects. 

    11. Throughout response and recovery, mitigation staff at the DFO examines ways to maximize mitigation measures.  Hazard Mitigation Site Survey Teams contact local officials to identify potential projects and suggest which ones should be included in an early implementation strategy.  The strategy, produced in cooperation with Federal, State, and local officials,    focuses on viable opportunities to provide funds, technical assistance, and staff support to incorporate mitigation into the repair and replacement of damaged or destroyed housing and infrastructure. 

    12. As the need for full-time interagency coordination at the DFO ceases, the ERT plans for selective release of Federal resources, demobilization, and closeout.  Federal agencies then work directly with their grantees from their regional or headquarters offices to administer and monitor individual recovery programs, support, and technical services. 

    Click here to view graphic representation of Overview
    Updated: June 3, 1999