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FEMA: Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Aid

Updated on February 5, 2017

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA stands for Federal Emergency Management Agency. As part of the Department of U.S. Homeland Security since 2003, it operates in partnership with other local, Federal, and state emergency management agencies, including the American Red Cross.

The FEMA headquarters is in Washington D.C. With offices across the nation, the agency has almost 3,000 full-time employees, as well as 4,000 disaster assistance employees who remain on standby and can be called on to help out when needed.

If you've watched news reports on some of the recent weather disasters, you're probably already familiar with FEMA. They have been featured in some news reports, such as in CNN's coverage during the Hurricane Katrina aftermath and recovery. Most people know that FEMA dropped the ball for the people who needed disaster aid and relief at that time but overall, the organization performs a very valuable service to Americans at times when they are at their most vulnerable.

Emergency Preparedness

FEMA has strategies and plans in place to respond as fast as possible to disasters of all kinds.

"The primary mission of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the Nation from all hazards, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters, by leading and supporting the Nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation."

** from the FEMA website

The FEMA organization has a lot of responsibility, to say the least. They not only come through with emergency supplies and support, they also guide people through the disaster aid process. According to the above quote taken from the FEMA website, they are charged to protect the nation, as well.

How they protect U.S. citizens is by providing comprehensive information, advice and assistance.

FEMA Underground

Types of Disasters According to FEMA

With few exceptions, the list of disaster types consists of those coming from nature:

  • landslides
  • earthquake
  • wildfire
  • flood
  • heat
  • hurricane
  • landslide
  • thunderstorm
  • tornado
  • tsunami
  • volcano
  • winter storm

The non-natural disasters that FEMA provides information for are terrorism, nuclear power plant emergency and chemical emergencies, pandemic, dam failure.

Check out the website to determine the possibility and type of disaster in your area.

The FEMA website outlines basic information, along with how to prepare for and recover from each type of disaster. There is also guidance for schools and communities. The key is to read it before you need it.

FEMA - Hazard Mitigation Planning, Part 1

Getting Ready for Disaster

Planning for Emergencies

Once you've familiarized yourself with possible natural disasters for your area, it's a good idea to start planning. You'll want to consider things such as escape routes, evacuation, important documents and insurance, communication with family, safety and off valves for utilities.

If you have any family members with special needs, or you have pets or livestock, don't forget to do some extra planning to ensure their safety in the event of an earthquake or any other type of disaster.

FEMA recommends that you prepare for three days of having to survive on your own. That means a store of enough food, water and any other necessary supplies should be ready to grab and go. If you do not have to evacuate, great but if you do you'll be ready.

A basic disaster supply kit includes:

  • Water - commercially bottled water is recommended but you can store your own if you take the precautions issued on the website. You should have on hand, one gallon of water per person per day, depending on individual needs such as age, illness, heat, etc. It never hurts to have more than the recommended minimum and if you might be very glad if you ever need it.
  • Food - FEMA provides a list of food items that are best suited to a disaster survival situation. To keep water consumption low, avoid storing salty foods. Remember some basic tools such as a can opener, spoon, knife, etc.
  • First Aid Kit - there is a very specific list of first aid supplies that you should have packed up in your kit. Keep one kit in your house and one in each vehicle.
  • Comfort - these things become more important than ever in a survival situation. If you live in a cold climate, plan for it with blankets or sleeping bags, hats, gloves, etc. Don't forget thermal underwear and raingear, as well a change of clothing and footwear for everyone in the family.
  • Sanitation - toilet paper is probably one sanitation item you're not going to want to forget. FEMA recommends various sanitary and germ killing supplies on their website, as well.
  • Tools - the list is extensive and includes things like flashlight, batteries, cash and mess kits. Please see the site for the whole list.
  • Special Items - this category includes anything for special needs, medications, entertainment (games and books), documents and money. FEMA provides a checklist to help you remember all the important things for your disaster supply kit.

Everything you need to know about preparing for a disaster - natural or otherwise - is available on the FEMA website.

Disaster Aid

If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of an earthquake or other disaster, there is help available. Immediately following a catastrophic event, FEMA is on the scene as fast they can get there, with supplies of clean water, food, blankets and other necessities for survival.

There is an application process that extends the possibility for some financial recovery to begin rebuilding homes and lives. You can even apply by phone. Qualification criteria and process information is explained fully on the FEMA website at:

FEMA: Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Aid

Graphic by ProCW
Graphic by ProCW


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    • Herald Daily profile image

      Herald Daily 8 years ago from A Beach Online

      Thank-you, Dohn! I appreciate the kind words very much.

      Yes, FEMA didn't seem to do very well for the Katrina victims. I was surprised myself to learn how much more they do than I realized.

      Thanks so much for coming by!

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Thank you for this very informative and advice-driven hub, HD. I've heard of some negative things about FEMA, but this certainly puts a lot into perspective! Thanks again!

    • Herald Daily profile image

      Herald Daily 8 years ago from A Beach Online

      Thanks, LJ! I'll do my best.

    • lumberjack profile image

      lumberjack 8 years ago

      Keep up the good work Brownie!