Urban Forest Strike Teams
The Urban Forest Strike Team (UFST) program was created to provide systematic mobilization, deployment, organization and management of state forestry agency personnel and arboriculturist resources.
UFSTs are comprised of International Society of Arboriculture Certified Arborists from state forestry agencies that come to the aid of a region or community whose urban forest has been impacted by a natural disaster. Urban Forest Strike Teams provide tree damage and risk assessments as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance information to communities.
By working with the USDA Forest Service, state forestry agencies, local emergency management and communities, the Urban Forest Strike Teams help assess, document and provide recommendations to help mitigate the effects of disasters to a community’s tree canopy throughout the South and nation.
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Restoring an urban forest following a natural disaster is a critical part of the disaster recovery process, and should be heavily considered in any disaster recovery planning.
Urban Forest Strike Team tree assessments help municipalities provide information for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance application for debris removal.
For consistency and standardization, strike teams evaluate tree damage based on FEMA guidance on debris removal and arboricultural risk standards. State forestry agencies have numerous resources available to assist communities in creating preparedness plans for unexpected damage to their urban forests.
The Community Forestry Academy
The Community Forestry Academy, developed by southern state forestry agencies in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, provides a variety of unique online courses to help communities improve storm readiness, response and recovery for urban and community trees. Offering storm planning and readiness courses for community leaders, as well as Urban Forest Strike Team courses for tree professionals, the Community Forestry Academy seeks to provide a full range of resources to ensure community forests remain healthy and thriving for years to come.
Go to Courses
The Urban Forest Strike Team’s mission is to provide additional professional capacity to municipalities impacted by natural disasters during the late stages of response and during recovery.
Once a disaster is declared and the initial incident response is complete, municipalities may request urban forest strike team assistance.
Local, Intra-state Deployments:
- Affected community initiates request for assistance for available strike teams through Mutual Aid channels or directly from Urban & Community Forestry Program Coordinators. A phone call must be followed up by written request.
- Requesting community provides U&CF program coordinator with information including a description of size and scope for which assistance is needed, specific place for staging of personnel and point of contact at that location.
- A qualified strike team is mobilized and notifies the requesting community of strike team assigned, status of mobilization, and estimated time of arrival to agreed-upon staging area.
- State of Emergency or Disaster is duly declared by the Governor and Federal Declaration is obtained.
- Authorized representative of affected state initiates Request for Assistance for an urban forest strike team from party state(s) authorized representative.
- Requesting State provides Assisting State with information including a description of size and scope for which assistance is needed, specific place and time for staging of assisting party’s personnel and point of contact at that location.
- Assisting State will mobilize a qualified strike team including call-out of personnel, identified mobilization point, coordinating transportation requirements and providing logistical support until strike team is on scene.
- Assisting State will notify the Requesting State of the strike team assigned (Team Coordinator) status of mobilization, and ETA to agreed-upon staging area. Team Liaison will keep Assisting State informed of mobilization progression until arrival at staging area.
Urban Forest Strike Teams are supported by a USDA Forest Service grant. The cost of a deployment is dependent upon several variables, including: the number of responders and from where they come (in state, out-of-state, federal, etc.), the duration of response, resources needed, per diem rates and location.
If the disaster has a federal declaration, our preferred mode of deployment for all out-of-state resources is through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. In that case, FEMA would cover 75% of costs of deployment and the state and city usually split the other 25% (often 12.5% city and 12.5% state emergency management). The Emergency Management Assistance Compact is not used for in-state responses and non-federal disasters.
When in-state resources are used, the salary, benefits, housing and per diem line items are reduced (and the respective 75%:25% sharing) since in-state resources are not reimbursed through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Resource availability at any given time determines the intrastate vs. interstate makeup of the strike team. When EMAC is used, alternative funding sources may be available to assist with the community portion of the shared cost. Communities should contact their respective state Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator.
Strike team members are trained personnel deployed to perform rapid tree risk assessments, identifying storm-damaged trees which pose a risk to people and property on publicly managed land, and to document trees which meet FEMA debris management criteria for Public Assistance reimbursement.
Strike teams are a standalone resource which uses the Incident Command System structure with strike team leaders who are Qualified Tree Risk Assessors (ISA TRAQ) and who directly supervise Task Specialists.
Strike teams may be intra-state or inter-state deployments depending on local and state capacity.
Intra-state (state and local) mobilization requests may be called by an agency or community for a disaster declared under a governor’s “Emergency or Disaster Declaration” or for federally declared disasters where state capacity is sufficient for response.
Inter-state mobilization requests can be made for:
- Governor’s and Presidential Stafford Act Emergency or Disaster Declaration
- to exercise the EmergencyManagement Assistance Compact system among cooperating states.
Tree risk assessments are conducted on trees that:
- are ≥6” in diameter
- are within the designated boundaries by the community
- represent a risk to improved, public property or users of that property
- have been damaged by the current natural disaster
Tree risk assessments are conducted on stumps that:
- are the result of the removal of storm damaged trees during disaster response to clear streets for initial emergency access and response activities
To help prioritize mitigation efforts, the strike team shall:
- identify of the likelihood of failure
- identify of the likelihood of impacting a target
- evaluate of the severity of the associated consequences of the failure
This assessment is made for tree defects eligible for FEMA Public Assistance reimbursement as defined in the FEMA Public Assistance Debris Management Guide.
In addition, the strike team will identify the existence of other tree defects that may represent risk after any mitigation (i.e. residual defects). The timeframe for this post-disaster risk assessment is one year or a length of time as agreed between the strike team and the municipality.
An inspection includes identification of defects on:
- publicly-owned trees which could potentially impact targets on public or private property
- privately-owned trees ONLY IF they could potentially impact targets on public property
- the assessment protocol trees as outlined above in the agreed-upon Scope of Work
The assessment data shall include the:
- tree species or genus
- latitude and longitude
- recommendation on eligibility for mitigation reimbursement
- the three risk rating components for the defect identified
- other data collected during the assessment
- risk mitigation recommendation
- existence of residual defects following mitigation
Data helps the strike team determine appropriate mitigation recommendations and helps the controlling authority identify and prioritize the most appropriate post-storm hazard mitigation plan for storm damaged trees, including those eligible and ineligible for FEMA debris reimbursement.