States Can Be Better Prepared To Respond to Disasters

CED-80-60: Published: Mar 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 1980.

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After a major disaster occurred in Massachusetts, GAO was asked to evaluate how well that State was prepared to respond to the disaster. It was also asked to review the preparedness in six other states with regard to the development of implementing procedures for use by state agencies in carrying out tasks assigned under the state emergency plans.

Massachusetts agencies incurred problems in implementing tasks assigned under the State emergency plan because procedures had not been developed to show how the tasks were to be performed. The review of the plans for six other states revealed that the plans assigned various functions to state agencies and also assigned specific tasks to be performed by each state agency. A majority of state agencies had not developed standard operating procedures for their assigned tasks or had developed documents which did not provide detailed procedures to allow agencies to fulfill their responsibilities adequately. The only individual assistance program which had detailed procedures in each State was the individual and family grant program which provides federal and state shared grants to individuals or families with disaster-related expenses or serious needs. Emergency preparedness agencies in these states were unable to require other state agencies to develop operating procedures for their disaster tasks. In four states, emergency preparedness agencies provided little encouragement to state agencies to develop such procedures. In five states, officials believed that local emergency plans needed to be revised to conform with the state emergency plan. In the sixth state, local plans were reviewed and found to be in conformance with the state plan. No state established disaster training programs with standards for liaisons or for other state agency personnel.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should set minimum standards for disaster-type training of state and local personnel and incorporate both disaster training and civil defense training into a single program for emergency preparedness officials. The Director should also request that each governor require the state civil preparedness agency and other state agencies to develop standard operating procedures for their disaster functions and training programs for state and local personnel in accordance with FEMA guidance and require or request local communities to develop or revise their emergency plans to make them compatible with the state emergency plan. For state-operated programs or functions it funds, FEAM should require the states to develop standard operating procedures and obtain FEMA approval of the procedures before participating in the programs.

    Agency Affected:


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