General Information


Depending on your circumstances and the nature of the disaster, your first important decision is whether to stay or evacuate. Understand and plan for both possibilities. Use common sense and available information, including what you learn here, to determine if there is immediate danger.

Look for Updated News

In any emergency, local authorities may or may not immediately be able to provide information on what is happening and what you should do. However, you should monitor TV or radio news reports for information or official instructions as they become available. If you're specifically told to evacuate or seek medical treatment, do so immediately.

When a disaster strikes, local, state, and federal agencies all play a role in assisting the public. The role each will play depends on the type and severity of the disaster. Ready citizens who have a kit, a communications plan, and who are trained will be able to assist if needed.

The Major Disaster Process

A major disaster declaration usually follows these steps:
  1. Response by local government - Response is supplemented by neighboring communities and volunteer agencies like the Red Cross. If overwhelmed, local governments turn to the state for help.
  2. The state responds - State resources are mobilized, such as the National Guard and state agencies.
  3. Damage assessment - Conducted by local, state, federal, and volunteer organizations, a damage assessment determines losses and recovery needs.
  4. Major disaster declaration - Requested by the governor, this declaration is based on the damage assessment and asks FEMA and the president for an agreement to commit state funds and resources to long-term recovery.
  5. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - FEMA evaluates the request and recommends action to the White House based on the disaster, the community, and the state's ability to recover.
  6. The president - Either the president approves the request or FEMA reports that it has been denied. This process could take a few hours or several weeks, depending on the nature of the disaster.

For More Information

For more information about government response during emergencies, contact the Emergency Management Division at (203) 854-0238.