Disaster Zone

FEMA Moving to Change Its Service Delivery Methods for Disasters

You need to read this article if you are in emergency management.

by Eric Holdeman / April 5, 2018

Surprise! Moving forward with the current FEMA administration, you can expect some major changes to what and how they operate before, during and after disasters.

See this article, FEMA has a ‘blunt’ new message: It won’t be there for every future disaster. Changes like this are not made overnight, and getting the existing workforce on the same page will be a daunting task. 

Some of what I read and interpret is summarized in these bullet points. 

  • There are radical changes that are going to be made in how FEMA operates
  • They are looking to streamline their many automated systems and make them interoperable (Tip for FEMA: Beware the contractors!) That task has more threats and can be more of a money pit than almost any other task in government.
  • FEMA is looking to physically do less with disaster recovery and have the states and local jurisdictions pick up the slack — the DHS IG is going to have fun with this! Be prepared to give back lots of federal recovery money when the IG doesn't interpret their regulations like you have.
  • The problem FEMA will have is "past practice" in decades of disaster response and recovery. Citizens and then their federal elected representatives are not going to look favorably on FEMA saying, "We don't do that anymore. The states are now responsible. We just write the checks." It won't sell!
  • Most states have some expertise — but not at the level that FEMA staff has.
  • Overall, I see FEMA saying, "While the frequency and size of disasters are ramping up, we are going to be ramping down our agency's role." How they do that in the public sphere will be interesting to watch.
  • I foresee lots of turmoil coming once FEMA begins to implement their new concepts for operating. It will be internal turmoil, and then more turmoil on the people and organizations being served — if you can call it that. 

Way back when, there was a made-for-TV disaster movie that lowered the FEMA director into a deep hole in order to set off an atomic bomb to prevent a series of earthquakes in California. If everything proposed in the linked article happens, I expect that there will be plenty of people suggesting that FEMA Administrator Brock Long be volunteered to perform the function in real life. Long is entering a real danger zone. Sometimes reformations have the leaders burned at the stake.