FEMA and President Biden

What is the future of FEMA – and emergency management overall – under the Biden administration? 

There are several experts and associations making suggestions for what President Biden should do. IAEM and Disasterologist Dr. Samantha Montano have some good ones on their websites.  

My list includes most of what they have, except I am not as specific as IAEM regarding what associations/groups they should consult within the community. IAEM names themselves as the primary organization that FEMA should work with regarding updating guidance and documents. They should draw the circle bigger than that.

1) The first thing is the appointment of a highly experienced and well-regarded emergency management or public safety leader from state-level agencies or some federal agency like the Coast Guard. This person should be named soon and take office as soon as possible.

2) Biden should make FEMA a cabinet-level agency taken out from under DHS, at least in reporting lines, if not in budget as well is needed. 

3) There should also be senior-level executives at each federal agency that is allied with emergency management. These executives will lead their agency’s emergency management efforts and coordinate with other agencies via working groups that include the department heads, FEMA administrator, regional FEMA heads, and others as needed.  

Over the years, different agencies have issued guidance, which is fine in its own right, but it confuses non-EM people regarding what to follow and what takes precedence if there is conflicting guidance. Perhaps a model like the DNI or NSC/NSA, providing one centralized place for federal emergency management planning that has preparedness, coordination, and facilitating relationships in all levels of emergency management as its highest mission.  

4) Climate change must be an essential part of the next generating of FEMA’s work, as well as all national preparedness and security planning.  

Whatever he does, restoring the capacity of the FEMA, and the public’s trust in the agency is essential.

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