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Disaster Recovery - Back

TEMA plays a big role in recovery after a disaster since the agency is responsible for managing the application for and reception of disaster funds, the mix of state and local matching to federal funds and integration of other types of assistance that may be available to help a community return to normal. The State Recovery Officer at TEMA helps establish a strategic plan to transition from the response phase to the state-supported short-term recovery phase to the local-supported long-term recovery phase. Recovery begins immediately in the response phase just after first responders get on the scene. Recovery should immediately begin to consider what steps are necessary to mitigate the incident, not only immediately but over the long term. If the damage can be reduced to prevent the incident entirely in the future, this is obviously the best option. To improve the process of transition to long-term recovery and to help apply disaster funds and other forms of assistance, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency provides a team to the FEMA Joint Field Office (JFO) that represents the Governor. The state recovery team typically includes the State Coordinating Officer (SCO) or a Deputy SCO who is team leader and decides policy and budget issues. Often, the State of Tennessee itself will provide funds to help communities recover and methods must be developed to administer this money as well as decide and announce the conditions for use of the funds. The team will also include representatives to handle completion of property damage assessment, mitigation, individual recovery (individual assistance), government recovery (public assistance), business and economic recovery (state recovery officer), public information and community relations, legislative issues, and other support matters, and sometimes computer information systems or communications systems representatives.

The state recovery team serves as the transition team from the state emergency operations center and its response phase operations to the JFO and its transition to long-term community-controlled recovery. The JFO offers individual assistance for victims and families recover from the effects of the disaster. Aid is available in the form of direct financial assistance to psychological health counseling.

The JFO coordinates public assistance functions to help government and not-for-profit organizations repair and restore damaged infrastructure and other public services. This includes the repair and restoration of bridges, public buildings, community centers, etc. Other forms of assistance may be provided, such as loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The JFO helps to inform the citizens and local leaders of available help, organizes meetings to assist informed decisions, aids the process of victim identification and registration, and helps promote realistic expectations. Through the Emergency Services Program (ESP), community relations field workers from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services collect information about the impact on the population in order to improve tailor the services being offered after the disaster. Community relations teams coordinate with local leaders to find concentrations or isolated pockets of damage and move assistance, if available, to these areas. The community relations teams also provide visibility and a conduit of information back to the JFO to help instill public confidence in the combined relief efforts. The JFO often can coordinate with voluntary organizations to fill needs that cannot otherwise be met.

Cascading events may harm victims again if the county or municipality must increase taxes or establish additional fees to help the government survive the disaster. The state recovery team cooperates with the federal government and other organizations in the JFO to help mitigate or prevent, if possible, the disastrous domino effects of disasters.