Last year we had 45 ‘Major Disaster Declarations’ in the U.S. according to FEMA. Sure the number fluctuates each year, but the reality is you can’t predict when or where an emergency is going to hit a community. And it doesn’t matter which part of the country you live in. Maybe you don’t live in a region where you’ll ever experience a hurricane or a tornado, but flooding is the #1 natural disaster in the U.S and all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods according to Floodsmart.gov.
With this information alone, it makes sense for states, cities, and counties to have a plan should a disaster strike, right? Many government organizations do have a plan that includes addressing the safety of the public and responding to the immediate need. All things that are extremely important when confronted with an emergency. But what about the after-math? What about the months or years of recovering and rebuilding? Or the resources and manpower to make all this happen? And the budget; how do you allocate funds to cover costs? Being prepared isn’t just about the initial response to an emergency, but should include what it takes to track the recovery efforts and maximize reimbursements from funding agencies.
Labor costs are a large operational expense for any government budget, but throw in an emergency and now these costs grow exponentially. Once an emergency moves to a FEMA declared disaster, now the pressure is on to track every penny of what is spent on clean-up and recovery efforts. FEMA has some pretty strict requirements for labor costs associated with emergency work under Recover Policy 9525.7. What if government agencies accounted for this level of tracking ahead of a disaster by identifying efficient labor tracking methods in their emergency preparedness documents?
Take what the City of Houston did for example. The city put together a Finance Disaster Recover Manual back in 2013. So when the floods hit Houston back in May and Harris County was FEMA approved for Federal Disaster relief funding, you can bet they pulled up their recovery manual and began tracking according to their pre-laid plans. All duties associated with recovery will be coded and tracked to get as much funding from various agencies as possible.
Although a municipality may never recoup all money spent, there is no excuse for leaving money “on the table”. Tracking with paper or spreadsheets leaves governments open to a loss of funds due to inadequate tracking, miscalculations, and delays in report gathering. Prepare your organization to not only recover safely through an emergency, but also financially.