New Castle News

Closer Look

May 4, 2013

Are we ready? After a disaster, everyone pays

NEW CASTLE — When disaster strikes, everyone pays.

That summation was given by Lawrence County officials and local emergency responders who have been involved in storms, flooding and other disasters.

“We all pay,” county administrator Jim Gagliano said. “It all comes from taxpayer dollars.”

Who bears the cost for response and cleanup is determined by whether a disaster is caused by man or is natural, and whether the community — and ultimately the state and federal government — declare an emergency.

In the event of a man-caused incident, such as a bombing or widespread fire, the person found to be responsible more than likely will be required to make restitution.

DECLARE EMERGENCY

In the event of a natural disaster, such as a tornado or flood, a community can become eligible for federal reimbursement by declaring a state of emergency.

“That opens the door for funding,” Gagliano said, but is not a guarantee.

Initially, the municipal officials will decide whether to declare an emergency, then they will approach the county commissioners to do so, too, he explained. “That supersedes the need for them to advertise for bids to hire companies to get the (cleanup) work done.”

The only time federal dollars come through in a disaster is if the area is declared a disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the destruction is large enough to meet national thresholds, explained Brian Melcer, the county public safety director.

The only post-disaster funds available are federal, which go through the Federal and Pennsylvania emergency management agencies, he said.

According to the website www.readypa.org, FEMA primarily considers structures that are destroyed or have major damage, with a target of 100 to 200 homes per county.

Otherwise, the county or local communities foot the bill, along with help from local service agencies such as the Red Cross, Pennsylvania’s departments of public welfare or transportation, Gagliano said.

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