Leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

A Conversation with W. Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator

In the last decade, whether as a result of natural or manmade disasters the nation’s emergency response apparatus has faced enormous challenges.  Overcoming these challenges and forging a national emergency response network for the 21st Century requires innovation and teamwork. 

Recently on The Business of Government Hour, I had the opportunity to speak with Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) about his efforts in this area.  In this interview, Administrator Fugate discusses such issues as the challenges facing his agency, the national emergency response network, how FEMA is leveraging social media/ web 2.0 technologies, the importance of individual preparedness, and how technology can assist FEMA and its partners respond more effectively to disasters.

“The federal government had been responding to disasters caused by natural hazards, and since the 1800s”, says Fugate.  The Congressional Act of 1803 was the earliest effort to provide disaster relief on a federal level after a fire devastated a New Hampshire town. From that point forward, assorted legislation provided disaster support. In 1979, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was established by an executive order, which merged many of the separate disaster-related responsibilities into a single agency. Since then, FEMA has dedicated itself to the mission of helping communities nationwide prepare for, respond to and recover from natural and manmade disasters – a mission strengthened when the agency became part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003. FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery and mitigation. As of November 2007, FEMA has responded to more than 2,700 presidentially declared disasters. According to Fugate, FEMA is divided into 10 geographical regions composed of regional offices and a regional administrator and staff in those regions. He noted that among that staff: FEMA has a little over 4,000 career service staff with temporary hires (or what FEMA calls its disaster reserve) right now between 3,000 and 4,000 people. This number may go up or down depending upon how many more recent disasters are declared.  

FEMA’s role during disasters is spelled out in the Stafford Act, and recently expanded in the post Katrina Emergency Reform Act.  Though there seems to be some widespread public misconception as to its actual duties during a disaster.  Administrator Fugate provides an overview of the legislative authority that defines what it can do and outlines the proper role of FEMA in response to a natural and/or man-made disaster. 

Craig Fugate on FEMA’s proper role in emergency disaster response

With its ever evolving mission, FEMA faces tremendous challenges. Fugate identifies a host of challenges facing his agency and the national emergency response network.

Here’s Craig Fugate on: Challenges facing FEMA and the national emergency response network

FEMA manages two significant assistance programs: the individual assistance program and the public assistance program, respectively. Individual Assistance can include low-interest loans, income tax relief, cash grants, unemployment assistance, and crisis counseling. Its Public Assistance (PA) is a grant program to assist state and local governments and certain private nonprofit (PNP) entities. The PA Program provides: assistance for debris removal, implementation of emergency protective measures, permanent restoration of infrastructure, and encourages protection from future damage by providing assistance for hazard measures during the recovery process.  

Craig Fugate on: Managing FEMA’s individual and public assistance programs

Fugate takes issue with a government-centric approach to disaster response.  Government is just one partner in the critical teamwork approach that should define emergency and disaster response for the 21st century.  He underscores the importance of personal preparedness in advance of disasters.

Craig Fugate on: Fostering a culture of personal disaster preparedness with Ready.gov

FEMA is also leveraging social media tools in pursuit of its mission.  Here’s Craig Fugate on: Leveraging Web 2.0 and social networking tools in disaster response 

You can access the complete program and hear my entire conversation with Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator at The Business of Government Hour –Interview with Craig Fugate


8 thoughts on “Leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

    1. Thanks for the note.

      I think part of the problem is perception and, quite frankly, and apparent lack of real understanding of FEMA’s mission, which is specifically set in law — what it does during a response.

      This has changed somewhat with the passage of the Post-Katrina Emergency Reform Act as Administrator Fugate noted in our interview.

      I be glad to send you a copy of our latest magazine which has a profile of our interview with Administrator Fugate.

      He really hits home the importance of individual preparedness — and the duty and obligation those who have the capability and resources have to making sure they are preparedness in advance of a emergency as a way to assist first-responders.

      thanks again for the note.

  1. FEMA is perpetrating a huge scam on American homeowners by placing taxpayers in the new flood zones when they should not be there. Communities with absolutely no history of flooding have been placed in the flood zone because FEMA raised their base elevations.This way they can collect their premiums of $2000 up to a high of $9000 a year and help pay off their $18.5 billion debt to the US Treasury

  2. Disaster ready FEMA requires proactive rather than reactive approach so that in place are the mechanisms to reduce effects of disaster by evacuation in conjuction with Army Corp of Engineers and NASA to anticipate disasters rather than wait for them to befall resident taxpayers. The cheaper alternative of evacuation will work to save most if not all lives, where possible, and negotiated contract rates designed for catastrophe recovery of utilities, buildings, and houses can be made possible to do recovery required of every major disaster.

    Evacuation may be the wisest approach of all to save lives which we have learned from Katrina to be the proper approach since anything can be rebuilt, but lives lost are gone forever.

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