Emergency Relief Manual
Chapter V - Disaster Assessment and Damage Survey Summary Report
For a natural disaster, the disaster assessment is an evaluation of a natural occurrence that affects transportation facilities to determine if the basic conditions exist to support a reasonable request for ER funding. In any natural disaster situation two conditions must be met in order to qualify for ER funding: (1) the natural occurrence is sudden, unusual, and causes serious damage to Federal-aid highways; and (2) the extent of serious damage to Federal-aid highways covers a wide area. The natural occurrence over a wide area must have inflicted unusual heavy economic loss to the State and its subdivisions or other organizations or agencies.
Disaster assessments for catastrophic failures must provide an evaluation of the failure against the basic requirements for ER funding eligibility. The sudden failure of a major element or segment of a Federal-aid highway due to an external cause is defined as a catastrophic failure, and the disaster assessment must gather, organize and discuss the necessary data to either support or rule out a catastrophic failure event. The failure must not be primarily attributable to gradual and progressive deterioration, or lack of proper maintenance. The closure of a facility because of imminent danger of collapse is not considered a sudden failure.
Experience dictates the need for developing a system for documenting damage estimates related to a disaster event and for the preparation of the Division Office Field Report. A good procedural method consists of the following elements:
- Disaster Coordination Engineer
One engineer from the Division Administrator's staff should be selected and delegated the responsibility for coordinating the Division Office activities relating to disaster assistance programs. This approach should provide uniformity in administration of all ER program activities.
- Division Office Orientation
The Division Disaster Coordination Engineer should arrange a training meeting to brief field engineers on resource and procedural requirements necessary to fulfill Division Office responsibilities. Eligibility criteria and field reporting procedures should be discussed and review/evaluation teams organized.
The following items should be provided to each FHWA engineer charged with assessment responsibility:
- Transportation agency contact's name
- Emergency Relief Manual
- Camera and film
- Maps of affected areas showing Federal-aid routes
- Calculator and Measuring Tape
- List of unit prices
- Laptop Computer
- Communication equipment including Cellular Phone
- Detailed damage inspection report forms (Appendix E)
- Resource Evaluation
An initial evaluation of staffing/personnel requirements, equipment, and financial needs should be made. These resources must be adequate for the timely completion of the required disaster assessments and damage surveys. For example, concerning personnel needs, each FHWA Division Office should confirm that driver's licenses are current and assess possible immunization requirements.
The disaster assessment should be completed quickly to permit submission of the required information for the ER request within the prescribed time-period. Combining the detailed inspections with the disaster assessment may take longer and cause a late assessment.
- Coordination with Other Agencies
Most natural disasters involve several Federal, State, and local agencies. It is necessary and often critical to establish immediate contact with these agencies to expedite the ER program. Coordination with the Office of Federal Lands Highway Programs is of particular importance since they maintain close liaison with the U.S. Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Land Management regarding damage to Federal roads that may have sustained damage from the same event. Also, coordination with appropriate environmental resource agencies is encouraged. Among other reasons, coordination can avoid embarrassing inconsistencies and inaccurate total damage estimates.
Meetings set up by the State transportation agency are often advantageous, particularly if they are similar to, or in conjunction with, those held by the FEMA. Since the State makes the request for ER funds, it has the responsibility to arrange these meetings. The FHWA should provide technical assistance at these meetings, as requested.
These meetings should provide briefings of all eligible applicants and personnel who will be involved in ER projects. Participants should include State maintenance forces, key State transportation headquarters and division and/or district office personnel, FHWA field engineers, administrative staff from local governments, and representatives from Federal agencies. Eligibility, field procedures, and Damage Survey Summary reporting procedures should be discussed.
Applicants should be advised of the necessary records and documents that must be available to support expenditures on ER projects. Permanent restoration work must follow normal Federal-aid procedures.
The Federal Government will participate in costs incurred by a State transportation agency, or a political subdivision of that State, when such costs are properly supported and are directly attributable and properly allocable to ER projects. Needed documentation, as applied to the several categories of cost, is discussed later in this chapter.
- State Department of Transportation
All requests for reimbursement shall be submitted consistent with procedures followed in billing other types of Federal-aid project costs. Billings for reimbursement will be subject to audit by State and Federal representatives. (Reference Federal-Aid Policy Guide, 23 CFR Part 140). A billing for eligible costs incurred by the State should be submitted to the FHWA for reimbursement. A billing for participating costs incurred by a political subdivision of a State should be submitted to the State which, in turn, may submit a billing for such costs to the FHWA for reimbursement. Final billing should be submitted promptly after the final inspection of the completed work. Progress billings are reimbursed on permanent repair projects. All billings should result from the project cost records and the accounting system. In order to obtain maximum reimbursement from the Federal Government, any political subdivision expecting to incur ER project costs should obtain guidance in the preparation and maintenance of supporting documentation as well as in billing procedures from officials of the State. Source documents are to be preserved for a period of at least 3 years after payment of the final voucher by the FHWA.
- Damage Assessments
The State, in cooperation with FHWA field staff and in coordination with local authorities, undertakes damage assessments. Typically, this involves on-the-ground visits to the damage sites to verify the extent of damage and to estimate the cost of repairs eligible for ER funding. If there is a need to expedite the delivery of ER funding for high-cost disasters, an initial damage assessment may be based on aerial fly-overs, news telecasts, and other means of quickly estimating the extent of damage. This initial damage assessment is followed-up later with more detailed site inspections.
As discussed in Chapter III, the damage assessments are conducted using one of two different methods, with the choice of method depending upon the urgency for developing and processing a State's request for ER funding for a disaster or catastrophic failure eligible under the FHWA ER program. Under the Traditional Method, detailed damage inspections are conducted to document site-by-site estimates. Alternatively, expedited windshield inspections may be conducted to document estimates for a limited number of sites. Under this method, a combination of detailed inspections and windshield inspections may also be employed. Under the Quick Release method estimates are based on readily available information such as valid media reports or aerial surveys done by the State.
- Detailed Damage Inspections
These are inspections conducted on site to determine the extent of damage, scope of repair work, the preliminary estimate of cost of repair, and ER funding eligibility. Detailed damage inspections are conducted at many, if not all, sites. After it becomes apparent that the Division Administrator will recommend a positive determination of natural disaster, disaster inspection teams should be organized. These teams normally document site-by-site repair estimates to develop supporting material for programming purposes. This detailed inspection may be accomplished in conjunction with the disaster assessment if it does not delay submission of the Damage Survey Summary Report.
The on-site inspection provides an important opportunity to define clearly the extent of repairs eligible for ER funding. Eligibility determinations under the ER program reside with FHWA.
The damage inspection report should document:
- The specific location, type of Federal-aid highway, ADT, cause, nature and extent of damage, including mileposts where available
- The most feasible and practical method of repair, particularly if the applicant's proposal does not meet eligibility criteria (See Chapter II)
- Work considered to be emergency or permanent should be identified and documented
- The estimated repair cost
- Recommendation by the FHWA field engineer
- Acknowledgment by the applicant (and State representative, as appropriate)
- Potential environmental/historical impacts
- Photographs supporting the above
- A location map and field site sketch
A blank detailed damage inspection report is provided in Appendix E.
- Disaster Inspection Teams
The inspection teams consist of representatives from the FHWA and the applicant. If the applicant is not the State transportation agency, a State representative should be a member of the inspection team. Specialists (for example, bridge engineers if there is significant bridge damage) from each agency should also accompany the team if the situation warrants. Other specialists in such areas as right-of-way, environmental evaluation, or geo-technical analysis may also be needed, depending on site conditions.
The applicant's representative identifies the cause of damage and the normal design and construction practice to repair the facility. The FHWA field engineer shall consider site eligibility and proposed repair effort to aid in developing an estimate. All sites reviewed by the applicant should be documented with the FHWA eligibility recommendations noted. If all or any of the parties cannot agree on eligibility, the FHWA representative must note all items of disagreement on the inspection report. The applicant may appeal an ineligibility finding that should be submitted in writing to the Division Administrator within 30 days after the initial finding. The FHWA representative should also explain that any ER eligibility or participation disagreements are decided by the FHWA Division Administrator, or, when necessary and appropriate, the FHWA Administrator.
Copies of the inspection report should be provided to the applicant and members of the inspection team.
As a general practice, FHWA should participate in the damage inspections. However, events with a large number of damage sites and multiple inspection teams in the field at one time may overextend FHWA staff resources.
If an FHWA representative cannot be present on each inspection, the FHWA inspection workload should be ordered by such priority considerations as project cost, scope of work, good agency record keeping and documentation, the jurisdiction whose sites are involved, and the general experience and capabilities of the inspection teams. In addition, other steps that occur during administration of an ER disaster, such as the preparation of a program of projects or final inspections that may be undertaken by the Division Office, afford the FHWA some opportunity to further assess eligibility issues.
In view of the ER eligibility issues involved, decisions concerning any site inspections that will not be attended by FHWA must be based on appropriate risk management principles.
- Windshield Inspections
Where appropriate, windshield surveys are used to expedite the ER application process. These reviews verify the extent and impact of damage during or immediately following a disaster and collect damage information to determine disaster eligibility for ER funding. Damage assessments are based on a windshield inspection at a sampling of sites as described below, but at least one eligible site must be visited in each county involved in the event.
The State transportation agency and Federal or State agencies with responsibility for highways under their jurisdiction will have advance information on the initial damage, road closures, and in some cases a very rough estimate of costs to restore facilities. As part of the more general disaster assessment, FHWA field engineers will be assigned to verify extent and severity of damage to highways and bridges.
In certain circumstances where time permits and the number of sites can be adequately sampled, ER assessments may coincide with assessments required by FEMA. Concurrence by FEMA should be obtained in advance.
- Scope of Review
An independent verification by FHWA is required. Depending on the time available, amount of damage, how widespread the damage is, and accessibility, FHWA field engineers must review as much of the identified or reported damage as possible. As noted above, at least one eligible site in each county recommended for ER funding should be verified. This verification will assure the Division Administrator that no jurisdiction will be promised funds where not eligible and that the most critical needs are approved at the earliest practical time. For an obvious situation, such as a massive bridge collapse, these conditions may be immediately met. For a marginal condition, many weeks of verification may be necessary. The Division Disaster Coordination Engineer should be responsible for prescribing to the FHWA field engineers the format and extent of information necessary to prepare the Damage Survey Summary Report and to support the Division's recommendations.
As a minimum, the Division's file should contain information on the extent of and methods used to evaluate the disaster and copies of the FHWA field engineer's assessments on damage and estimates of cost.
- Supplemental Information
Types and sources of other information and data that should be considered if available:
- Damage reports from other agencies supported by photographs or field verification by FHWA personnel
- Newspaper articles
- Photos, including aerial photos
- U.S. Weather Bureau data
- U.S. Geological Survey information
- Reports from others, e.g., flood control agencies, cities, public utilities, Corps of Engineers, etc.
- Interviews with local citizens
- Contact with FEMA where a Presidential declaration is involved.
Detailed damage inspections of sites are completed at a later date, likely after the Division Administrator has made a finding of eligibility for the event. These detailed damage inspections of sites at a later date aid in eligibility determinations and approval of a program of projects.
- Damage Assessments for Quick Release
Quick Release damage assessments are based on readily available information such as valid media reports or aerial surveys done by the State. Detailed damage site inspections are conducted at a later date, most likely after the Division Administrator has made a finding of eligibility for the event.
- Damage Survey Summary Report
The FHWA Division Office assists the State transportation agency in preparing a Damage Survey Summary Report based on the State's assessments. The Damage Survey Summary Report provides the Division Administrator with a basis to make a finding that the disaster is eligible for funding under the FHWA ER program.
The purpose of the Damage Survey Summary Report is to summarize the damage assessment and provide information and documentation for the FHWA Division Administrator to make a finding that a natural disaster or catastrophic failure has occurred within the intent of 23 U.S.C. 125. The report describes the general nature and extent of the resulting emergency situation and delineates the limits of serious damage to Federal-aid highway facilities. The sudden and unusual nature of the disaster should be documented and evidence of external cause should be included for a catastrophic failure.
A long-term problem, e.g., a very slow moving slide or subsidence or a slow lake rise, is considered outside the scope of a "disaster", since necessary work is more accurately categorized as preventive rather than repair. Serious damage for purposes of supporting a finding of ER eligibility is heavy, major, or unusual damage to the highway that severely impairs the safety or usefulness of the highway or results in road closure. Serious damage requires more than normal heavy maintenance to repair. Examples of serious damage include destroyed bridges, damaged bridges incapable of supporting traffic, loss of traffic control devices causing severe disruption, or major slides and slip-outs extending into the traveled way. Applications for ER funds in amounts less than $700,000 must include a statement explaining why the damage repair involved is beyond the scope of heavy maintenance or routine emergency repair. Generally, widespread nominal road damages in this range are not considered significant and therefore do not justify approval by the FHWA Division Administrator for ER funding.
- Damage Survey Summary Report Preparation/Content
The Damage Survey Summary Report should include:
- A description of the type and extent of damages and the estimated cost of restoration or reconstruction by Federal-aid routes for each county. In addition, the Division should provide the Federal share of the estimated cost of repair work and determine the amount of ER funds needed for repairs during the current FY.
- A description of the limits of the areas involved and the nature and characteristics of the disaster or catastrophe including the dates of occurrence. This information will differentiate between ordinary and extraordinary natural disturbances, except when the President has declared that a major disaster exists over the area involved.
- Photos showing the extent of serious damages sustained in the areas being recommended. At least one photo showing eligible damage should be included for each affected county.
- Damage Survey Summary Report Submission
The Damage Survey Summary Report and supporting documents shall be submitted to FHWA Division Office.
- Summary of Other Required Documents
If not previously submitted, the following documents must accompany the Damage Survey Summary Report:
- Governor's Proclamation, or a copy of the Governor's official request for a Presidential disaster declaration
- A copy of the State's written request for ER funds
Formal preparation of a Damage Survey Summary Report is not required when requesting ER funds using Method 2 - Quick Release, as described in Chapter III. For the purposes of the ER application, the State requests ER funding based on their preliminary assessment of the extent of damage via a brief letter to the FHWA Division Office. No Damage Survey Summary Report is prepared to accompany the ER application. The Division Administrator will then make a determination of eligibility of the disaster for ER funding. However, the Division Office should coordinate with the FHWA Headquarters ER Program Manager prior to the eligibility determination. Refer to the topic Quick Release under Chapter III. An abbreviated Damage Survey Summary Report should be prepared and submitted to the FHWA Division Office upon completion of a sufficient number of detailed damage inspections to demonstrate that an eligible disaster event has occurred. A Damage Survey Summary Report is still needed to meet the requirements of preparing a program of projects for final approval by the Division Administrator.
Office of Program Administration