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Federal Disaster Declaration Process

Following a significant weather event that may be beyond the capabilities of local, state and volunteer organizations, the federal government has established a standardized procedure for Missouri and other states to use if they decide to seek a federal Major Disaster Declaration. Here is how that process generally works:

Incident Occurs

When a severe weather event, flooding, wildland fire, an earthquake, or some other large event occurs, it can lead to overwhelming damage and high emergency response and recovery costs. Local governments may seek state assistance in responding and recovering from the emergency.

State of Emergency Declaration

Based on local requests for assistance or the likelihood that such requests will be forthcoming, the Governor may issue an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency. The State of Emergency declaration allows state agencies to provide direct assistance to local governments. It also allows the Governor to waive certain rules and regulations to speed response and recovery efforts. The State of Emergency declaration is also required if the Governor later seeks a federal Major Disaster Declaration from the President.

Local Damage Assessments

In anticipation of potentially seeking federal assistance, local governments (generally at the county level) survey damage and tally the estimated damage.

Joint Damage Assessments

When a county’s own damage assessments indicate there is damage significant enough for the county to likely qualify for federal assistance if there were a Major Disaster Declaration, the county can request Joint Damage Assessments. Joint Damage Assessments are conducted by local, state and federal teams (local emergency management officials, State Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration) working in unison. The teams jointly view, review and document the damage.

Requesting a Federal Major Disaster Declaration

Once SEMA tallies the damage assessment totals for all the counties affected by the weather event, and if together they meet FEMA’s damage and emergency response cost threshold for the state of Missouri, the Governor can request a federal Major Disaster Declaration from the President. The request is submitted through FEMA Region VII in Kansas City.

FEMA Review and Recommendation

The regional office reviews the Governor’s request, makes a recommendation, and submits the request to FEMA headquarters and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.

Presidential Determination

Following all reviews and recommendations, the President makes the decision on the Governor’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration. This is why the declaration is sometimes called a "Presidential Disaster Declaration."