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FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Daily Digest Bulletin

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
FEMA Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) Tool

FEMA Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) Tool

Communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are required to determine if damages to structures located in a Special Flood Hazard Area meet the criteria for Substantial Damage before beginning reconstruction. In order to assist state and local officials in estimating Substantial Damage for residential and non-residential structures, FEMA developed the Substantial Damage Estimator tool. The tool can be used to assess flood, wind, wildfire, seismic, and other forms of damage. It helps communities provide timely Substantial Damage determinations so that reconstruction can begin quickly following a disaster.

In 2017, FEMA released an enhanced Substantial Damage Estimator tool. Although the SDE data collection and reporting process remains relatively unchanged from previous versions of the tool, the SDE 3.0 release addressed user feedback and focused on enhancing the three key areas of performance, data accessibility, and usability. Updates to the tool’s algorithms and some new embedded functionality create significant performance enhancements over previous versions. Users can now access the underlying database to run queries, perform bulk updates of data, or generate custom reports using their own databases and reporting tools.

Guidance and information on how to use the enhanced tool can be found in FEMA P-784, Substantial Damage Estimator (SDE) User Manual and Field Workbook: Using the SDE Tool to Perform Substantial Damage Determinations, and the FEMA Substantial Damage Estimator Best Practices document.

While communities are not required to use the SDE tool, it is encouraged since it provides a formal, systematic approach for determining Substantial Damage while also meeting all NFIP requirements. The tool is based on the concept of using damage estimates to individual building elements to determine whether the building as a whole has incurred Substantial Damage. Depending on the type of structure and specific attributes, the tool calculates the value of each building element as a percentage of the total building. Using the calculated element percentages, the user can apply a “percent damaged” or “percent improved” value to each building element to establish a Substantial Damage/Improvement determination for each building. After determining Substantial Damage/Improvements, communities will soon be able to restore damaged structures.

Visit FEMA’s Building Science Web site at

Download FEMA Building Science publications at

View FEMA’s Building Science and SDE FAQs at

Contact FEMA’s Building Science Helpline by email at or by calling 866-927-2104.