05 November 2012

Monday Infographics: FEMA

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) constitutes about 1% of the budget of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is just a fraction of the overall US federal budget. Recent years have seen consistent attempts to reduce federal expenses, usually by enacting budget bills that are just less than the President's request levels. But in the case of emergency management, a certain amount of awareness and readiness is necessary, or the response to an event will require even greater resources. FEMA develops three overall budgets every year: Administration Request, Enacted Appropriation, and Emergency Supplemental. The actual "year-end" FEMA spending has something to do with the enacted "year-beginning" budget, but they're rarely the same.

Originally published September 2011 by Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University.

It is difficult enough to predict major weather and other events, such as earthquakes and forest fires. But those events are not disasters until placed in a human perspective, and so it is even more difficult to predict the eventual cost of a disaster. We cannot gauge, with accuracy, several aspects of a disaster:
  • Human and infrastructure preparedness and resilience: Is that power transformer going to fail? Are people in the vicinity ready for a power outage? Do people have enough water and food to last through the recovery? Do they have a roof any longer?
  • People's reactions: Did residents in designated zones prepare as suggested? Did residents evacuate when ordered?
  • Administrative and technical responses: Are power companies prepared to respond to multiple service interruptions? Are local and regional officials actively managing a coordinated response to the event?
These cannot be forecast, and so the overall cost of a disaster event cannot be budgeted beforehand. What does FEMA do for the country? That's an easy question to answer, especially right after there's a need for that response.

Originally published September 2011 by DigitalSurgeons.com.

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