Much can be done by governments, organizations, and individuals to prevent or reduce disaster losses and resulting human suffering. Saving a life can be as simple as knowing where to go when a tornado warning is issued. A 25-cent bolt can keep a bookcase from falling on a child during an earthquake. People can learn the proper action to take when disaster strikes, buildings can be located and constructed properly, and emergency management and relief organizations can be trained and equipped to help people and protect property rapidly and effectively.
These examples illustrate the basic components of comprehensive emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. People are suffering unnecessarily from disasters because there has been a lack of emergency management leadership at the national level. The need to provide that leadership is driving the renewal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The following section outlines FEMA's goals for its future direction.
A renewed FEMA is needed to generate enthusiasm, energy, guidance, and support for a nationwide commitment to the protection of U.S. citizens from natural and man-made hazards. A partnership involving FEMA, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and private and volunteer organizations can educate the nation's citizens to protect themselves, their families, their homes, and their businesses before, during, and after a disaster strikes.
Structures can be built according to improved codes and located out of harm's way. Governments and private organizations can develop effective plans, necessary resources, and rigorous training for disaster response, and communities can be prepared for recovery and reconstruction after a disaster.
The first step in FEMA's renewal process has been to redefine a new mission that realistically incorporates all risks and threats, expressed as follows:
---The mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to provide the leadership and support to reduce the loss of life and property and protect our institutions from all types of hazards through a comprehensive, risk-based, all hazards emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
The mission stresses an agency leadership and management role that focuses on reducing risks and helping victims of disasters, regardless of the cause. FEMA will provide both leadership and support to federal agencies, state and local governments, and private volunteer organizations involved in disaster relief, as well as direct assistance to disaster victims.
FEMA has designed a new organizational structure that aligns resources more effectively, integrates program activities, centralizes common or redundant functions, improves program delivery, and shifts the use of national security capabilities to domestic disasters, while maintaining the ability to respond to national security emergencies. The new structure was designed with input from FEMA employees, union representatives, and management teams. The new organization supports the redefined mission of FEMA, guided by staff, members of Congress, and others.
The principles and goals driving FEMA's reinvention include:
---Accomplish the renewal of FEMA and ensure participation by agency employees in the renewal process.
---Establish a nationwide culture of people helping people through a national emergency management partnership.
---Emphasize mitigation to reduce risks to people, property, and communities from various hazards.
---Establish a risk-based, all-hazards approach to emergency management.
---Develop a federal, state, and local approach to rapid assessment of disaster situations and damage.
---Maintain close working relationships with other federal agencies in all phases of comprehensive emergency management.
---Strengthen and maintain working relationships with states.
---Promote flexibility and performance in state and local emergency management programs and minimize administrative burdens.
---Establish a quick and effective administrative dispute resolution program for assistance claims.
---Promote comprehensive training and disaster exercise programs for all levels of government, private agencies, and other organizations.
---Empower employees with responsibility and authority and encourage innovation.
---Support the United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.
---Seek opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of FEMA programs.
In a project already under way, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FEMA will announce a joint effort to improve communications before, during, and after emergencies. The NOAA system will be used to relay warnings for all types of disasters, and to provide victim assistance after an event has occurred. Such warning and assistance information will be sent from selected NOAA transmitter sites and received on battery-powered radios turned on by the transmitted signal.
A one-year pilot program will be conducted in Dade County, Florida, in cooperation with the State of Florida and the National Committee on Property Insurance. The insurance industry is donating $10,000 for the pilot project to buy NOAA Weather Radio receivers for Dade County hospitals, schools, and other critical facilities. Activities will be undertaken to provide these radios to low-income families. The overall goal is for every family and institution to have a radio, with batteries as necessary.
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