Reformation of the Stafford Act


The Stafford Act is a federal law in the United States meant to bring assistance to victims of natural disasters at both state and local government levels by reinforcing the efforts of both the local and the state governments. Its main intention was to encourage the local and state government to put in place plans for disaster preparedness, prepare for a joint effort by various governments to handle a natural disaster, and provide assistance programs from the federal government. The act was an amendment of the 1974 Disaster Relief Act. It made it possible for the release of both physical and financial support towards any disaster declared by the president as an emergency. The body empowered to enforce the Act is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Hunter, 2009). It plays the responsibility to oversee relief efforts in the entire nation. It partners with non-governmental organizations and 28 other federal agencies that are in line with the area of disaster response such as the American Red Cross Society. Even though the Act has undergone amendments twice since its inception (Chhunny, 2006), there are still some issues that it fails to consider. This paper critically analyses this Act while taking into account some of the issues that are still undefined in the Act. This is about some of the recent disaster instances witnessed in the US such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

The first issue under consideration is the fact that the Stafford Act never anticipated a situation devastating to an entire city such as New Orleans. The disaster that happened in New Orleans was a clear indication that there is a need to implement further the Stafford Act by including measures for National Incident Management (Chhunny, 2006).

Since this Act is the principle blue print for disaster response in the US, then there is need to include plans for National Incident Management in the Act. By doing so, states and local governments will be in a better position to brace themselves for natural disaster for they will be receiving funds for preparedness from the federal government. There is however some compliance with this but the level is not sufficient enough. Enforcing the National Incident management will enable a close partnership of government to jointly put measures for preparedness and response in case of a disaster similar to the one witnessed in New Orleans. This means that the responsibility will not lie only upon the state government that is affected or the local government affected but other states and local governments will also mobilize their resources to assist the affected state or local government. At the same the Act will be more flexible as funds will be readily available in case of a disaster. To be prepared for disaster is the same as putting preventions and protection measures. When this is done at all levels of government and similar plans are used by every state, then preparedness seems more comprehensive enough.

The other issue that the Act overlooks is the fact that assistance is restricted to public utilities and non profit. This leaves the private utilities to rely on insurance for recovery. This means that there will be hindrances at the initial stages of recovery because communication will be hindered (Chhunny, 2006). This is in line to response where we see the Stafford Act only responding to Natural disaster and giving very little attention to man made disaster such as the one witnessed at the Gulf of Mexico. Amending the Act will create more possibility for the clean up exercise to be facilitated. There is need for collective effort to respond to the environmental disaster created by the oil spill.

To make the Act more effective especially in terms of response to disaster, there is need to put the National response plan into the Act. Homeland security holds the responsibility of enforcing this plan in case of a disaster. This plan is more comprehensive as it takes care of both man made disaster and natural disaster. When the Stafford Act and the National response plan are joined together there will be no in rift for replacement of infrastructure and also the capacity for both systems to handle disaster of a larger magnitude will be made easier (Chhunny, 2006). It is remembered that Hurricane Katrina was too large for both systems to work individually.


Just like any other sector of the government, there is need to give priority to disaster response and litigation and management. Politics may not be the right forum to put such measures therefore it is important to create the system in readiness for disaster. Looking at the recent devastating natural and man made disaster that have hit the nation, calls for reforms to the principle blue print of disaster response make more sense. The urgent and comprehensive reforms have been clearly discussed in this paper.

Reference List

Chhunny, C. a. (2006). Primed & prepared:updating the stafford act for a coordinated national response. Web.

Hunter, N. (2009). The law of Emergencies. New York: Butterworth Heinemann.

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