Preliminary Damage Assessments

The Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) is an essential element of the response and recovery process. A PDA is a joint assessment between FEMA, GOHSEP and the Parish. Completed for both FEMA Public Assistance (PA) and Individual Assistance (IA).  IA PDAs also include U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) PDA. 

What it does

The PDA documents the impact and magnitude of a disaster on individuals, families, businesses and public infrastructure.

Why are they important?

While there are many factors considered in the Governor’s request to the President for an emergency or disaster declaration, damage assessments form the basis of the Governor’s decision to make that request and are a powerful influence on the President to grant the request.
Further, the PDA is also the basis for determining the cost share for awarded grants. The cost share is the portion of a project cost paid for by FEMA and the portion that is the responsibility of the Subrecipient (Applicant). Typically, the cost share is 75 percent paid by FEMA and 25 percent the responsibility of the Subrecipient (Applicant). However, the cost share could be 90/10 or even 100/0 IF damages warrant.

Because FEMA recommends to the President that a declaration be granted only if minimum damage indicators are met AND because cost share is determined by the amount of damages, including economic impact of a disaster, it is critical to understand the process and get it right. Parish Offices of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP) and their directors play an important role in the PDA process. Typically, the Parish conducts an initial damage assessment to determine the level of damage prior to requesting a formal PDA with FEMA. 

What is included

All eligible damages for public facilities for all PA work categories should be included in the PDA. The State utilizes damages reported by each Parish to meet the State indicator – even when a Parish does not meet its own indicator for participation in the declaration. Time is critical. Regulations require the Governor to request a Presidential declaration within 30 days from the last incident.

Individual Assistance (IA) Declaration

Like the FEMA PA declaration process, FEMA requires that each Parish to qualify on its own for an IA declaration. FEMA has not publicized the number of damaged homes it considers sufficient to meet the indicator for an IA declaration. We do know that FEMA considers the number of uninsured homes that experience major damage and/or are destroyed when determining whether to recommend an IA declaration. Severity, magnitude and impact of the disaster are used to evaluate the need for IA.

Following are some of the factors that generally indicate a greater need for assistance:

  • Number of damaged and/or destroyed homes.
  • Concentration of damages.
  • Large number of deaths or injuries.
  • Large-scale disruption of normal community functions and services.
  • Emergency needs such as extended or widespread loss of power or water.
  • Special populations – such as low-income, elderly, unemployed, Native American, under-served populations and/or those that are physically challenged.
  • Availability of voluntary agency assistance and local or State programs that can meet the needs of disaster victims.
  • Available insurance proceeds.
  • Average amount of individual assistance by State.

Public Assistance (PA) Declaration

The process to obtain a PA declaration is more objective. The PA declaration process considers impacts to public services infrastructure.
Damage to all infrastructure owned by local government entities and that are owned by certain PNPs – those that provide critical and essential governmental-type services are eligible for funding under the FEMA PA program to restore and repair those facilities when a declaration is made.

A major milestone in determining if the President will provide for PA funding in the declaration is whether the Parish has reached its monetary damage indicator published by FEMA. Annually, FEMA publishes a per capita dollar amount that is multiplied by the number of residents living in each Parish and the State using the latest U.S. Census data.

A two (2) prong test must be met:

  • Each Parish must meet its level of damages or “damage indicator” to qualify to be included in the declaration.
  • The State as a whole must meet a damage indicator of $6.3 million (as of Federal FY 2015)

FEMA regulations require a cost share. The amount of damages determines the cost share.

Louisiana Disaster Damage Indicators for FEMA PA + Cost Share

Potential FEMA PA + IA Applicants

  • Take an inventory of all property;   pictures are important.
  • Update all maintenance records.
  • Assemble all insurance policies.
  • Store inventory records in a safe place   where they will not be destroyed by an event.
  • Assign qualified personnel to assess   damages and costs following an event.
  • Understand the process for sending damage   information to the Parish    OHSEP Director.

Parish OHSEP Director

  • Build/maintain a list of potential FEMA   PA Applicants.
  • Educate potential Applicants on the PDA   process.
  • Understand the FEMA process categorizing damaged   homes (affected, minor, major, destroyed) and what is needed to document   damage to public facilities and qualified private nonprofits (PNPs).

Potential FEMA PA + IA Applicants

  • Conduct a complete, accurate assessment   of damages and costs.
  • Damages are identified   by location and type.
  • All eligible expenses are included in all FEMA PA   categories (A – G).
  • Report assessment to the   Parish OHSEP Director.
  • Prepare to receive FEMA/State PDA Team   and show damages.

Parish OHSEP Director

  • Assess Parish wide damage.
  • Conduct an initial damage assessment.
  • Reach out to all potential FEMA PA and IA Applicants who have not reported damages and ensure all damages are captured.
  • Compile spreadsheet including address, level of damage, insurance information of homes/businesses   reporting damage and other data that might result in a favorable   declaration decision.
  • Make accurate and credible reports to GOHSEP and Parish leadership, careful to manage   expectations.
  • If appropriate, request – through WebEOC – a PDA.
  • Prepare for the arrival of the   FEMA/State PDA Team by packaging all damage information for easy use by   the Team.
  • Escort PDA Team to damaged areas.

75/25 percent cost share

  • State declaration indicator:
    • $1.37 per capita.
    • $6,210,720 total damages to public facilities.
  • Parish declaration indicator:
    • $3.45 per capita.
    • Total damages to public facilities will vary by Parish.

90/10 percent cost share

  • State declaration indicator:
    • $131 per capita.
    • $593,871,732 in total damage


Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness
7667 Independence Blvd.
Baton Rouge, LA 70806
(225) 925-7500

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Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness
Governor's Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness