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FAQs for Public

1. I live in an older home and it has been damaged by a natural disaster. Can ESF #11 NCH help me restore my home?

No. ESF #11 NCH cannot directly assist private property owners; however, you may use the technical information on our web site. The capabilities of ESF #11 NCH respond to State and Tribal requests for assistance concerning natural and cultural resources. Individuals and Institutions cannot directly solicit ESF #11 NCH for assistance.

The best resource for an individual with an older home would be your State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO). These Officers are State government officials who can usually provide assistance on how to approach restoration of an older or historic home. They also can offer guidance on possible grants or other financial aids that could help with restoration work. To find the contact information for your SHPO.

2. Will my state have to pay for the work undertaken by ESF #11 NCH, or does the Federal government pick up the tab?

The Federal government undertakes work on ESF #11 NCH through Mission Assignments issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Mission assignments are classified into three types:

Federal Operations Support (FOS) Mission Assignments – A FOS Mission Assignment is issued when either FEMA or another Federal agency is the direct recipient of support from another federal agency. An example of this might be having the Department of the Interior (DOI) transport FEMA assets from one location to another. This Mission Assignment is 100% federally funded and can be activated either before or after a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been issued.

Technical Assistance (TA) Mission Assignments – A TA Mission Assignment is issued when either a State or a local government has the resources on hand to undertake and execute work, but lacks the expertise. For example, DOI personnel could advise the state on how to protect museum collections and archives from water damage. Like an FOS Mission Assignment, this is 100% federally funded but can only be activated after a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been issued.

Direct Federal Assistance (DFA) Mission Assignments – A DFA Mission Assignment is issued when States lack the resources to undertake emergency work with their own resources. An example of this might be having DOI personnel undertake work testing for contaminants in wetlands. This Mission Assignment must be issued after a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been issued; however, unlike the other two types of Mission Assignments, Direct Federal Assistance Mission Assignments are subject to cost-share provisions. While this usually amounts to States paying 25% of the total cost, the President may waive the cost of the share, although this is not the usual situation.

3. My photo albums and family documents have been damaged by flood waters. Can ESF #11 NCH come and help me save them?

While ESF #11 NCH is not able to help individuals recover their damaged records, it does advocate for individuals to prepare for disasters and to take steps in helping mitigate damage.

No matter where you live, disasters will happen and prevention is often the best way to ensure your photos and important documents are protected. Simple steps, such as not storing records in basements prone to flooding, can be all it takes to prevent wide-spread destruction of important papers.

Our partner agencies at National Archives and Administration and  Heritage Preservation have guidance on steps to take when responding to damaged documents, records, collections, and other sensitive resources. Please visit their sites to learn how you can protect those records and heirlooms that are most important to you and your loved ones.

4. I work for the State Government and there is a true need for assistance for our cultural resources. How do I ask for help from ESF #11 NCH?

Before any help can be requested, a Presidential Disaster Declaration must first be issued.

Once a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been issued, assistance can be requested by the State. A State approving officer must submit an Action Request Form (ARF) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Requestor supplies basic information regarding the type of assistance required. Once the ARF is completed, it must then be submitted to FEMA. FEMA can refine the ARF, in consultation with DOI, and if the statement of work is approved, FEMA will issue a Mission Assignment (MA), that MA will direct DOI to deploy people to the affected area(s) to begin response activities.  

5. How can I volunteer for ESF #11 NCH?

ESF #11 NCH currently solicits volunteers only from the Federal workforce and its partner agencies. The Department of the Interior (DOI) employs professionals from a myriad of backgrounds such as biologists, historic architects, geologists, and more. By drawing from an already established and tested workforce, DOI can be sure that the highest level of professionalism and effectiveness is directed toward responding to damaged or threatened natural and cultural resources.

If you are not a Federal employee, there could be other ways to help. In the aftermath of some disasters, States will solicit for professional volunteers with the expertise to help in response operations. Individuals interested in volunteering might also want to look into joining a professional organization or other groups which could be tasked by States and others to aid in efforts in the wake of a disaster.

6. A heavy rainstorm has caused the local river to flood, damaging buildings along its banks. There has been no Presidential Disaster Declaration issued as of yet. Will ESF #11 NCH be activated to help?

ESF #11 NCH can only be activated once a Presidential Disaster Declaration has been issued. Once a disaster occurs, both the State and local governments will determine their ability to respond to the disaster. If the State believes that the scope of the incident is beyond its ability to handle, then the Governor will most likely send a request letter to the President, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting federal aid.

If the President decides aid is needed and signs a Disaster Declaration, FEMA will begin to offer assistance to the affected area. A Presidential Disaster Declaration activates the National Response Framework (NRF) of which ESF #11 NCH is a part.

However, issuance of a Presidential Disaster Declaration does not automatically mean that ESF #11 NCH has been activated. If State or FEMA officials do not see a need for response activities for natural and cultural resources, or have sufficient internal resources to handle the response for natural and cultural resources, then ESF #11 NCH will not be activated.

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