Spotlight: FEMA

As the Northeastern United States begins what looks to be a prolonged and expensive recovery from the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy earlier this week (beginning on Sunday, October 29), we thought this an appropriate time to profile the federal agency whose mission is “to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates the government’s role in dealing with all domestic disasters, whatever their origin. Its beginnings can be traced back to the Congressional Act of 1803—generally considered the first piece of national disaster legislation—which provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following a series of devastating fires. Its precursors include the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in the 1930s and the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration (part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development) in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12127, which merged many separate disaster-related agencies and programs into the newly established FEMA.  After operating for more than 20 years as an independent agency, FEMA was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 1, 2003. The agency typically works as part of a team, coordinating its own work with the efforts of other federal agencies; state, tribal and local officials; the private sector; nonprofit and faith-based groups and members of the public. It also administers the National Flood Insurance Program, which works with private insurance agencies to offer federally backed flood insurance to property owners and renters.

Today, FEMA has more than 7,400 employees. Its Washington, D.C., headquarters is located in Federal Center Plaza at 500 C Street, S.W. The agency also maintains ten regional offices (in Atlanta; Boston; Bothell, Wash.; Chicago; Denton, Texas; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; New York; Oakland, Calif., and Philadelphia) and a Pacific area office in Honolulu, as well as the National Emergency Training Center at 16825 South Seton Avenue in Emmitsburg, Md., the Center for Domestic Preparedness/Noble Training Center in Anniston, Ala.—DHS’s only federally chartered weapons of mass destruction (WMD) training center—and other facilities. More than 1,500 FEMA employees—along with thousands of other federal employees—recently were deployed to various East Coast locations to deal with the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

President Obama’s FY2013 budget request for FEMA is approximately $13.560 billion, a decrease of about $453 million from its FY2012 enacted budget of $14.012 billion.

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