Wind Damage >> Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal

We reported that these capability gaps are exacerbated by the need for a clear and consolidated body of PA guidance, and highlighted debris issues specifically in the following summary: FEM's policy on debris removal is unclear and thus open Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal to interpretation. 

As a result, some communities have been denied eligibility for debris removal costs, while others have received reimbursements for identical costs. About $180 million in debris removal costs after the 2004–2005 disasters in Florida demonstrate the significance Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal of clarifying the debris removal policy. 

Assessment of FEM's Public Assistance Program Policies and Procedures, OIG-10-26, December 2009. FEM's Oversight and Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 27 Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal Our current review confirmed some of these earlier observations but also identified additional opportunities for improvement in management and oversight of the debris program. 

Since large-scale debris events are fortunately rare, plans, systems, and Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal processes cannot be easily tested in a "real-time" environment. Many of our observations and findings regarding FEM's management and oversight of debris operations reflect the perceptions of frontline personnel and have not been validated in an actual debris-generating event. 

Management and Oversight Structure and Approach FEMA manages and oversees debris operations through multiple components, including a headquarters policy office, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal 10 regional offices, and disaster-specific field command organizations. 

FEM's Public Assistance Division, Policy and Regulations Branch, in Washington, DC, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal develops and oversees the implementation of the full range of policies and regulations. Two employees in this branch work exclusively on debris removal policies and regulations. 

Branch employees also develop training materials for use nationally to create awareness and understanding of current and emerging debris management issues. Headquarters staff occasionally deliver this training in person or Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal in coordination with FEMA regional staff. A Debris Task Force is appointed for each major disaster. 

The Task Force is based at the Joint Field Office and comprises a Debris Team Leader, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal one or more Debris Technical Specialists, and one or more Debris Monitoring Specialists. The Task Force often includes personnel from other federal and state agencies. It is charged with establishing a framework for FEMA assistance for debris operations and creating a historical record. 

It also creates a specific debris strategy for major events. We reviewed the strategy documents for Hurricane Ike and the 2010 central Tennessee floods, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal and they were comprehensive and actionable. FEM's Oversight and Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 28 

Although FEMA regions normally send one or two permanent, full-time employees to an event (who may include debris specialists from another FEMA region), Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal most of the Debris Task Force is comprised of FEMA disaster assistance employees (DAEs). As one FEMA regional official told us, "The DAEs do the heavy lifting." 

Problems arise since DAEs are not always debris specialists, whereas applicants depend almost solely on their advice. Regional officials said the DAE debris expertise is thinning due to turnover and Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal burnout. Surge Capacity Is Crucial As discussed earlier, decisions made in the first few days after a disaster are critical in determining the success of a debris removal operation. 

This decision making takes place at a time, however, when state and local officials, the primary decision makers, are overwhelmed by more immediate problems such as assisting endangered residents, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal clearing access to hospitals and other vital routes, and restoring electricity, water, and other critical services. 

The consensus among regional, state, and local officials interviewed is that FEMA must do a better job of providing rapid and sufficient surge resources with the capability, skills, and Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal authority to drive key initiation and early implementation decisions. As the entity that funds from 75% to 100% of eligible debris removal costs, FEMA has a vested interest in ensuring optimal decision making and project control. 

Further, given the complex web of organizations that have a role in a typical disaster—state and local government agencies, other federal agencies, private sector contractors, nonprofit organizations, and Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal voluntary organizations—there is no substitute for clear, focused leadership. 

If FEMA cannot deliver the needed technical expertise, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal the odds increase that costs and eligibility of debris removal will become problematic during the recovery phase of the disaster. 

Communities may be forced to evaluate and Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal select debris removal and monitoring contractors without possessing the necessary expertise or familiarity with FEMA contracting guidance and requirements. FEM's Oversight and Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 29

An effective surge can help mitigate the impact of a lack of predisaster debris planning. Cedar Rapids, IA, for example, did not have a debris plan in place prior to major spring flooding in 2008, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal but the debris removal operations went well. A key was the direct technical consulting support for the grantee and subgrantees before contracts were awarded. 

A joint team of FEMA and Iowa Homeland Security debris specialists assisted in this effort. FEMA Region VII staff said "getting in early" is the key to helping communities determine whether contractors are providing reasonable cost estimates. 

Unclear and Ambiguous Guidance Many officials expressed frustration over unclear and ambiguous debris regulations and policies, which hinder effective debris removal and disposal, and Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal create misunderstanding and distrust between FEMA and state and local governments. 

This ambiguity stems not from a lack of effort by FEMA—in fact, the current Public Assistance Debris Management Guide4 is over 200 pages including appendices, and covers eligibility, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal planning, and operations in some depth—but rather from the complexity and inherent uncertainty of debris removal and disposal. 

The interpretation of how to apply a particular regulation for a specific debris occurrence varies greatly depending on who is doing the interpreting. The consequences for FEMA and the grantees can be profound, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal with audits disallowing millions of dollars of costs that FEMA personnel authorized earlier. 

FEMA Public Assistance Debris Management Guide, FEMA-325, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal July 2007. FEM's Oversight and Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 30Figure 12. Examples of recent debris-related FEMA publications 

One state emergency management office we interviewed was in the process of responding to a request to repay millions of dollars for debris removal costs from a 2002 ice storm. This office, Florida Wind Damage Causing Tree Removal with a PA staff of three, said debris removal was "the biggest gray area in contracting" and "the toughest nut to crack—a constant source of headaches for us."

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