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FEMA's Recovery Resources Stretched Thin

There won't be enough "trained" people to go around.

I've mentioned this before, but I've confirmed how many full-time FEMA people resources are available for the current disasters, and there won't be enough.

FEMA has 6,000 permanent staff and 9,000 disaster reservists. Not enough people to go around! There is Hurricane Harvey and now Irma that are the BIG events, but we have fires burning in the West, and there are another eight disaster declarations pending from previous events where there are preliminary disaster damage investigations ongoing. I'm betting personnel will be shifted when and where they can to the other larger events that were being addressed. Remember that the 10 FEMA regional offices still need to maintain some basic capability to respond for the states that they are responsible for.

I know that the federal response is drawing on many other federal agencies. The Department of Homeland Security has several hundred thousand staff, way more than what FEMA has. Some of these staff can be drawn on to help with positions that don't have specific technical knowledge. I can see how the many liaison positions that need to be filled could be done by senior representatives from other federal agencies. But you can't take a border protection officer and have him do the technical disaster damage assessment to public infrastructure. You can't take someone and throw them into a federal coordinating officer role, which requires specific knowledge and experience.

The last thing that FEMA and our national response capabilities need now is a Mexico-sized earthquake happening now or in the next couple of months. 

The 9/10/17 FEMA Team Status is below:

Incident Management Teams: 12 deployed, 1 available

Urban Search & Rescue Teams: 15 deployed, 11 available

MERS Teams/Assets: 34 deployed, 2 available

FCOs: 36 deployed, 4 available


Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.