Streamlining Emergency Management

The U.S. emergency management system has met a number of increasingly difficult challenges in recent years, such as extended wildfire seasons, more intense storms, and of course an ongoing global pandemic. In fact, FEMA noted that “the number of annual disasters that [they] have managed has tripled in the past ten years and highlights the pivotal moment that climate change and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have created.”

To combat this, FEMA and other agencies created constructs—programs, grants, assessments, doctrine, and coordination bodies—designed to help assess preparedness; support disaster response and recovery actions; enhance government capabilities through grant funding; and improve organization of emergency responses. However, the large amount of constructs that were created are “poorly integrated and not optimally structured for the current operating environment.” Poor integration can lead to confusion about when to use similar constructs, which can lead to disjointed reporting and a lack of shared situational awareness.

FEMA tasked the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center (HSOAC), operated by the RAND Corporation, to conduct a review of 31 specific constructs to identify opportunities to streamline, simplify, and strengthen the system. Constructs include the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program, the National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF), and threat and hazard identification and risk assessments (THIRAs).

To analyze construct integration, the researchers employed the following concepts:

  • Overlap: Multiple agencies or programs have similar goals, engage in similar activities or strategies, or target similar beneficiaries;
  • Duplication: Two or more agencies or programs engage in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries; and
  • Fragmentation: More than one agency or organization is involved in the same broad area of need.

The report ends with a description of the issues and impacts researchers found through their analysis, 15 options for improvement, and their overall conclusions.

The full report can be found here.

For more information on topics related to this piece, visit the HSDL In Focus about emergencies, such as Social Media Use in Emergencies, Pandemics and Epidemics, or Mass Evacuation.

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