New FEMA seal
The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA is an agency of the United States government dedicated to swift response in the event of disasters, both natural and man-made.
FEMA coordinates the work of federal, state, and local agencies in responding to floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. FEMA provides financial assistance to individuals and governments to rebuild homes, businesses, and public facilities; trains firefighters and emergency medical professionals; and funds emergency planning throughout the United States and its territories.
FEMA has responsibilities in what it defines as four domains of emergency management:
- Mitigation: Reducing the severity or likelihood of the hazard.
- Preparedness: Ensuring you have the capability to respond to the hazard.
- Response: Immediate actions taken to save lives, property, the environment, and the economy.
- Recovery: Subsequent actions taken to restore property, jobs, and services.
Throughout the 19th century Congress enacted over 100 separate acts to provide local assistance in response to various natural disasters. The first half of the 20th century saw the expansion of federal disaster assistance via programs scattered among various federal agencies such as the Bureau of Public Roads and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hurricanes Carla, Betsy, Camille, and Agnes as well as the Good Friday Earthquake and the San Fernando Earthquake prompted legislation expanding the federal government's role in disaster aid.
FEMA was created through Executive Order 12148, by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. It organized into a single agency several emergency management programs spread throughout the federal government, including:
- Federal Insurance Administration ,
- U.S. Fire Administration ,
- National Weather Service Community Preparedness Program ,
- Federal Preparedness Agency (part of the General Services Administration),
- Federal Disaster Assistance Administration (within HUD), and
- Defense Civil Preparedness Agency (from the Department of Defense).
A banner on the seal for the agency included the motto Pace Ac Bello Merita, Latin for Service in Peace and War.
In March 2003, FEMA became part of the Department of Homeland Security, within the Emergency Planning and Response Directorate.
Numerous free home study courses on emergency preparedness are available on FEMA's website.
List of FEMA directors
- John Macy , 1979-1981, FEMA's first director
- Bernhard Gallagher 1981
- John W. McConnell 1981
- Louis O. Giuffrida , 1981-1985
- Julius W. Becton, Jr. , 1985-1989
- Robert H. Morris, 1989-1990
- Jerry D. Jennings, 1990
- Wallace E. Stickney , 1990-1993
- James Lee Witt, 1993-2001
- Joe Allbaugh , 2001-2003
- Michael Brown , 2003- (Note: Undersecretary Michael Brown is NOT technically a FEMA director as he was appointed after the title changed to Undersecretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response)
After the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, the official title of the head of FEMA became Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response . This position includes responsibilities beyond FEMA as the director of the Department of Energy's Nuclear Incident Response Team, or NIRT.
There have been a number of conspiracy theories regarding FEMA as a potential shadow government, made popular most notably by The X-Files. Also, in the computer game Deus Ex, FEMA director (Walton Simons) is a key member of the conspiracy.