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nddes insights May 2021

North Dakota Reaches $100 Million in Received FEMA Funding for COVID-19 Pandemic

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services (NDDES) was notified in May that an additional $3.4 million in federal funds was approved under FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) Program for eligible expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this approval, the state’s cumulative total of PA Program funds received has reached $100,873,578 with most funds being reimbursements for the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH).

According to FEMA, the $3.4 million was approved for the NDDoH for emergency protective measures. The funds were used to rent a warehouse with two temperature-controlled containers to store supplies, equipment, temperature sensitive vaccines and testing materials. NDDoH purchased and distributed medical supplies, vaccination fliers and personal protective equipment for public health-related activities statewide.

The PA Program was originally made available following a Presidential Emergency Declaration on March 13, 2020. The PA program was originally approved to provide a 75% federal cost share for eligible COVID-19 expenses within states but was increased to a 100% federal cost share following a Jan. 21, 2021 Presidential Executive Order that increased the amount of federal assistance being provided to combat the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide.

Prior to Jan. 21, 2021, eligible COVID-19 expenses under the PA Program had to be related to emergency response or medical operations, as well as costs required to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Examples of eligible costs included purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for emergency staff, emergency medical care, community-based testing, quarantining COVID-19 positive or high-risk individuals in non-congregate shelters and costs for emergency feeding programs.

Following the Jan. 21 executive order, eligible COVID-19 expenses were expanded to also include those required to safely open and operate applicant-owned facilities such as disinfecting county/city owned buildings and schools.

“To date, 132 COVID-19 projects with eligible expenses have been submitted by NDDES staff to FEMA for approval with a cumulative total of $110,387,668. Of those, 111 projects have been reviewed and approved and additional costs continue to be submitted each week,” said NDDES Recovery Section Chief Justin Messner

Additional information about FEMA’s Public Assistance program can be found at www.fema.gov/assistance/public.

mitigation matters: severe summer weather effects are wide-ranging

Written by M. Cole Baker, National Flood Insurance Program coordinator for the N.D. State Water Commission and former contingency planner of NDDES

As the official start of summer draws closer, it’s a good time to look back at seasons past to prepare ourselves for potential impacts that severe summer weather can bring.

On June 30 and July 1, 2020, North Dakota experienced storms that caused so much damage, the event warranted a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Those storms cut right through the heart of North Dakota, when as much as 52 times the average amount of rain fell, flooding basements and overflowing infrastructure far beyond designed capacities.

The Enhanced Mitigation Mission Area Operations Plan (MAOP) describes severe summer weather elements as downbursts, extreme heat, hail, high wind, lightning, tornadoes, high wind and extreme heat. It is also important to note that severe summer weather can also create secondary hazards. Lightning in thunderstorms may spark wildfires. When coupled with strong winds, these fires can quickly spread. Slow-moving thunderstorms often trigger flash floods, due to the extended duration of heavy rainfall. Heavy rain, hail, strong winds and tornadoes in summer storms may become problematic for ground and air travelers. Such conditions can cause accidents and could even possibly lead to a hazardous material release.

While tornadoes are somewhat rare in North Dakota, they still occur from time to time, such as the 2018 McKenzie tornado that claimed the life on an infant and injured 28 individuals. During the 67-year period from January 1950 to May 2018, 1,538 tornadoes were reported in North Dakota with an estimated $173,998,270 in property damage, according to the Enhanced Mitigation MAOP.

From 1950 through May 2018, North Dakota experienced 15,967 reported severe summer weather events. In North Dakota, cumulatively, this has resulted in an estimated $994 million in property damage, $387 million in crop damage, 30 deaths, and 466 injuries (National Centers for Environmental Information, 2018).

Living on the open plains, we are no strangers to these kinds of events and, most of the time, they often do not result in significant disasters. However, occasionally, a storm will come a long like the one we had in 2020 and cause an immense amount of damage when overland floodwaters swamped fields and pastures. Wetlands and sloughs swelled, inundating nearby infrastructure. Subsequent flash flooding resulted in washed out roads, damaged bridges and railroad tracks, destroyed water control structures, and inundated lift stations. Lightning strikes and high winds caused extensive damage to regional Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Funding is available through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance programs for mitigation measures designed to lessen the impact of storms and other natural hazards. Todd Joersz, State Hazard Mitigation Officer, can share project ideas and assist communities through the HMA process. Todd is available at 701-328-8261, or tjoersz@nd.gov.

Editor's Note: Each month, the "OnPoint" feature is used to recognize an NDDES employee, team or emergency management partner who has gone above and beyond in serving the state's citizens and supporting NDDES's vision for a safe, secure and resilient North Dakota.

state radio fields hundreds of calls during active wildfire season

During an incredibly hectic wildfire year, the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and North Dakota Forest Service have recorded 1,204 fires burning 94,478 acres, thus far, in 2021. Those numbers are a considerable increase from 2020 when the state recorded 518 fires burning 9,205 acres.

When wildfires occur, NDDES’s State Radio dispatchers are an important part of a response. The crews work together to page the appropriate fire department in each jurisdiction and notify the respective sheriffs’ offices. When needed, the dispatchers page ambulance services and neighboring fire departments for mutual aid.

“Depending on the weather, how dry it is and how strong the wind is, we can have multiple fires going on in the same areas. Sometimes, this results in coordinating for additional fire departments to help with additional fires in a fire district,” said Brandy Dahlin, State Radio shift supervisor. “Fire season can be just as busy, if not busier than when we have severe winter storm weather, so we always need to be staffed and ready. These events are in addition to the ‘routine’ calls we take, as the rest of the world doesn’t stop when big events happen.”

When State Radio dispatchers receive calls, they log information from the event into CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch), page the responders, keep log times for units responding, and provide any updates they receive to agencies on the ground. Additionally, they will page additional resources, if requested; and log each fire into WebEOC, which is an incident management tool used by the state.

During the period of April 1, 2021 to May 29, 2021, State Radio played a part in responding to and recording information for 210 fires. They provided dispatch for multiple agencies, including:

  • 28 ambulance services
  • 13 federal agencies
  • 249 fire departments
  • 9 first responders
  • 17 Highway Patrol troopers
  • 11 police departments
  • 6 state agencies
  • dispatched sheriffs’ offices throughout the state 209 times

NDDES thanks its State Radio dispatchers for their knowledge and expertise, but also their attention to detail and competency when coordinating with our emergency services partners. Thank you for all you do!

NDDES, North Dakota Forest Service Facilitate 4-day wildland fire fighting course for North Dakota Guardsmen

NDDES assisted in facilitating training with the North Dakota Forest Service and providing equipment for members of the North Dakota National Guard in May so the Soldiers could support the state's response to wildfires this year. Thank you to Brandon Hoechst and Janet Schmidt with our logistics section for making sure our Guardsmen had the right gear to help out our firefighters (photos below).

Happy retirement to Randy Reimer!

Brent Kahl Promoted to public assistance officer

The team at NDDES had a chance to give their best wishes to Randy Reimer May 26 as they celebrated his retirement during a gathering of family and friends at Fraine Barracks. Randy has been with NDDES since 2008 and worked as the Public Assistance Officer for the Recovery Section.

During the celebration, Recovery Section Chief Justin Messner and North Dakota Homeland Security Director Cody Schulz presented Randy a plaque to commemorate his more than 13 years with the agency.

We thank Randy for his service to North Dakota and wish him a wonderful retirement with friends and family!