Debris Clearance and Removal Operations Debris removal operations generally occur in two phases: (1) initial debris clearance activities necessary to eliminate life and safety threats; and (2) debris removal activities as a means to recovery. Whether the work was performed using an applicant’s own resources or by contractors, documentation is necessary for Public Assistance grant consideration.
An applicant’s initial response phase of the debris operation may begin during the disaster event. Crews may be activated to clear debris on emergency access roads; usually this is vegetative debris that is cut and tossed to the rights-of-way. The purpose is to eliminate an immediate threat to lives, and public health and safety. The transition period from initial clearance activities to debris removal depends on the magnitude of disaster impact. Typically, the debris removal recovery phase begins after the emergency access routes are cleared and police, firefighters, and other first responders have the necessary access.
Often residents begin clearing disaster debris from their properties and placing it on the public rights-of-way. If the property owners move the disaster-related debris to a public right-of-way, an applicant may be reimbursed for debris pickup, haul and disposal from the right-of-way for a limited period of time. If an applicant does not have the legal responsibility to maintain a right-of-way, then debris removal from that right-of-way is not eligible for reimbursement.
An applicant may conduct debris operations in any manner it deems appropriate. However, only costs associated with applicants, facilities, and work deemed eligible according to FEMA eligibility criteria and complying with special consideration requirements are reimbursed under the Public Assistance Program.
Applicants are encourages to develop a debris management plan that considers large-scale debris removal and disposal operations. By developing a debris management plan, communities will be better prepared to address disaster-related debris in a time-efficient manner, expediting the recovery process. Additionally, a sound and properly executed debris management plan may better position an applicant for Public Assistance grant assistance.
Please refer to FEMA’s Debris Management Guide, FEMA 9500 series policies and fact sheets for specific eligibility criteria, requirements for debris removal operations and an example of a debris management plan.