Former FEMA Director: 'We've Got to Stop Looking at FEMA as 911'
Long said FEMA's emergency managers "bust their rear ends to serve other people." But he also said the criteria for what constitutes a major disaster needs to change, along with people's expectations about what FEMA can do:
"You know, if we want to get better and become more resilient and respond better, then we have to refocus the training upon how we ask citizens to be prepared, not just going out and having supplies for five to seven days, but be -- you know, teaching them how to become more financially resilient, teaching them that insurance is the first line of defense, not FEMA, teaching them tangible skills like CPR, that when they face active shooter events."
History of FEMA:
On April 1, 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed the executive order that created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). From day one, FEMA has remained committed to protecting and serving the American people. That commitment to the people we serve and the belief in our survivor centric mission will never change.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.
FEMA can trace its beginnings to the Congressional Act of 1803. This act, generally considered the first piece of disaster legislation, provided assistance to a New Hampshire town following an extensive fire.
In the century that followed, ad hoc legislation was passed more than 100 times in response to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters.
By the 1930s, when the federal approach to disaster-related events became popular, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was given authority to make disaster loans for repair and reconstruction of certain public facilities following an earthquake, and later, other types of disasters.
- In 1934, the Bureau of Public Roads was given authority to provide funding for highways and bridges damaged by natural disasters.
- The Flood Control Act of 1965, which gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greater authority to implement flood control projects, was also passed.
- This piecemeal approach to disaster assistance was problematic. Accordingly, it prompted legislation to require greater cooperation between federal agencies and authorized the President to coordinate these activities.
- The 1960s and early 1970s brought massive disasters requiring major federal response and recovery operations by the Federal Disaster Assistance Administration, established within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- These events served to focus attention on the issue of natural disasters and brought about increased legislation.
- In 1968, the National Flood Insurance Act created the Federal Insurance Administration and made flood insurance available for the first time to homeowners.
- The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 made the purchase of flood insurance mandatory for the protection of property located in Special Flood Hazard Areas.
- In the year following, President Nixon passed into law the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, firmly establishing the process of Presidential disaster declarations.
- However, emergency and disaster activities were still fragmented. When hazards associated with nuclear power plants and the transportation of hazardous substances were added to natural disasters, more than 100 federal agencies were involved in some aspect of disasters, hazards and emergencies.
- Many parallel programs and policies existed at the state and local level, simplifying the complexity of federal disaster relief efforts.
- The National Governor's Association sought to decrease the many agencies with which state and local governments were forced work. They asked President Carter to centralize federal emergency functions.
Direct from FEMA:
Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster, but they cannot reach everyone immediately. Have enough food, water and other necessities, including all medications, in sufficient quantity for each family member to last for at least 72 hours.
Basic Disaster Supplies KitTo assemble your kit, store items in airtight plastic bags and put your entire disaster supplies kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.
A basic emergency supply kit could include the following recommended items:
- Water - one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food - at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
Additional Emergency SuppliesConsider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Glasses and contact lense solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler's checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper to disinfect water
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Maintaining Your KitAfter assembling your kit remember to maintain it so it’s ready when needed:
- Keep canned food in a cool, dry place
- Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers
- Replace expired items as needed
- Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.
Kit Storage LocationsSince you do not know where you will be when an emergency occurs, prepare supplies for home, work and vehicles.
- Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
- Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a “grab and go” case.
- Vehicle: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
Preparing for the potential devastation of a hurricane isn't just the job of emergency management officials. It's also an individual responsibility, said Phil May, regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"You should be prepared to take care of yourself and members of your family for the first 72 hours - that's three days - following a disaster such as a hurricane," said May, who oversees operations for the eight Southeastern states that comprise FEMA Region IV.
"Packing an emergency preparedness kit helps ensure the safety and comfort of you and your family members at a time when basic public services may be disrupted," said May.
An emergency preparedness kit needs to include food and water for each member of your family for three days, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, spare batteries, first aid kit, can opener, local maps, moist towelettes, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
Other items to consider include sleeping bags or blankets, paper towels, books, puzzles and games for children and pet food for family pets.
A complete list of recommended items for an emergency kit can be found at Ready.gov, FEMA's emergency preparedness Web site.
The emergency supplies can be stored in an easy-to-carry plastic storage container or duffel bag, making them easy to grab and go when an emergency forces you to leave your home.
Putting together an emergency kit isn't a costly enterprise. Many of the items that need to go into the kit are likely already scattered throughout your home.
An emergency preparedness kit will make your stay away from home during an evacuation more comfortable, ensuring you have foods you like, over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, entertainment and even treats during a stressful time.
More information on emergency preparedness, including how to put together a family communication plan, can be found at www.Ready.gov.