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What Does It Mean When the Government Declares a State of Emergency?

Living in Florida, we’re no strangers to hurricane season and the insane thunderstorms we get during the summer. We all remember where we were for hurricanes Andrew and Matthew, because they are the worst ones in recent memory. But in between the major ones, we are used to regular hurricane watches and all the preparation that comes along with them.

After all the canned foods and bottled water are stored, and all our widows are patched up with wood paneling, we sit and wait. Once it’s over, if an area was hit particularly hard, we’ll hear in the news how said area is declared to be in a state of emergency. But what does that really mean?

Entities are dispatched to provide assistance to residents

At the state level, this means dispatching first responders personnel to assist residents. If the magnitude of the natural disaster is too burdensome for the state to work on its own, the Governor will ask the President for federal assistance within 30 days from the natural disaster. The Governor must state the amount of local resources that have already been utilized, and why assistance at the local level is not enough.

If the President grants the assistance, FEMA agents are dispatched to assist with relief efforts (evacuations, finding shelters, medical assistance, clean-up, et…)

If the President denies the request, the Governor will have to continue dealing with the situation solely with state resources.

Funds are released for relief efforts

The only way for a location to be eligible to receive government funds for relief and recovery efforts, is to be declared to be in a state of emergency. It’s not a free for all, however. The requesting entity has to provide a damage report and an estimate of required costs. It’s also supplemental assistance for monies invested by state agencies.

The State can also request grants to prepare for possible disasters, however, these are limited to $250,000. That may seem like a lot of money on an individual basis, but it’s peanuts in the aggregate. So the best way an individual can prepare is by supplementing state efforts with their own research.

What if you don’t reside in a high risk flood zone?

If you’re well aware of the nature of living in the Sunshine State, but have been in your home for years and know that you’re not at risk of flooding, there are ways to circumvent having to pay for flood insurance. FEMA has a boring (but effective) appeals process to remove your home from their high risk designation. You can either fall asleep reading about it on FEMA’s website, or you can contact National Flood Experts for a free evaluation. You’ve got nothing to lose (except money, if you don’t call us).

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