Disaster Assistance: Response to West Virginia's November 1985 Flood Shows Need for Improvements

RCED-88-5 Published: Feb 04, 1988. Publicly Released: Mar 07, 1988.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the November 1985 West Virginia flood, focusing on: (1) state and local disaster planning and preparedness; (2) the effectiveness of existing warning systems and planned improvements; (3) the federal government's responsiveness to victims' needs; and (4) the type and amount of assistance the government provided to flood victims.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA should, in conjunction with the states, determine whether intrastate regional emergency operations planning is feasible and potentially more cost-effective than the current method of having each county develop its own plan.
Closed – Implemented
FEMA has concluded, based on a review of past experience, that regional planning is much less preferable to county-by-county planning. FEMA, however, is willing to assist any group, including regional bodies, that seek disaster planning assistance.
National Weather Service NWS should develop alternatives for maintaining IFLOWS equipment if some counties are unable to fund maintenance costs. Alternatives could include cost sharing by NWS, the state, or the county.
Closed – Implemented
NWS has provided new IFLOWS-related equipment that requires less maintenance to the counties. NWS has provided the state with funds to train county staff in IFLOWS equipment maintenance. The West Virginia legislature was asked to support county maintenance costs but has not done so to date.
Federal Emergency Management Agency The Director, FEMA, should pursue development of standards for how long the public assistance application process should take to better enable FEMA to identify opportunities to expedite the process.
Closed – Implemented
FEMA issued final regulations on January 23, 1990, that established time standards for the public assistance application process. These include 45 days for grant approval or rejection after the damage inspection is completed, 6 months for completing emergency public assistance projects, and 18 months for completing permanent public assistance projects. Deadlines can be extended, if justified.

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