Rescuing FEMA (and ourselves)
FEMA needs to grow in order to handle its work. The need for growth will only get greater as time goes on.
2021 was a year of disasters, with extraordinary heat waves, fires, a string of hurricanes, a cold snap that left Texas in the dark, winter tornados, and torrential rains. FEMA has been left badly overstretched. That’s an urgent problem, and it’s likely a foretaste of the future. This is not just a problem for the …
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What Have We Learned from Recent Disasters?
Disasters are getting bigger, badder, and less predictable. We need to adjust.
Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. California wildfires. Superstorm Sandy. The great Texas blackout. The list goes on. These mega-events dramatize the need to improve our disaster response system. The trends are striking: escalating disaster impacts, more disaster clustering, more disaster cascades, and less predictability. We need to up our game. Lisa Grow Sun and I discuss …
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We’re Going to Need a Much Bigger FEMA
FEMA is built to handle one disaster at a time. That’s not going to work in the future.
“When troubles come, they comes not as single spies but as battalions.” That wisdom goes back to Shakespeare. Yet our disaster response system is keyed to handling single disasters, not clusters of major disasters. That needs to change. This week is a good illustration. We have fires in California that may set records. We have …
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Is a Pandemic a Major Disaster?
Cuomo has asked for major disaster relief. But there’s a serious legal hurdle to that.
Yesterday, I wrote about presidential powers in a pandemic. I mentioned the possibility of declaring the pandemic a major disaster under the Stafford Act. Today, we learned that Gov. Cuomo of New York has made such a request. [Note: two days after this was written, FEMA granted the request.] What does the law have to …
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Guest Blogger Cliff Villa: Es FEMA El Problema? Hurricane Maria and the Slow Road to Recovery in Puerto Rico
Strolling west on Calle Loiza from the Ocean Park neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, you could miss the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria last September. Here in early May 2018, runners and walkers lap the track at Parque Barbosa while middle-aged men try to keep pace with younger guys on the sheltered basketball court. …
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How Disaster Response Works
It’s a complex process involving many federal agencies and state government.
When people think of FEMA, they envision rescuers finding victims and taking them to safety. FEMA does provide emergency assistance, temporary housing and other services. But its main job is to coordinate the response of many parts of the federal government. And the federal government’s role itself is mostly supportive, with the main job of …
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Redeeming FEMA: How the Agency has Been Strengthened Since Katrina
Today’s FEMA is a lot different from the organization that flubbed the Katrina response. There have been a number of positive changes, mostly during the past four years. First, as the Washington Post explains, FEMA’s authority has expanded: Congress has broadened FEMA’s authority so that the agency can respond in advance of major storms, instead …
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Romney Versus Disaster Assistance
In assessing Romney’s argument that disaster response should be a state or private responsibility, we should consider his record in Massachusetts. In his last year as governor, Romney refused to provide state assistance when major floods hit western Massachusetts., even though the state government had ample funds. Romney had already begun to run for President, …
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Romney’s Opposition to Federal Emergency Assistance in Disasters
The federal role in disaster response dates back to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, when General Funston sent troops from the Presidio to deal with the city’s desperate emergency. Governor Romney seems dubious about this century-old federal role. During one of the GOP primary debates, Governor Romney was asked what he thought about the idea …
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What happened last March 11 wasn’t supposed to be possible. The seismic hazard maps didn’t entertain the idea of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the Tohoku coast of Japan. But the Earth paid no heed to scientific orthodoxy. A massive slab of the planet’s crust lurched 180 feet to the east. It rose about 15 …
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