Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET
FEMA needs to grow in order to handle its work. The need for growth will only get greater as time goes on.
2021 was a year of disasters, with extraordinary heat waves, fires, a string of hurricanes, a cold snap that left Texas in the dark, winter tornados, and torrential rains. FEMA has been left badly overstretched. That’s an urgent problem, and it’s likely a foretaste of the future.
This is not just a problem for the overloaded folks at FEMA. It’s a problem for all of us, in an era where disasters are coming fast and furious.
The agency is stretched very thin indeed, with duties ranging from assisting with the care of detained migrant children, responding to COVID, supervising funding for rebuilding from past storms, and preparing for the upcoming season of wildfires and hurricanes. In May, according to the NY Times, “just 3,800 of the agency’s 13,700 emergency workers are available right now to respond to a new disaster,” about a third fewer than last year. The problem, the Times says, was not so much a lack of funding as a lack of staff.
Some of FEMA’s current assignments, like COVID response, are temporary. There’s every reason, however, to expect the pace of disaster situations to increase rather than slow. There are three reasons.
First and foremost, there’s climate change, which will result in an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The increase in frequency also means that there will be a greater number of disaster clusters, meaning that FEMA will be faced with multiple major disasters in short spans of time. The increased severity of disasters will also complicate and extend the post-disaster response, requiring corresponding commitments of staff by FEMA.
Continue reading “Rescuing FEMA (and ourselves)”