By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Two weeks after record rainfall caused flooding throughout metropolitan Detroit, representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency began preliminary damage assessments.
On Aug. 26, FEMA, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, U.S. Small Business Administration and other local officials formed six teams and began the job of canvassing Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to assess and validate damages and disaster impacts against federal assistance eligibility criteria.
According to FEMA, several factors are evaluated in deciding whether an area is eligible for federal relief money, including the size and scope of damage as well as threat to public safety, number of primary homes requiring extensive repairs or with structural damage, the number and length of time people are displaced, extent of the business losses and ability of the community to recover.
When evaluating a community’s ability to recover, FEMA reviews “specific characteristics of each — such as demographic and economic data — that may impact their ability to recover” and “critical infrastructure that may be unavailable for an extended period of time” such as hospitals, schools, utility services and nursing homes.
Department of Public Information Director Mary Laundroche said there are seven steps involved in securing federal disaster assistance, and that the city is currently working on step six, which involves FEMA conducting a preliminary damage assessment in cooperation with state and local emergency management officials.
The results will then be reviewed by state officials and Gov. Rick Snyder, who will use the information as a basis for determining whether to request federal financial assistance or not.
If Snyder requests the assistance, FEMA will review the request and make a recommendation to President Barack Obama, who would make the final decision on any disaster aid.
No timetable has been announced for a decision from FEMA regarding the metro Detroit area.
Dearborn Heights Emergency Manager Robert Ankrapp said teams from FEMA evaluated the city the day after they visited Dearborn.
“They came in and saw the hardest hit areas, which were in the south end of the city near the Ecorse Creek,” Ankrapp said. “They were mostly looking at areas that had sustained significant damage in the city.”
The city was also one of two to host a Multi-Agency Resource Center for Wayne County last week. The center, in conjunction with Wayne County Emergency Management, several state of Michigan agencies and select volunteer organizations, provided “one stop shopping” for residents who were affected by the flooding and were seeking information or assistance.
While efforts to obtain federal aid money were started, work was still underway in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights to remove trash and other damage debris from the curb.
The department of public works in both cities assisted in the cleanup process while both cities also had trash crews working longer hours and Saturdays to keep up.
Laundroche said more than 20 crews from the city and outside have worked 10- and 12-hour days to keep up and have collected almost 2,400 tons of material.
In all of 2013, the city collected about 2,500 tons in bulk materials.
The city also opened up its DPW Yard, 2915 Greenfield, and allowed residents to drop off their own bulk items for free.
Laundroche also said the city was planning to send out 100 trash trucks on Saturday to collect as much material from curbs as they could in a one-day “blitz.”
Calls to Dearborn Heights DPW Director William Zimmer were not returned by press time.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected].)