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A Short History of FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency)

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  • A Short History of FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency)


    FEMA has been known as the driving force of disaster relief and recovery for the American citizens. The federal emergency management agency continues to be a important feature in our society. This is a brief history.

    The Beginning

    In the 1800’s, the United States developed a division of its federal government to help aid its citizens who became victims of natural disasters. The leaders of the country then saw a need to make an emergency preparedness plan for the country and to follow through with it by means of using an organized emergency management agency. Hence FEMA was formed. FEMA in its infancy provided assistance to the American public and made strides to continually be a source of refuge for those who had been affected by Mother Nature’s wrath. The agency’s main objective and duties were disaster relief and recovery. It was to provide relief where relief was needed and help local and state officials in the recovery process. Having a disaster relief agency in place in the country was a vital move to securing the American people. The American people felt safer knowing that there was an agency ready and able to provide public assistance and relief if the need for such becomes necessary.

    FEMA has been subject to other agencies throughout its 200 year history. In the years spanning 1973 until 1979, FEMA was subject to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, (HUD). From the years 1979 until 2003, FEMA held to its own as an independent agency operating within the United States Federal government, but after Hurricane Katrina and the events that followed in 2005, FEMA came under the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. FEMA as an independent federal emergency management agency received harsh criticism for the way it handled the disaster that befell the residents of New Orleans and the surrounding Louisiana parishes.

    Most of us are familiar with what happened, but FEMA failed to act when it had to opportunity to do so, resulting in the loss of many lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The American public was outraged as the amount of human suffering was broadcast across the airwaves for everyone to see. FEMA’s failure became front page news during this tragic time as many residents who sought refuge in FEMA’s dedicated shelter, suffered needlessly and died due to poor management. This sad event following Katrina prompted the American federal government to reign in FEMA as independent agency further, and bring it and its dealings under the strict supervision of the DHS. Since then, FEMA has risen to the mark with many disasters that have taken place since Hurricane Katrina. In a way, each and every time there is a natural disaster, the emergency management agency comes under the scrutiny of both the American people and the media. It must perform according to what the people expect and provide the public with the assistance they need when they need it.

    How Does FEMA Provide Public Assistance?

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides public assistance to those who have been affected by a natural disaster. It is FEMA’s job to make sure that those who have had homes destroyed and lives disrupted by acts of nature are well taken care of using the resources provided by the American federal government.

    How is FEMA Organized?

    The United States is a large country so in order to manage it effectively, a certain measure of organization is needed. Hence, the agency has divided the United States into ten regions, each region containing a headquarter city in which to manage all activities for that region.

    [ATTACH=CONFIG]n8793[/ATTACH]
    Figure 1: FEMA REGIONS

    FEMA has divided up the United States into ten (10) regions:

    Region I, Headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts.
    This region covers the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

    Region II, Headquartered in New York City, New York.
    This region covers New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

    Region III, Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    This region covers the states of Washington DC, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

    Region IV, Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
    This region covers a vast area of states. The states of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina are in region #4

    Region V, Headquartered in Chicago, IL
    This region covers the states of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin

    Region VI, Headquartered in Denton, Texas.
    This region covers the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 68 Tribal Nations that are recognized by the United States federal government..

    Region VII, Headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri.
    This region covers the states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

    Region VIII, Headquartered in Denver, Colorado.
    This region covers the states of Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

    Region IX, Headquartered in Oakland, California.
    This region covers the states and territories of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, and Micronesia

    Region X, Headquartered in Bothell, Washington.
    This region covers the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington

    Pacific Area Office (PAO), Headquartered in Honolulu, HI
    This region covers the Pacific Islands that are territories of the United States Government.

    So you can see by this listing of how the United States is divided into regions, that the US government is serious about providing the necessary emergency management services for the people. FEMA provides each region with assistance by the federal aid granted by the government.

    Training Offered By FEMA

    FEMA offers training to individual who are in a position to provide emergency assistance to individuals such as fire and rescue, police, and other public service individuals. By means of the Emergency Management Institute, these individuals as well as members of the general public may take courses to learn more about providing assistance when there is a natural disaster. As a provision of the government, these classes and courses are offered free of charge. Although these are free of charge, one must qualify to take the course. If you are in a position to offer yourself to the service of your community then you might want to check out the Community Emergency Response Team website as well. CERT offers firsthand experience and training for individuals of the general public who wish to be of use when the next natural disaster strikes. The CERT program is a part of the Citizen’s Corps. The training offered by the Emergency Management Institute can serve as a supplement for the Citizen’s Corp CERT program. FEMA’s dedication to educating and training American citizens to deal with natural disasters is very noteworthy.

    Jobs Available at FEMA

    If you would like to offer yourself as a potential employee of FEMA, there are many ways to check and see if there are any job openings. A simple search engine query for “FEMA jobs” comes up with a variety of links to jobs and careers currently open. The selection process with the federal emergency management agency is very rigorous, meaning that it will be a very competitive market. The agency is an equal opportunity employer, so you can rest assured that the selection is fair.

    FEMA has come a long way in its 200 year history. As an agency overseeing the disaster relief and recovery of an entire nation, it has seen its fair share of heartache and suffering. The agency continues to evolve, and implements new ways of warning people and caring for their needs after a disaster. And as the years continue to move forward, FEMA will continue to move forward as well, changing and adapting in its ability to offer services to the American people such as Urban Search and Rescue, National Disaster Medical Systems, Mobile Emergency Response Support, and much more. Although it has also seen scandal with some of its highest ranking officials, FEMA still remains a strong leader in providing disaster and recovery services as well as federal aid for the American public.

    Resource Links
    1. A History of FEMA http://www.fema.gov/about
    2. FEMA Training at the Emergency Management Institute http://training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/iemc
    3. Center for Disaster Preparedness http://cdp.dhs.gov/
    4. FEMA’s Official Blog http://blog.fema.gov
    5. Department of Housing and Urban Development http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD
    6. Department of Homeland Security http://www.dhs.gov
    7. Citizen’s Corp, CERT Program. https://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
    8. FEMA Jobs & Careers http://www.fema.gov/careers
    9. Urban Search and Rescue http://www.fema.gov/urban-search-rescue
    10. Environmental Protection Agency http://www.epa.gov/naturalevents/general.html
    11. Virginia Task Force http://www.vatf1.org/
    12. SUSAR http://www.susar.org/
    13. GEMA http://www.gema.ga.gov/
    14. International Association of Emergency Managers http://www.iaem.com/
    15. Hurricane Katrina http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/special-reports/katrina.html
    16. NOLA (Hurricane Katrina) http://www.nola.com/katrina/
    17. FEMA Youtube Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/FEMA
    18. NERT http://www.nert-usa.org/
    19. Public Health Emergency (PHE) http://www.phe.gov/preparedness/Pages/default.aspx
    20. National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) http://www.phe.gov/preparedness/resp...s/default.aspx
    Last edited by labatt; 08-21-2014, 08:37 PM.
    fareakyman and ASurvivor like this.
    Live your dream, don't dream your life.
    Chris L-S, CEO/Owner/Administrator, Disaster.Com

  • #2
    That's really interesting. I hadn't realized that FEMA had been under the umbrella of different government agencies throughout its history, though. I'm left with questions about how FEMA provides public assistance, though. I know from watching news coverage after disasters that they set up shelters and provide clean water and such. Do they do anything else? How much do they help to rebuild areas after the immediate aftermath has been taken care of?

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    • #3
      How Stuff Works has a pretty nice and detailed write up on FEMA. Here's where they break down what FEMA actually does after a disaster: http://people.howstuffworks.com/fema2.htm

      FEMA gets a lot of criticism, but I can't even begin to imagine the logistics of attempting to provide that much assistance on such a large scale in the wake of a disaster. However, maybe some of that criticism is warranted. Here's a really interesting article criticizing FEMA from a man who worked for them.

      http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/0...itique-of-FEMA
      The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact. ~ Neil Degrasse Tyson

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      • #4
        Wow I had no idea that FEMA had such a long running past in the US. It was cool to read even if it did take me forever (short history? there's a longer one?) I also didn't know it bounced around from housing agency to other agencies. Glad it finally got established as it's own thing. All in all it was a neat little read. Thanks for posting!

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        • #5
          Very nice resource to share here I remember doing a big paper on FEMA in my earlier associates degree classes. I would love to one day be employed by FEMA unless a better paying private sector position becomes open.

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          • #6
            This was a great and informative post that helped me to learn a lot about FEMA. I never knew that they did so many things and had such a great outreach. Is FEMA the first line of resources utilized when a disaster strikes?

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            • #7
              This article was very enlightening. After Hurricane Katrina, there was so much negativity surrounding FEMA that they sounded like a joke to me. I had never heard of FEMA before that disaster and so it was not a good introduction at all. It was interesting to learn some of the things they do, and where they are located around the country. How does FEMA get dispatched to a disaster, do they have to get orders to go to a disaster area or do they just go when they learn of it?

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              • #8
                Thanks, an interesting article.

                I was surprised to read that FEMA was created in the 1800’s. I had thought it was created with, or at the same time as, the DHS. Guess that shows how much I know about my own country.

                There has been so much hostility towards FEMA and the Federal Government due to Katrina and the wars / invasions, but even considering the extent of the responsibilities they are charged with, I still feel that most of this hostility is warranted, and I’m happy to see the population mistrust and criticize the power structures. Because as we saw with the BP oil spill, alot of these failures in public service and in serving the common good are due to nothing less than people just not caring about others, just plain and simple negligence.

                At any rate, I need to do more reading about this before I know that my gut reaction is right. Thanks for the articles Kwerk, will read.

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                • #9
                  Thanks for the link regarding FEMA. I think a lot of people are misinformed about the agency. There is a lot of fear mongering and propaganda associate with FEMA that I really needs to be squashed with factual information. I personally am against a lot of government agencies, but don't support fear mongering or propaganda by any means. I think FEMA does some good when needed, although they are incompetent at times.

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                  • #10
                    Like others, I'd no idea that FEMA was founded in the 19th century: its amazing that they managed to do that, with the expansion westwards that was going on.

                    It made me think about the UK, however, what we do and how we respond. I really don't think there's one agency like FEMA, so I went to the government website and all I could find was a set of pages about flooding (we've had very, very bad flooding all over the country the last few winters, and a few very bad hotspots - Heathrow Airport was right at the edge of one). This is the page: https://www.gov.uk/prepare-for-a-flood but really, there's not much else: if you search, its nearly all research papers or how the UK works abroad. The only exception was this: https://www.gov.uk/business-continui...-and-galleries about continuity planning for museums !!! We don't have as many natural disasters as the USA, of course, but even so ...

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                    • #11
                      I'm generally an advocate of localized solutions to most problems. I support federalism 100%. But I do think you need a bigger organization like FEMA to handle natural disasters and such. But the problem is that this such a large country that's it's hard for one organization to cover such a large area. Splitting the country into different sections definitely helps but I think if we ever see a large catastrophie like a nuclear weapon released by a terrorist we may have a lot of trouble dealing with it because the federal government doesn't usually handle disaster situations very well.

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                      • #12
                        Thanks for this breakdown. I never realized that FEMA was zoned this way. Thanks for posting the jobs link for career opportunities with FEMA. I am job hunting right now and who know, I might find something on there. Thanks for that!

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