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National Advisory Council Report to the FEMA Administrator November 2020

I'll be 96 years old in 2045!

by Eric Holdeman / January 5, 2021

The National Advisory Council (NAC) was commissioned by the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to look at where the nation's emergency management profession should be in the year 2045. You can read their annual report here

Like any other broad-based "future look" about an organization, there is plenty to chew on. A few highlights:

  • Social justice and diversity as being important
  • FEMA needs to become nimble
  • Better connections to the insurance industry
  • FEMA should become a cabinet-level agency
  • There needs to be more focus on risk, data and science in emergency management

It is ambitious to look out 25 years from now. In our profession, we seem to be more driven by disaster events, rather than our human plans for the future. In 1999, no one envisioned what 9/11 would do to our profession in 2001 and beyond. In July of 2005, no one imagined how FEMA would be impacted by a single hurricane (Katrina). And at this time last year, we were fat, dumb and happy with nary a thought of strategic national stockpiles and how a pandemic would turn us and the world upside down. 

I don't have much heartburn with all the ideas put forward in the report, which I scanned. A few thoughts:

  • If you want to be more nimble, then decentralize
  • When you decentralize, standardization is sacrificed (it is a trade-off)
  • I'm all in on science, data, tech tools, etc. However, I do not like collecting data for data's sake, just to have numbers that mean nothing
  • We are terrible about sustaining any long-term effort. Watch the whipsaw effect we get with a new administration, in about 16 months
  • The future is all about climate change and mitigation. Focus there and you will save many dollars in disaster costs, as well as some lives
  • It may have been in the report, but it is building codes and zoning that are, literally, the building blocks for disaster reduction
  • Taxpayers will expect that at some point they will be a priority when it comes to disasters. It is a natural expectation of their government
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