FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It was created by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. In 1978, FEMA was an independent agency and absorbed a variety of other federal groups, including Fire Prevention and Control Administration, National Weather Service, and Federal Disaster Assistance Administration. The first tests of FEMA’s capabilities included the Three Mile Island incident and the Love Canal pollution. During this time, FEMA also worked as a civil defense agency. After the end of the Cold War, FEMA became much more focused on disaster preparation and aid.
The Department of Homeland Security was created after the attacks on September 11, 2001. FEMA was absorbed into the Department in 2003. FEMA’s responsibilities are primarily to properly prepare people and organizations for disasters of all sorts, including weather and terrorist attacks. FEMA is also responsible for aiding citizens and businesses in the aftermath of any such disasters. FEMA both employs people on their own to achieve their goals and provides training to others. There is a section of the organization of FEMA called FEMA Corps. These are young people aged from 18-24 who are trained to respond to disasters and aid in recovery. FEMA is responsible for National Flood Insurance. As a federal agency, FEMA has to be asked to provide aid to any state or local governments.
This inefficiency has created a fair amount of controversy for FEMA. FEMA is often criticized for responding slowly or inefficiently. As early as 1989, FEMA began to field reproaches for their slow response to natural disasters with its poor response to Hurricane Hugo. FEMA’s Katrina response is perhaps its most cited failure. FEMA is accused of diverting necessary aid with unnecessary training, hampering evacuation attempts and simply lacking the proper preparation for the storm. FEMA also removed their aid from the region much more quickly than citizens believed was appropriate. In the aftermath of this event, the director of FEMA resigned. FEMA has also faced controversy more recently with its response to Hurricane Sandy.