Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Welcome to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) / Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Freedom of Information Act Website. This area is designed to provide you with information pertinent to retrieving publicly available information from the Agency. The FOIA is a law that gives you the right to access information from the Federal Government. The law is often described as "The law that keeps citizens in the know about their government."
How to Make a FOIA Request for FEMA Records
The Disclosure Branch, located under Mission Support, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, Records Management Division, is the central processing point for requests regarding FEMA records contained at any of our Administrations: Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration (FIMA) and United States Fire Administration (USFA); Mission Support; any of our Offices: Enterprise Business Unit, Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, Office of the Chief Component Human Capital Officer, Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, Office of the Chief Security Officer, Office of the Administrator, Office of Chief Counsel, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of External Affairs, Office of Policy & Program Analysis, Office of Response & Recovery, and Protection & National Preparedness; any Joint Field Office (JFO); and any of our Regions: Region I, Region II, Region III, Region IV, Region V, Region VI, Region VII, Region VIII, Region IX, and Region X. All FOIA requests must be submitted to the Disclosure Branch.
Four Different Ways To Submit A FOIA Request For FEMA Records
FOIA requests must be submitted in writing either online via email, through the DHS web-portal Public Access Link, regular mail, or through our eFOIA Mobile Application (App).
1) Email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your mailing address, email address and phone number with your request. While our Government Information Specialists are happy to answer questions about the FOIA Program and/or help you formulate your request over the phone. Please be advised, Government Information Specialists cannot accept FOIA requests by phone.
2) To submit your request online, please click the subsequent link: http://www.dhs.gov/dhs-foia-request-submission-form.
3) Submit your request via regular mail to:
FEMA FOIA Branch
Records Management/Disclosure Branch
500 C Street, S.W., Mailstop 3172
Washington, D.C. 20472-3172
Please mark your envelope with the notation, “FOIA Request.”
4) The DHS eFOIA Mobile App conveys the online request process to mobile devices; requesters can submit requests and check the status of existing requests anyplace, anytime. The free App is available for all Apple and Android devices. To learn more about the FOIA App please click here eFOIA Mobile App.
Please Describe your Records
Our ability to respond expeditiously and responsively to your request is dependent upon the clarity of your request. Please provide as much descriptive information as possible. List the types of documents that you want and the timeframe for the documents that should govern there search. If you know which FEMA Administration, Bureau, Office, Region or Joint Field Office has the documents that you are seeking, please let us know. Many requests for procurement documents are received, such as: solicitations, proposals, and contracts. Sometimes requesters only provide the solicitation number. If possible, when you are requesting winning proposals and resulting awards please provide the following additional information: the office that issued the solicitation, the title of the solicitation, the name of the successful bidder, and the number of the resulting award. The FOIA allows agencies to charge requesters for FOIA search, review and copying services. For more information please see FOIA regulations.
Please remember to provide a phone number in your request letter so that we can use if we have questions about your request. Several characteristics of the FOIA should be kept in mind. As a general rule, agencies are not required to create records in order to respond to FOIA requests. Nor are agencies required to answer questions posed as FOIA requests. Please remember that the FOIA pertains only to existing records and that requests cannot be made for "future" records not yet created.
Requirements for Submitting Request for Records on Yourself or an Individual
If you believe that the FEMA has records on you, please submit the following information:
- State your full name, current address, date of birth, and place of birth.
- If you request FEMA to release records pertaining to you to another individual, (i.e.. requesters seeking records to be released to their attorney or someone else acting on their behalf, those seeking to have records released to a parent or legal guardian), you must include a signed statement certifying your agreement for that individual to access records about you or a signed certification of identification form. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a Certification of Identification Form located on their DOJ Website.
- Explain why you believe FEMA would have information on you.
- Identify where in FEMA you believe records may be stored about you.
- Specify when you believe the records were created.
- Provide any other information that will help the Disclosure Branch FOIA staff determine where you believe FEMA may have responsive records.
- Sign your request. Your signature must either be notarized or submitted by you under 28 U.S.C. 1746, a law that permits statements to be made under penalty of perjury as a substitute for notarization.
FOIA Processing Fees
FOIA provisions allow us to recover part of the cost of complying with your request.
Fees are assessed in accordance with the Department of Homeland Security FOIA/PA regulations (PDF, 15 pages - 147 KB), based on three categories of requestors:
- Commercial requesters—charged for search time, document review, and duplication
- News media, educational, and scientific requesters—charged for duplication only after the first 100 pages
- All other requesters—charged for search time (after two hours) and duplication (the first 100 pages are free)
Current fees are:
- Duplication at 10 cents per page
- Clerical search/document review at $4.00/15 minutes
- Professional search/document review at $7.00/15 minutes
- Managerial search/document review at $10.25/15 minutes
There is no charge when assessable fees are less than $14. Your submission of a request will be deemed to be an implicit commitment to pay up to $25 in fees, unless you indicate a higher amount or request a fee waiver. You will be promptly notified if the anticipated fees exceed $25. Multiple FOIA requests by a single requester related to the same issue will be aggregated for the purpose of assessing fees.
Under certain conditions you may be entitled to have your request processed on an expedited basis if you can show a compelling need. There are two categories of circumstances for the justification for expedited processing. Expedited processing can be requested when the failure to obtain the requested records on an expedited basis could reasonably be expected to pose an imminent threat to the life or physical safety of an individual. Expedited processing can be granted if the requester is a person primarily engaged in disseminating information to the public and the information is urgently needed to inform the public concerning some actual or alleged government activity. Please note: Requests shall not expedited merely because the requester is a representative of the news media. Your request for expedited processing must be accompanied with an explanation setting forth the reasons why your request should be expedited. You should certify that the reasons you have given are true and correct.
We will notify you of the decision as to whether to grant expedited processing within no more than ten days after receiving your request. If your request is denied for expedited processing, you will be advised of your right to submit an administrative appeal. For more information on expedited processing please go to the DOJ, Office of Information Policy (OIP) website and review their guidebook under the section of "Procedural Requirements."
In general, the FOIA requires an agency to respond to FOIA requests within 20 business days after the office that maintains the responsive records receives the request. The business day response requirement is not necessarily the time frame for releasing responsive documents. The general policy for the Department of Homeland Security is to process requests by date of receipt at the proper office maintaining the required records on a first-in, first-out basis, except for exceptions outlined in the FOIA and the Department of Homeland Security FOIA implementing regulations. For example, under certain conditions, your request may receive expedited processing if you meet the criteria established in our regulations. However, an expedited request will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis with other expedited requests. Expedited processing of a request may be granted in accordance with Department of Homeland Security FOIA/PA regulations (PDF 147 KB).
How to File a FOIA Appeal
Should you wish to appeal, you must send your appeal and a copy of your FOIA request letter within 60 days of the date of this letter to the subsequent address:
Records Management Division (FOIA Appeals)
FEMA, 500 C. Street, S.W., Mail Stop 3172
Washington, D.C. 20472-3172
Your envelope and letter should be marked “FOIA Appeal". If you would like to know more about the appeal process, you can review the appeal procedures outlined in the DHS regulations at 6 C.F.R. § 5.9.
If you have any questions regarding your FOIA status, please go to the subsequent website, http://www.dhs.gov/foia-status. For further questions or concerns, you can contact us by email at email@example.com or by phone (202) 646-3323. For further concerns regarding your request, please contact:
Chief, Disclosure Branch
500 C Street, S.W., Mail Stop 3172
Washington, D.C. 20472-3172