Author | Joseph Gross
With every natural disaster, no matter how big or small, there is going to be some level of debris. The removal of debris is usually one of the very first steps on the road to recovery. Clearing debris aids in the access for emergency vehicles, protects public health and safety, and disposes of the visual reminder of the devastation your community just went through.
Though it is pertinent to make sure the debris does get removed in a timely manner, it is imperative to ensure that it is done in an efficient and effective manner. Due to the timing of debris removal operations almost immediately following an event, it can be chaotic and hectic. But it doesn’t have to be.
A properly put together and followed debris management plan can literally be the difference in millions of dollars. Over the years I have seen some recurring mistakes by communities during their debris removal operations. Many of these are easily rectifiable. The five most common gaffes seen in no particular order are:
- Not utilizing debris monitors
- Underestimating type and quantity of documentation
- Not taking advantage of Section 428 and/or other potential pilot programs to reduce local share
- Inefficient or lack of pre-planning
- Lack of institutional knowledge and inefficient training
Over the following weeks, we will provide some insight and helpful tips on how to avoid these costly mistakes. Hopefully, these simple corrective actions can help not only save dollars but be able to retain dollars following closeout and audits of debris operations. You may also notice that all of these are not mutually exclusive and intertwine with each other.
Debris operation can be a very costly undertaking, and if not performed and documented properly, can become a huge financial burden. Many communities begin their debris removal operations before a disaster declaration can be finalized, which is completely understandable. In the case that, at some point, your disaster does get declared, FEMA* has very specific rules and eligibility requirements when it comes to debris removal. To get reimbursed, you better make sure you follow them.
*It is important to note that MAP-21 dated 7/17/12 removed debris removal for major disasters declared under the Stafford Act from FHWA’s ER program.
THE FIRST TWO TIPS FOR MAXIMIZING REIMBURSABLE COSTS DURING DEBRIS OPERATIONS
Tip 1: USE DEBRIS MONITORS
I can’t stress this enough. Many times in the aftermath of a disaster, communities try to get the debris removed as quickly as they can. They utilize their own labor and equipment and/or hire companies to haul away the debris. But in this hustle, the reimbursable element of the operation is forgotten or not performed correctly.
Debris monitors can be either a private contractor or in-house, force account labor. Debris monitor’s responsibilities are vast and crucial to operation. Some activities include:
- Observes and documents debris operations
- Ensure conformity of FEMA guidelines and directions of the applicant
- Confirms eligible debris at eligible location
- Collects required removal documentation in the form of a load ticket and pictures
- Controlling site safety and maintenance of traffic operations are being performed
By utilizing debris monitors, you essentially ensure that all FEMA eligibility and documentation requirements are met while also keeping a safe working environment for not only the workers but the general public as well.
Tip 2: USE TEMPORARY EMPLOYEES
If you do utilize force account labor for debris monitors, it is highly advisable to use temporary employees, seasonal employees outside of their normal season of employment, or permanent employees funded from an external source. When it comes to getting reimbursed for disaster debris operation related time, these types of employees are eligible for reimbursement for both regular AND overtime under a typical Category A FEMA Project Worksheet. For regular employees, only overtime would be reimbursable.
*** Make sure to check back soon for part 2 of 5 of Maximizing reimbursable costs while minimizing local cost in debris operations: Underestimating type and quantity of documentation.
If you are looking for ways to enhance your debris removal operations, maximize your recovery while minimizing your costs, or need assistance creating a FEMA approved debris management plan, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.