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Researching Presidential Declarations of Major Disaster and Emergency. By Prof. Rick Sylves ( [email protected] ) www.peripresdecusa.org Dept. of Political Science & IR University of Delaware. Are you someone who would look a gift horse in the mouth?.

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Researching Presidential Declarations of Major Disaster and Emergency

  • By Prof. Rick Sylves ([email protected])

  • www.peripresdecusa.org

  • Dept. of Political Science & IR

  • University of Delaware



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The Presidential Disaster Declaration web site is a gift to you from the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI)

  • Is it free? Yes. PERI paid for it.

  • Will I be spammed if I use it? No.

  • Does it display advertising or feature pop ups? No to both.

  • Is this a corporate venture luring you to buy products and services? No. PERI is a non-profit public interest organization.

  • Is it difficult to use? Absolutely not.


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PERI Presidential Disaster Declaration Site you from the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI)www.peripresdecusa.org/

Where does the site reside and is it virus protected? The site was created by Prof. Rick Sylves and Dr. David Racca of University of Delaware (UD) with PERI funding. The site is owned by PERI but is located at UD’s Center for Demographic and Survey Research, and it features Norton anti-virus protection.



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Answer: Because FEMA’s site lacks important sets of data, especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • http://www.fema.gov/news/disasters.fema

  • FEMA’s site allows users to search major disasters and emergencies by declaration number.

  • FEMA’s site displays declaration numbers from major dec DR#1 through DR#1705 (as of 4 June 2007) by year, but older pre-2001 declaration info is not well maintained.

  • For older declarations and inactive ones FEMA often puts users in a dead end loop devoid of information.


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Things FEMA’s site does extremely well especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • Good links to application information and FEMA press releases about the declaration.

  • Allows Hispanic users to access the site and read information displayed in Spanish.


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Things FEMA’s site does extremely well especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • Great up to date information on active disaster declarations, but it does not open to the public cost information on active disasters.

  • Wonderful GIS map projections of counties included in specific declarations and color coded by FEMA program(s) open to applicants in these counties.


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Benefits of PERI’s site especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • http://www.peripresdecusa.org

  • allows users to search declared major disasters and emergencies by state and/or county rather than by declaration number.

  • PERI’s site includes major declarations from DR#1 (May 1953) to DR#1665 (Oct 2006).

  • PERI’s site includes total FEMA (or pre-FEMA agency) cost information on each declaration. Costs are as of July 31, 2006 and Katrina declaration costs are included.


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FEMA’s site vs. PERI’s site especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • FEMA’s site uses declaration numbers as the main path of search for major disasters and emergencies.

  • PERI’s site allows users to search declarations of major disaster and emergency by clicking on states and or specific counties displayed on a GIS map, or users can click on pull down menu’s of the states, and from any specific state they can pull down menu’s of each state’s counties (or county equivalents). U.S. Trust and Commonwealth Territories are included.


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Map projection with especially about pre-1997 declarations

Zoom in and Zoom out,

User may click on specific

County to produce county

Disaster dec table.


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FEMA’s site vs. PERI’s site especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • PERI’s site allows search and table making of Major Disasters and Emergencies declared by Presidents from Eisenhower (5/1953) through G.W. Bush (12/ 2006), FEMA stops at 1997.

  • PERI’s site furnishes presidential turndowns of governor requested declarations of major disaster and emergency with requesting Governor name and rejecting President name, with dates and nature of event. FEMA’s site does not supply users with turndown information.


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PERI’s web site especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • Provides links to useful sites for disaster information and emergency management.

  • Supplies users with a key code that explains all variables used in the site.


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PERI’s web site especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • Provides users with info about the presidential disaster declaration process.

  • Begin and end dates of declarations.

  • Nature of primary incident through 3 variables, single letter code, primary incident (e.g. flood, tornado, earthquake), and 60 letter descriptor variable (named hurricanes with secondary impacts described.)


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More on peripresdecusa.org especially about pre-1997 declarations

  • Site includes total statewide FEMA spending, all categories, adjusted to 2006 constant dollars for each declaration.

  • Costs are as of July 31, 2006, and so active declarations may have newer totals than those depicted in the site.


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PERI’s web site especially about pre-1997 declarations

The data compiled and used in this site came from U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) records provided to Sylves in 1994, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2006.

Much of the information made available here is not available on current Department of Homeland Security FEMA web sites.

Presidential turn downs of governor requests are only available on the PERI site.


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Presidential Turndowns of Governor Requests for Declarations of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests over Presidential Administration


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Why did we do this? of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests over Presidential Administration

  • We realized that it is usually difficult for emergency managers and the public to track down information about presidential disaster declarations covering their state and county

  • We realized most people, perhaps even many emergency managers, would be surprised to know how often their state and respective counties have experienced disasters and emergencies serious enough to warrant a presidential declaration.


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Why did we do this? of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests over Presidential Administration

  • A great many Dept of Homeland Security grant programs require state and local officials to supply information about their disaster history, and the PERI site offers FEMA’s own historical data on declarations back to May 1953.

  • We were shocked that no state emergency management agency offers a link to their presidential disaster declaration history, only info about recent declarations still active.


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Why did we do this? of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests over Presidential Administration

  • We wanted to offer the nation’s 3500 counties a chance to display their individual disaster declarations histories from 1953-2006.

  • Our aim was to make all of this information easily available to the public such that any 12 year-old in the U.S. could in three key strokes produce a declaration history of her state and county for a class project.


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Why did we do this? of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests over Presidential Administration

  • We wanted to advance disaster mitigation education in the U.S. by supplying Americans with a 57 year historical record of state and county disaster and emergency experience involving federal assistance.

  • We wanted to provide disaster researchers with a reliable data set compiled from solid documented federal records, and which included federal disaster relief payouts.


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Why did I do this? of Major Disaster or Emergency as Percent of Total Requests over Presidential Administration

  • Finally, for purely selfish reasons, I got tired of people asking me for this data when I was not able to provide it to requesters in a useable format.

  • Now I can finally say thank you to the wonderful people of PERI and to my colleagues who helped me stand up the site at University of Delaware.

  • I can finally tell people to leave me the hell alone!


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