Declarations provided for in the Stafford Act

The Incident Period is the time span during which the disaster-causing incident occurs.  This period varies in length, depending on the  type of incident. For example, the incident period for a flood event could be several weeks, because the water has to crest and recede; while the incident period for a tornado would be one day, because  the damage occurs in a matter of minutes. Damage  that  occurs during the incident period, or damage  that is the  direct  result  of events that  occurred during the  incident period, is eligible.  Protective  measures  and  other preparation activities performed within a reasonable and  justified time in advance  of the  incident period may also be eligible. The incident period will be established by FEMA in the FEMA-State Agreement.

Incident Period

The declaration designates the incident period. The incident period is the span of time during which the federally declared incident occurs.15 This period varies in length, depending on the incident.

Designated Areas

The declaration designates which areas (e.g., county, parish, city, or Indian Tribal Government) are eligible to receive Federal assistance.16 FEMA may add additional areas after the initial designation. However, for FEMA to consider adding an additional area, the Governor or Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR)17 or, for Indian Tribal declarations, the Indian Tribal Chief Executive or Indian Tribal Authorized Representative (TAR) must request the addition within 30 days of the declaration date or the end of the incident period, whichever is later.18 FEMA may extend the deadline if the Governor, GAR, Indian Tribal Chief Executive, or TAR submits a written time extension request within the 30-day deadline with justification of the inability to meet the deadline.19


There are two types of Declarations provided for in the  Stafford  Act:Emergency Declarations and Major Disaster Declarations. Both declaration types authorize the President to provide Federal disaster assistance. However, the cause of the declaration and type and amount of assistance differ.

 An Emergency Declaration Can be declared for any occasion or instance when the President determines Federal  assistance is needed to supplement State and local efforts and capabilities to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat ofa catastrophe in any part  of the United States.The  amount of emergency assistance is capped at $5 million per single event unless continued assistance is needed to alleviate a threat to lives, public health, and safety.

 The President can declare a Major Disaster Declaration for any natural event (including any hurricane, tornado, storm,  high  water, wind-driven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought) or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, that the President believes has caused damage of such severity and magnitude that it is beyond the combined capabilities  of State and  local governments and  disaster  relief organizations to respond. A major disaster  declaration provides a wide range  of Federal assistance programs for individuals  and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.


When a declaration of a major disaster or emergency is made for a State, FEMA will designate those  counties and  independent cities of a State that are eligible for assistance. Those counties  make up the Designated Disaster Area. Sometimes other political subdivisions of a State, such as city or special district, may be designated, but the county is the most common designation. The designated disaster area can be amended after the initial designation by FEMA. A damaged facility must be located  within a designated county to be considered for Federal  assistance. For example, Blue County is declared as a designated disaster area and Green  County is not. All potential applicants who are responsible for facilities within Blue County may be eligible for public assistance. An entity from outside  Blue County may apply for assistance for a facility within Blue County. If applicant “A” has facilities in both Blue and Green  County, the facilities in Blue County are eligible and those in Green County are not. Sheltering activities may be located  outside  the designated disaster area.

The types of assistance available in the designated disaster area may vary between  counties. Some counties may be eligible  for reimbursement for both  emergency and  permanent work while others  may be designated to receive funding for emergency work only. Also, while a county may be eligible for Individual Assistance, it may be found  ineligible  for public  assistance. FEMA determines the designations based on the outcome of the Preliminary Damage  Assessment and  the recommendations of the State Governor and FEMA Regional  Administrator.


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