Declaring Disaster Researching the Politics of Presidential by patrickoquinn


									  Researching Presidential Declarations of
      Major Disaster and Emergency

 By Prof. Rick Sylves

 Dept. of Political Science & IR

 University of Delaware

Are you someone who would look a
     gift horse in the mouth?

 The Presidential Disaster Declaration web
  site is a gift to you from the Public Entity
               Risk Institute (PERI)
 Is it free? Yes. PERI paid for it.

 Will I be spammed if I use it? No.

 Does it display advertising or feature pop
  ups? No to both.
 Is this a corporate venture luring you to
  buy products and services? No. PERI is a
  non-profit public interest organization.
 Is it difficult to use? Absolutely not.

 PERI   Presidential Disaster Declaration

 Where does the site reside and is it virus
 protected? The site was created by Prof. Rick
 Sylves and Dr. David Racca of University of
 Delaware (UD) with PERI funding. The site is
 owned by PERI but is located at UD’s Center
 for Demographic and Survey Research, and it
 features Norton anti-virus protection.
Why build a web site on presidential disaster
 declarations when DHS-FEMA already has

    Answer: Because FEMA’s site lacks
important sets of data, especially about pre-
             1997 declarations
    FEMA’s site allows users to search major
     disasters and emergencies by declaration
    FEMA’s site displays declaration numbers from
     major dec DR#1 through DR#1705 (as of 4 June
     2007) by year, but older pre-2001 declaration
     info is not well maintained.
    For older declarations and inactive ones FEMA
     often puts users in a dead end loop devoid of
     Things FEMA’s site does
         extremely well
 Good  links to application information and
  FEMA press releases about the
 Allows Hispanic users to access the site
  and read information displayed in Spanish.

      Things FEMA’s site does
          extremely well
 Great up to date information on active disaster
  declarations, but it does not open to the public
  cost information on active disasters.
 Wonderful GIS map projections of counties
  included in specific declarations and color coded
  by FEMA program(s) open to applicants in these

         Benefits of PERI’s site
 allows users to search declared major disasters
  and emergencies by state and/or county rather
  than by declaration number.
 PERI’s site includes major declarations from
  DR#1 (May 1953) to DR#1665 (Oct 2006).
 PERI’s site includes total FEMA (or pre-FEMA
  agency) cost information on each declaration.
  Costs are as of July 31, 2006 and Katrina
  declaration costs are included.
         FEMA’s site vs. PERI’s site

   FEMA’s site uses declaration numbers as the main path
    of search for major disasters and emergencies.
   PERI’s site allows users to search declarations of major
    disaster and emergency by clicking on states and or
    specific counties displayed on a GIS map, or users can
    click on pull down menu’s of the states, and from any
    specific state they can pull down menu’s of each state’s
    counties (or county equivalents). U.S. Trust and
    Commonwealth Territories are included.

Map projection with
Zoom in and Zoom out,
User may click on specific
County to produce county
Disaster dec table.

      FEMA’s site vs. PERI’s site
 PERI’s site allows search and table making of
  Major Disasters and Emergencies declared by
  Presidents from Eisenhower (5/1953) through
  G.W. Bush (12/ 2006), FEMA stops at 1997.
 PERI’s site furnishes presidential turndowns of
  governor requested declarations of major
  disaster and emergency with requesting
  Governor name and rejecting President name,
  with dates and nature of event. FEMA’s site does
  not supply users with turndown information.
             PERI’s web site

 Provides links to useful sites for disaster
  information and emergency management.
 Supplies users with a key code that
  explains all variables used in the site.

             PERI’s web site
 Provides  users with info about the
  presidential disaster declaration process.
 Begin and end dates of declarations.
 Nature of primary incident through 3
  variables, single letter code, primary
  incident (e.g. flood, tornado, earthquake),
  and 60 letter descriptor variable (named
  hurricanes with secondary impacts

   More on
 Site includes total statewide FEMA
  spending, all categories, adjusted to 2006
  constant dollars for each declaration.
 Costs are as of July 31, 2006, and so
  active declarations may have newer totals
  than those depicted in the site.

              PERI’s web site
The data compiled and used in this site came from
  U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency
  (FEMA) records provided to Sylves in 1994,
  1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2006.
Much of the information made available here is not
  available on current Department of Homeland
  Security FEMA web sites.
Presidential turn downs of governor requests are
  only available on the PERI site.

Presidential Turndowns of Governor Requests for Declarations
 of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests
               over Presidential Administration

               Chart 1: Percentage Presidential Turndowns of Governor Requests for Major Disasters and
                                   Emergencies by President, May 1953 to Dec. 2001











                                      Eisenhow                                                    GWH
                                               Kennedy Johnson   Nixon   Ford   Carter   Reagan          Clinton   GW Bush
                                          er                                                      Bush
    Major Disaster Turndown %           34       30      35       34     32      45        34      21      21        20
    Emergency Turndown %                 0       0        0       94     23      39        64      60      16        25
    Combined Turndown % (Majors &       34       30      35       37     30      43        37      22      21        21

                                                 George W. Bush Administration
                                                January 2001 - December 31, 2003
                                             Disaster Declarations by Year and Type



Number of Declarations




                                                 2001                 2002            2003
                         Other                                                         2
                         Terrorism Attack         2
                         Fire                                          2               2
                         Earthquake               2                    2
                         Snow                     1                    6               8
                         Severe Storms            14                   19              20
                         Typhoon                                       6               2
                         Hurricane                                     1               7
                         Tornado                  3                    1               12

                         Flood & Tornado*         4                    9               2
                         Flood                    15                   3               1
        Why did we do this?
 We realized that it is usually difficult for
  emergency managers and the public to
  track down information about presidential
  disaster declarations covering their state
  and county
 We realized most people, perhaps even
  many emergency managers, would be
  surprised to know how often their state
  and respective counties have experienced
  disasters and emergencies serious enough
  to warrant a presidential declaration.

        Why did we do this?
 A great many Dept of Homeland Security
  grant programs require state and local
  officials to supply information about their
  disaster history, and the PERI site offers
  FEMA’s own historical data on declarations
  back to May 1953.
 We were shocked that no state emergency
  management agency offers a link to their
  presidential disaster declaration history,
  only info about recent declarations still

        Why did we do this?
 We wanted to offer the nation’s 3500
  counties a chance to display their
  individual disaster declarations histories
  from 1953-2006.
 Our aim was to make all of this
  information easily available to the public
  such that any 12 year-old in the U.S.
  could in three key strokes produce a
  declaration history of her state and county
  for a class project.
        Why did we do this?
 We wanted to advance disaster mitigation
  education in the U.S. by supplying
  Americans with a 57 year historical record
  of state and county disaster and
  emergency experience involving federal
 We wanted to provide disaster researchers
  with a reliable data set compiled from
  solid documented federal records, and
  which included federal disaster relief

          Why did I do this?
 Finally, for purely selfish reasons, I got
  tired of people asking me for this data
  when I was not able to provide it to
  requesters in a useable format.
 Now I can finally say thank you to the
  wonderful people of PERI and to my
  colleagues who helped me stand up the
  site at University of Delaware.
 I can finally tell people to leave me the
  hell alone!


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