This commentary is the second in a PublicCEO series about disaster preparation in California cities and counties. (Click here to see part 1)

The recent disasters that have plagued local governments throughout California offer a warning that planning is vital to the success of recovery.

Pre-disaster contracts are the most effective way that cities and counties can ensure that they are protected and able to receive recovery reimbursement funding. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it’s best to have a plan already in place.

As a public assistance program, FEMA acts as a reimbursement agency. When a disaster strikes, FEMA goes through the process to ensure that the contract was competitively bid and that it met state and federal procurement standards.

If these intricacies are already worked out ahead of time with a pre-event contract, the process is much smoother.

“It absolutely makes more sense,” Veronica Verde, External Affairs Officer with FEMA, told PublicCEO. “As long as it was competitively bid and complies with federal and state procurement standards, it is definitely better to have a pre-existing contract in place.

“When there is an event, it is always a good idea to have already gone through that process. It helps from our standpoint not to delay any funding.”

Orange County recently approved releasing a Request for Proposals for a pre-event contract for debris removal services.

The summary of the action gives authorization to issue the Request for Proposals for disaster-related debris management services that will benefit the public health and safety of Orange County residents in the event of a disaster.

The background reads, “The recent Santiago and Freeway Complex Fires created a need for collaboration amongst the County of Orange and Orange County cities to take proactive measures in disaster response and recovery. The County, in collaboration with Orange County cities, is developing a multi-jurisdictional disaster-related debris management plan for disaster response and recovery services. The disaster-related debris management plan will support the current mutual aid agreement commitments between the County and cities in Orange County.

“The proposed County’s disaster-related debris management plan addresses the collection, processing, and disposal of the volumes and variety of debris expected to be generated by a major disaster such as an earthquake, major wildfire, storm or any other natural and/or man-made disaster. The purpose of the County’s disaster-related debris management plan is to ensure timely, coordinated recovery operations, including authorized removal of debris from public property, rights-of-way, and under an extenuating circumstance, private property, in County unincorporated areas and participating cities as authorized.”

To contact James Spencer, e-mail him at