FEMA Rates

FEMA Rates

What are FEMA Rates?

FEMA Rates, provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are a database of a few hundred common asset types that are used in emergency situations for machine utilization reimbursement.

What else should you know?

FEMA Rates are structured in a cost per hour format, where one hour = one hour of active use of that equipment (as opposed to standby use, which only recognizes ownership costs, not operating costs).

FEMA Rates


See a detail of the FEMA Rates data, above. One rate is characterized as having:

  • A Unique ID, e.g. “8010”
  • A 3-level taxonomy, e.g. “Air Compressor > Air Delivery > 41 CFM”
  • A rate, e.g. “$1.62”
  • A rate unit of measure, e.g. “hour”


How are FEMA Rates used?

FEMA rates exist to reimburse equipment utilization in emergency scenarios, where FEMA has general oversight and reimbursement responsibility. If I were a contractor responding to a hurricane that contains a geographic region denoted as in emergency state, if supporting that effort I would request reimbursement funds from FEMA for completed work.

My reimbursable amount is quantified using this formula:

Amount = FEMA Rate per Unit x Number of Units Worked

Most often, the unit worked is in “hours”. So, an example of a reimburseable amount for a “Jet Ski > 3-Seater” (one of the FEMA equipment types), that was used for 100 hours, would be:

$2,770.00 = $27.70 x 100


CRITICAL TO KNOW: FEMA rates DO NOT included the labor costs per hour. That is reimbursed separately, and has no standard database.


What kind of equipment are included in FEMA rate?

FEMA uses a 2-tier equipment taxonomy. There are 229 level 1 equipment types and 494 level 2 equipment types.

The top five highest cost per hour equipment types are all helicopter. See image, below.

FEMA Rates Detail



How do I download FEMA Rates?

The current FEMA rates, noted as the “2019” version, are only available on FEMA’s site in a website format. Here at IronUp, we’ve gone ahead and downloaded and built a single file for easier access. Note, FEMA does periodically update some parts of their rates, so go to the FEMA site for the most updated view of rates.

Download Excel, 2019 Version (also includes an analysis of average rates by level 1 taxonomy)

Download CSV, 2019 Version


How often are FEMA Rates updated?

The frequency at which FEMA updates their equipment rates is a tad unpredictable, indicating they likely respond to major shifts in technology or contractor engagement.

The current FEMA rates are from 2019, but are updated periodically in part. Before that, the last major revision was two years previous, in 2017.


Can I use FEMA rates for Estimation?

You could, but we generally wouldn’t recommend it, at least without modification. Although FEMA Rates do represent a cost per hour that represents a reimbursable rate, it is not without a profit margin built in (practically speaking, a cost per hour without margin built in would lead to legal proceedings). If you use FEMA Rates, determine a discont %, e.g. 10%, that you think is appropriate.



Is there an alternative to FEMA rates for force account / emergency work reimbursement?

Yes. The Rental Rate Blue Book by EquipmentWatch is the generally accepted standard for force account reimbursement by the Federal DOT. In turn, since the 1980’s, they encouraged adoption of the Rental Rate Blue Book among state DOT projects. Their preference is connected to:

  • A higher rate of updating (2x per year)
  • Significantly more data behind their models, including a proprietary used market valuation platform
  • Significantly more asset types (2,000+ compared to FEMA’s ~500)

Note, the Rental Rate Blue Book is not a free product and requires an annual, paid subscription.

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