A presidential disaster declaration makes federal assistance available under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Here’s the process:
What are Preliminary Damage Assessments?
Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) are performed in the impacted counties/municipalities to evaluate the extent of the damages. As a result of the PDAs, some counties/municipalities may be designated immediately in the disaster declaration, and some may be added later, due to ongoing evaluations of the damages.
Representatives from PEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) conduct a joint PDAs and share the information.
The governor’s request for a major disaster declaration is made through the FEMA Regional Office, utilizing data from the PDA to project cost estimates, and provide information on the extent of damages and assistance required.
The PDAs determine the need for an Individual Assistance declaration, if the damages and thresholds are met. Ultimately the White House makes a Presidential determination on the declaration.
In smaller events such as fires or localized flooding, Pennsylvania's volunteer and nonprofit organizations may be able to offer immediate assistance.
PA 211 website includes a search engine to find assistance from volunteer, nonprofit, and non-government organizations in your area. The search engine will provide a list of organizations sorted by distance from your location.