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Disaster Assistance

Reporting Your Damages

The importance of the initial local assessment of damages cannot be over emphasized. This process is essential in determining:
  • What happened and how it has affected individuals and communities.
  • How residential, business and infrastructure property has been affected.
  • Which areas were hardest hit.
  • Which situations must be given response priority.
  • What types of assistance are needed (e.g., local, state, or federal).
Accurate and timely damage reporting is crucial to successfully requesting and receiving federal assistance in the form of either low-interest loans or grants to help Pennsylvania’s citizens, businesses and infrastructure recover from a disaster. The recovery process begins with the identification of damages at the local level and the expeditious reporting of those damages within the emergency management channels:
  • Individuals and businesses report property damages to the community’s Emergency Management Coordinator.
  • Elected Officials report municipal property and infrastructure damages to the community’s Emergency Management Coordinator.
  • Community Emergency Management Coordinators report damages to residential, business and municipal property and infrastructure within their community to the County Emergency Management Coordinator.
  • County Emergency Management Coordinators report overall damages to residential, business and municipal property and infrastructure within their county to PEMA using the Initial Damage Reporter function of the automated Pennsylvania Emergency Information Reporting System (PEIRS).

PEMA analyzes the damage information it receives from the county(s) to determine if the event warrants requesting assistance from either FEMA or the SBA.

Emergency Management Coordinators/Elected Officials can use the following links to access forms and information to assess and document damages within their community or county:

What Next
Types of Assistance Available to Pennsylvanians


The SBA Declaration with low interest loans has a damage threshold of:
  • A minimum of effected 25 homes and/or businesses with
  • At least 40% uninsured damage.

After an event a local damage survey is conducted by PEMA, the affected county and community to determine if the damages will reach the SBA thresholds. If these thresholds are attained, an official SBA damage survey is then conducted by PEMA, SBA, county, municipality. The SBA will make its determination for or against a declaration based on the damage survey. An SBA disaster declaration will make low-interest loans available for those who qualify financially.


A presidential disaster declaration results in FEMA grants being available for residential property owners and renters and community infrastructure repair.

If the results of the community and county damage reports demonstrate that the event has produced wide spread, severe damages a Joint Damage Assessment in the affected areas by PEMA (and other state agencies), FEMA, SBA, county, and municipal officials. The assessment will be conducted by separate teams:

  • A team that assess residential and business damages
  • A team that assess damages to community infrastructure

An event that produces a much higher severity of damages will likely result in a request for a Joint PDA, so named because it is jointly conducted by PEMA (and other state agencies), FEMA, SBA, county, and municipality. A Joint PDA can be requested for either Individual Assistance (IA), which includes SBA, or Public Assistance (PA), or both depending on the type of property that is damaged. Individual Assistance damages are those sustained by private entities: individuals (homeowners and renters) and businesses. No set threshold exists for an IA declaration, but the overall impact of a disaster on the affected communities plays a large role in consideration of a Presidential IA disaster declaration. Public Assistance damages are those sustained by public entities: state, county, municipality, hospitals, schools. Each county must meet a per capita threshold, which is the 2010 census population multiplied by $3.27; the threshold varies for each county. In addition to meeting a county threshold, the Commonwealth must meet a statewide threshold of $16.5 million, which is the 2010 census population multiplied by $1.30. The county and Commonwealth thresholds must be attained simultaneously for a Presidential PA disaster declaration to be issued.

If the high level of damages reported is verified by the Joint PDA, the Governor will ask the President of the United States to declare a disaster for the affected area. It is at this point that assistance is made available in the form of grants and low-interest loans.