FEMA External Support Branch Director Linwood Gantt Jr., left, Robert Bondoni (APO) and Deborah Gordon (Ordering Unit) at Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Irma. (K.C. Wilsey/FEMA)

New Resilience Organization at FEMA Aims to Build ‘Culture of Preparedness’

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season has begun, and federal first responders are facing the possibility of more storms like those seen in last year’s record-setting season with a new FEMA resilience arm vowing to “build a culture of preparedness.”

In 2017 alone, the Federal Emergency Management Agency responded to dozens of natural and other disasters across America and its island territories, including multiple-strike situations like hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

According to FEMA, roughly 25.8 million people were affected by Harvey, Irma, and Maria — eight percent of the entire U.S. population.

In testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on Nov. 30, 2017, FEMA Administrator Brock Long emphasized the importance of resilience for future disaster preparedness efforts. “We have to do more pre-disaster mitigation,” Long stressed. “Pre-disaster mitigation is the key to becoming more resilient and reducing disaster impacts.”

Of the 2017 hurricane season, he noted, “These historic disasters – each historic in its own right – have compelled FEMA to push its limits.”

Acknowledging this imperative, FEMA has launched a new resilience organization, “FEMA Resilience,” which will be focused on building the nation’s resilience to prepare for future disasters. It is led by FEMA Deputy Administrator for Resilience Dr. Daniel Kaniewski and FEMA Associate Administrator for Resilience Carlos J. Castillo and includes the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, Grant Programs Directorate, National Continuity Programs, and National Preparedness Directorate.

“But to truly foster a culture of preparedness we must go beyond FEMA programs,” Kaniewski wrote. “We are engaging stakeholders — including federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and citizens — to join with us as partners in this effort.”

The effort focuses on four elements: the importance of the community member as the first responder, the need for insurance to cover financial risk, the need for investing in risk mitigation, and the importance of assisting local communities with continuity planning.

Read more at Northeastern University and FEMA.

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