Earthquake Recovery:

Staffing and Other Improvements Made Following Loma Prieta Earthquake

RCED-92-141: Published: Jul 30, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) assistance efforts following the Loma Prieta earthquake in California in October 1989.

GAO found that: (1) FEMA regulations set 18 months as the period in which Public Assistance Program projects are to be completed, but 2 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake, a number of projects had not been completed; (2) FEMA and local jurisdictions had numerous disputes over the scope and cost of eligible repairs; and (3) disputes and delays were due to lack of final regulations and specific guidance from FEMA on eligibility requirements, hazard mitigation measures, and historic building restoration. GAO also found that: (1) FEMA uses temporary staff for most of its relief work, relying on FEMA permanent staff detailees, a pool of its own reservists, Army Corps of Engineers staff, and technical assistance contractors; (2) FEMA reliance on temporary staffing led to disputes and inefficiencies because of the high turnover in temporary staff and insufficient permanent personnel to train and supervise temporary staff; (3) FEMA has increased trained staff availability by increasing its permanent staff, increasing contractor professionals and hours, and obtaining engineers from the Tennessee Valley Authority; and (4) procedural problems also caused disputes, delays, and inefficiencies.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FEMA asserts that no action need be taken on this recommendation because the regulations are deemed to be sufficiently clear. The issue is not likely to arise again until there is another major earthquake in a populated area.

    Recommendation: To help avoid differing interpretations of FEMA regulations and to expedite the provision of federal disaster assistance in future earthquakes, the Director, FEMA, should clarify the agency's regulations to better specify whether and under what conditions FEMA will pay more than the replacement cost to restore historic structures.

    Agency Affected: Federal Emergency Management Agency


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