Tornadoes, Fires, Hurricanes and More- How US Government Agencies Help Communities Prepare For Disasters

Environmental Sep 07, 2021

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, we have another reminder that disaster preparedness is critical. US government agencies do the following to help communities prepare for natural disasters such as tornadoes, fires, and hurricanes that threaten the safety and livelihoods of our communities. BidPrime puts those who can provide assistance in touch with requests originating from state, local, and federal agencies.

Training and Technical Assistance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for overseeing federal preparedness and response efforts for natural disasters. Although more famous for its disaster response team, prevention and preparedness is a crucial part of FEMA’s mission.

FEMA has a long list of training resources available for communities, and regularly partners with local and state governments to help them devise disaster preparedness plans. Among other areas, they consult and provide technical expertise and resources for:

    ● Wildfires

    ● Hurricanes

    ● Power Outages

    ● Flooding

    ● Drought

    ● Extreme Heat

    ● Thunderstorms and Lighting

Sample Active Bids/RFPs

Disaster Preparedness

Business Continuity




Flood Insurance and Regulations

The United States government provides federally subsidized flood insurance to people living in areas affected by floods. This helps mitigate the impact from flooding disasters, but also requires communities to meet certain flood mitigation standards overseen by FEMA in order to receive coverage. These regulations include:

    ● Mandatory regulations and review by municipalities regarding land use in floodplains with a 1% or greater chance of flooding each year (1 in a 100 year floodplains)

    ● Limits on construction in those floodplains that will increase the impact of flooding on nearby property owners

    ● Minimum requirements for elevating newly built structures above the water level from a 1 in a 100 year flood

    ● Minimum requirements for flood proofing structures and basement construction

Photo by Brianna Santellan

Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention

The United States Forest Service is responsible for the maintenance of our national forests, which cover large stretches of the country, particularly in the West. They are also the primary federal agency in charge of firefighting and prevention, responding to thousands of wildfires each year.

Well-known for its mid-twentieth century Smokey the Bear campaigns that implored campers that, “Only you can stop forest fires”, the Forest Service has pivoted in recent decades to forest management and fire mitigation. Recognizing that a certain degree of natural fire activity is important for both the health of an ecosystem and preventing the excess buildup of undergrowth which can cause dangerous, out-of-control fires, the Forest Service has introduced the use of periodic, controlled burns. Where it has been possible to implement this tactic, it has been effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of uncontrolled wildfires.

State and Local Government Role

Just like the federal government, states and local governments have an important role to play in preparing for natural disasters. This is for two main reasons:

They are the first responders when a natural disaster occurs and with intimate knowledge of the affected area, must advise and coordinate with the federal government in relief efforts.

They are responsible for zoning and land use, which are crucial in preparing communities for disasters such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.

Local governments are often most involved in providing immediate shelter for people who need it following a heat wave, cold snap, floods or other events that damage or disable primary residences. It is important that these communities prepare ahead of time and make sure they have a plan in place for these events.

When Disaster Strikes

Despite the best efforts of local, state, and federal leaders, natural disasters routinely cause immense damage and suffering, often devastating large swaths of the country in days. In these cases, the focus shifts from preparation to response.

State and local governments generally have the power to declare a state of emergency in the case of natural disasters. This declaration empowers them to utilize the resources and power of the government to take extraordinary efforts to protect the safety and property of people in the affected areas- from mandatory evacuations, to search and rescue operations, to combatting the disaster directly, to providing both short and long-term aid to affected residents.

The key to escalation of a disaster declaration is determined by 1) how widespread the disaster is 2) its severity and 3) the capability for lower levels of government to handle the disaster.

Federal Emergency Response

Often, a disaster becomes so critical that it outstrips the resources of state governments. That is why Congress created FEMA. Most federal disaster declarations start with the request for help from the governor of that particular state- although the President is ultimately able to decide to declare an emergency if he or she feels it necessary for the federal government to be involved.

The first stage of a federal response is the arrival of medical and disaster experts. With valued expertise and resources the initial team identifies residents harmed by the disaster. To help the impacted and affected locals, FEMA establishes mobile field offices on the spot. In these types of temporary field offices government ensures three types of assistance available for the affected people:

Individual Assistance:

With this type of assistance, money and material support is given directly to an individual or family. If their home is destroyed in the disaster, then they can seek disaster housing for up to 18 months. They may even be eligible for cash grants to recover and rebuild their house. FEMA also provides counselling services to help locals to overcome the trauma of the disaster.

Business owners also can seek relief if the business is heavily impacted by the disaster. The owner can apply for small business loans and grants to recover his or her loss and start anew.

At the same time, however, there are strict guidelines for spending aid money and FEMA has a very rigorous audit system to prevent abuse and fraud. To be eligible for this kind of fund, one must comply with the thorough guidelines provided.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Financial Aid to Local and State Governments:

A serious disaster can destroy important infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and power grids among other structures. 75 percent of the total damage repair and recovery cost of the affected project can be paid through federal funds.

Hazard Mitigation:

Similar to many aspects of preparedness, FEMA may determine, as they did with the levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, that conditions in the community put them at risk for future disasters. Infrastructure upgrades, relocation of important structures, and stabilisation of flood zones are all approved projects for which FEMA can offer financial assistance.


Natural disasters are an inevitable part of life- but they don’t have to destroy one’s life or community. US government agencies like FEMA, working in conjunction with state and local governments, provide significant assistance to communities in the realms of disaster preparedness and response.

But these agencies don’t work alone- out of the billions spent on disaster preparedness and response, a significant portion of that is allocated, directly or indirectly, to independent contractors. Given the sudden nature of natural disasters, bids for disaster mitigation or relief can pop up quickly- and if they are state or local, they may not be published on the most frequently used websites.

That is where BidPrime comes in. We have developed the technology, analytics, tools, and service that will give your business access to the best coverage of any government bidding service in North America, providing you with real-time updates from more than 120,000 government entities. For more info, or to sign up for a free, no obligation trial, please visit BidPrime or call us at 888.808.5356.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.