Fire EMS, Hazmat

Open Letter to U.S. Fire Chiefs

Recently, there has been some misinformation in the press regarding FEMA’s Public Assistance Policy 9523.6, aimed at specifying criteria by which FEMA recognizes the eligibility of costs under the Public Assistance Program incurred through mutual aid agreements between applicants and other entities.

The design of the modified mutual aid policy enabled FEMA to increase its support for mutual aid compacts and those emergency personnel who respond under these agreements. As many of you will recall, the old FEMA policy did not allow for any reimbursement when a mutual aid agreement was not already in place at the time of the disaster or fire. Recognizing the burden this placed on those communities that may not have had a written agreement, but choose to answer the call for help regardless, FEMA chose to stand behind our nation’s first responders with the support that they deserve.

To alleviate the burden, on September 22, 2004, FEMA changed the policy to allow for the reimbursement of the eligible costs of mutual aid where no pre-disaster, written mutual aid agreement exists. To further aid our nation’s first responders, the policy was made retroactive to August 11, 2004 to ensure that communities would be covered for immediate needs of the hurricane season in affected states

While the new policy made needed changes to support responses under mutual aid agreements, it left one important item unchanged. FEMA always has and continues to recognize overtime, including overtime incurred as the result of backfilling a position vacated by a first responder answering a mutual aid call.

In the policy, FEMA recognizes “backfill costs” as the “regular pay” of workers performing duties for a regular salary whether or not a disaster occurred. When a community incurs “backfill overtime costs” in order to meet the needs of assisting other communities during times of disasters, those costs are eligible, and have been since 1993.

On behalf of FEMA, I know we are all proud to work with you in continuing our tradition of responding to help disaster victims and those in need whenever disasters or emergencies strike. Thank you for your ongoing role in bettering our disaster preparation and response.

R. David Paulison
Administrator, U.S. Fire Administration