The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, is responsible for coordinating the government’s role in preparation, prevention, response and recovery from domestic disaster, whether they be natural or man-made. FEMA.gov lists 1849 total disasters declared since 1953, with an average of 32 each year (13). This particular agency has generated a lot of praise and but just as much criticism. Over the course of FEMA’s history, there are many lessons to be learned and FEMA is always looking for ways to be more effective. This paper will examine the history of FEMA, evaluate its performance over the years and pinpoint lessons to be learned and actions to be taken.
History and Purpose of …show more content…
Rich Cooper, who served as business liaison director at DHS from 2003 to 2006, said “You have to recognize that FEMA has a lot more resources at its disposal today,” and that its mission is now so intertwined with the other DHS agencies that taking it out would be a big mistake (11).
One of the disasters that earned FEMA widespread criticism was Hurricane Hugo, which hit the Southeast in September of 1989. Costing $7 Billion in damages, it was the costliest hurricane in US history at the time (16). The assessment of FEMA’s performance was less than positive. Senator Ernest Hollings of South Caroline called FEMA “the sorriest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses I’ve ever known.” (8) One example of the contemptible bureaucracy occurred when Puerto Rican Governor Rafael Hernandez-Colon sent in the federal aid request forms to FEMA headquarters. The governor did not check one section of the form, and a diligent FEMA employee sent the request back – through the U.S. mail. It’s no surprise that the forms did not get back to Governor Hernandez-Colon until after Hugo hit. Federal aid was held up for days as the governor re-filed the paperwork and sent them through postal mail. Then Representative Norm Mineta, of California, said, “FEMA could screw up a two-car parade.” (8)
But the disaster that was Hugo was soon outshined by Category 5