Emergency management case study: 2008 Iowa floods

In May 2008, the city of Parkersburg, Iowa was devastated by an F-5 tornado that was followed by thunderstorms that brought large hail, heavy rainfall, and flooding that impacted more than 75% of the state, and resulted in a Presidential Disaster Declaration. In Iowa, 84 of 99 counties were declared eligible for Federal public assistance grants. A field office was established in Iowa to coordinate Federal disaster assistance.

The focus of Federal disaster assistance was to assist Iowa's recovery by leveraging federal grant funding to rebuild communities — schools, hospitals, government buildings and cultural institutions. Because of the size and complexity of this disaster, technical assistance contract support was deployed to help manage operations throughout the disaster lifecycle. As a participating firm for one of the contracts, PwC rapidly deployed our public sector resources in support of Iowa recovery operations.

Our consultants helped our client establish a flexible framework for capturing key operational performance data and implement creative program management solutions. Through the development of user-friendly, web-based, data tracking and collection tools, PwC helped execute a vision for a more efficient approach to monitoring project worksheet development and status. Additionally, PwC conducted special studies and policy evaluations that addressed complex issues including grant administrative costs.

Based on research, data analysis, leading practices, and lessons learned, PwC provided the Federal Government with new approaches to determining reasonable administrative costs. PwC Principal John Saad described the PwC team's role in Iowa by saying, "Our primary goal in supporting the Federal Government's operations in Iowa was to bring innovative approaches to the recovery operations by leveraging technology and the skills of our consultants to tackle some of the recurring challenges faced by the Federal Agency. We are very proud to have supported our client in their mission and to have put in place new approaches to be used on future missions."

Additionally, PwC assisted with the coordination and management of disaster operations at the field office and the more than 250 contractors, from on-boarding to training to organizing project teams and tracking progress. In this program management role, PwC participated in cross-Agency coordination working groups, and worked directly with Agency management to establish high-profile task forces supporting complex programmatic areas including: Critical Infrastructure and Temporary Facilities; Levees; Drainage Districts; and Debris and Demolitions. Our focus on project management supported by our tools and methodologies helped the client manage the nearly $1 billion in disaster grant funding, as well as thousands of projects involving hundreds of grant applicants.

Capturing knowledge and leading practices is critically important in a disaster setting due to the fluid environment and turnover of field staff. To address this challenge, PwC worked with our client to identify leading practices for standard operating procedures and policies and to update policies to facilitate efficiency and consistency in disaster operations. PwC's efforts in Iowa enabled the government agency to manage disaster operations more effectively, by capturing real time issues in the field, and presenting immediate solutions.