Image Emergency Response

USACE Disaster Response
In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is prepared and ready to respond as part of the federal government’s unified national response to disasters and emergencies.  In any disaster, USACE’s top priorities are:

  • Support immediate emergency response priorities;
  • Sustain lives with critical commodities, temporary emergency power and other needs; and,
  • Initiate recovery efforts by assessing and restoring critical infrastructure.

During natural disasters and other emergencies, USACE can respond in a number of ways to include providing engineering expertise to local and state governments in support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, providing drinking water and ice, cleaning up debris, providing auxiliary power to critical infrastructure and making repairs to and providing temporary housing or roofing.


Every year USACE sends hundreds of people to respond to disasters around the world.  When disasters occur, it is not just one local Corps district or office that responds.  Personnel and other resources are mobilized across the country to carry out the response missions, including more than 40 specially trained response teams ready to perform a wide range of missions.  USACE’s more than 40 districts have a workforce of more than 35,000 civilian and active duty Army personnel.


Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (Public Law 84-99)

Flooding is the most common, costly and deadly natural disaster in the United States each year.  Emergency preparedness and response is primarily state and local responsibilities, but USACE is authorized to assist communities in pre-flood preparedness, during flood and post-flood response.  Under the Flood Control and Coastal Emergency Act (Public Law 84-99), USACE has authority to conduct emergency management activities, including:

  • Preparedness:  The law establishes an emergency fund to prepare for emergency response to natural disasters, flood fighting and rescue operations.
  • Response Activities:  USACE may supplement state and local entities in flood fighting in urban and other non-agricultural areas under certain conditions.  All flood fight efforts require a Project Cooperation Agreement signed by the public sponsor, which is required to remove all flood fight material after the flood has receded.
  • Rehabilitation.  Rehabilitation or restoration to pre-disaster status of eligible flood protection systems at no cost to the federal system owner (20 percent cost to the eligible non-federal system owner).  Systems considered eligible for rehabilitation assistance must be in the Rehabilitation and Inspection Program before the flood.  The fund also includes rehabilitation of flood damage risk reduction systems.

An imminent threat of unusual flooding must exist for USACE to assist communities in a flood fight.  Also required is a written request from a state’s governor.  Flood services most often provided by USACE during a flood fight include: providing technical engineering advice; providing flood fighting materials and supplies, such as sandbags, pumps and expedient flood fight products to threatened communities to supplement local response; pre-positioning flood fighting supplies and equipment at key locations; and building emergency levees/dikes.


Emergency Support Function #3 – Engineering and Public Works
USACE assists the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA by coordinating and organizing public works and engineering-related support. 

Typical ESF 3 assistance provided by the Corps of Engineers includes the following:

  • Needs Assessments: Participation in damage/needs assessments.
  • Temporary Power: Provision of emergency power to public facilities.
  • Ice and Water: Management and emergency contracting to support public health and safety, such as providing potable water and ice.
  • Debris Management: Emergency debris clearance and removal and disposal management of debris from public property.
  • Emergency Infrastructure Assessments: Assessments of damaged streets, bridges, ports, waterways, airfields and other facilities necessary for emergency access to disaster victims.
  • Critical Public Facility Restorations: Emergency restoration of critical public facilities (including temporary restoration of water supplies and wastewater treatment systems).
  •  Demolition / Structural Stabilization: Emergency demolition or stabilization of damaged structures and facilities.
  • Technical Assistance: Technical assistance including inspection of private residential structures and commercial structures.

USACE uses pre-awarded contracts that can be quickly activated for missions such as water, ice, temporary roofing, generator installation and debris management.

The Corps of Engineers also supports other Emergency Support Functions.  For example, USACE can be tasked to provide Temporary Housing and Temporary Roofing support to ESF #6: Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing and Human Services, and Structural Specialist support to ESF #9, Search and Rescue.

All USACE emergency response work is done in concert with other federal agencies, states and local governments, contractors, and affected industries working together as ONE TEAM.