Federal Emergency Management Agency

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Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the federal agency responsible for coordinating emergency planning, preparedness, risk reduction, response, and recovery. The agency works closely with state and local governments by funding emergency programs and providing technical guidance and training. These coordinated activities at the federal, state, and local levels ensure a broad-based emergency program to insure public safety and protect property. FEMA is prepared to respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, and human-caused events such as toxic chemical spills, problems at Nuclear Power plants, and nuclear war.

FEMA came into the national spotlight in the aftermath of the September 11th Attacks, where terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and seriously damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Shortly after those attacks, FEMA fully activated the Federal Response Plan. The agency's Emergency Response Team was immediately deployed to the attack sites.

In the weeks following the attacks, FEMA employees worked relentlessly in a massive rescue and recovery effort at the World Trade Center site. More than 1,500 employees of FEMA and more than 6,500 other federal employees took part in the effort. Tens of thousands of tons of debris were removed from the site in New York and taken to a landfill on Staten Island. Several hundred bodies were discovered, although few people were found alive in the first days following the attack. The clean-up effort continued into 2002.

FEMA also established programs to assist victims of the attacks. The agency designated more than $11 million for crisis counseling funds to assist victims and others affected by the attacks in New York City. FEMA likewise established assistance and benefits programs for victims of the attacks, including mortgage and rental assistance for those who suffered financial hardships due to the attacks. In March 2003, the agency announced it had released $250 million in grant money to state and local government agencies for costs associated with pensions given to the surviving spouses and children of police officers and firefighters killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

FEMA was established in the Executive Branch as an independent agency pursuant to Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 (43 Fed. Reg. 41, 943), and Executive Orders No. 12,127 (March 31, 1979) (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and No. 12,148 (July 20, 1979) (Federal Emergency Management).

FEMA has ten regional offices, which are the primary means by which the agency's programs are carried out at the state and local levels. The regional directors are the FEMA director's principal representatives in contacts and relationships with federal, state, regional, and local agencies; industry; and other public and private groups. They are responsible for accomplishing within their region the national program objectives established by the agency, and they work with the director to develop national policy.

FEMA developed the Federal Response Plan, a program for quickly responding to any type of catastrophic disaster. When, for example, an earthquake causes substantial damage and dislocation to a city or region, FEMA moves emergency teams into the area and coordinates efforts to restore public services and to provide food and shelter for those displaced by the natural disaster. FEMA's Telecommunications and computer systems are used as a hub operation providing support services for day-to-day emergency activities. FEMA also works with state and local governments to develop emergency response plans and to provide training and technical support to these agencies through its Emergency Management Institute.

FEMA includes the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), which administers the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the National Crime Insurance Program (NCIP). The NFIP makes flood insurance available to residents of communities that adopt and enforce the program's floodplain management regulations to reduce future flood losses. Over 18,000 communities participate in NFIP, a self-supporting program requiring no taxpayer funds to pay claim or operating expenses. The NCIP authorizes the FIA to sell crime insurance at affordable rates in any eligible state. The NCIP offers protection to home and business owners against financial loss from Burglary and Robbery.

The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is another FEMA agency. The USFA provides leadership, coordination, and support for FEMA's activities in the areas of fire prevention and control, hazardous materials, and emergency medical services. The USFA develops and disseminates fire safety information to the fire service and the general public. Through its National Fire Academy, the USFA develops and delivers training and education programs to fire service personnel. The USFA is also responsible for the activities of the National Fire Data Center, and for the management of the National Emergency Training Center, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The USFA works closely with the public and private sectors to reduce fire deaths, injuries, and property losses.

FEMA's External Affairs directorate serves as the focal point of contact for the public, the media, public interest groups, state and local government organizations, Congress, and foreign governments. The directorate provides the director, the director's staff, and the agencies within FEMA with advice on how to develop and execute programs in the areas of congressional affairs and public and intergovernmental affairs.

Further readings

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. 2001. FEMA's Response to the September 11th Attacks. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S. Government Manual Website. Available online at <www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual> (accessed November 10, 1993).

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