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Alternative Dispute Resolution Office

Graphic displaying the 5 points of Alternative Dispute Resolution

The FEMA Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Division promotes the use of different ADR processes and tools internally within FEMA and externally with partners, contractors, survivors, and members of the public.  ADR provides dispute resolution services such as mediation, conciliation, and facilitated discussions to aid parties in reaching a satisfactory, mutually agreed-upon, solution.  ADR can provide coaching and advice to FEMA personnel and other ADR participants to assist them in managing and resolving conflicts and to identify additional or alternative Agency resources as appropriate.  ADR also:

  • Collaborates with FEMA managers and staff to strengthen employee-competency in communication, emotional intelligence, and conflict management.  The ADR Office provides a wide range of informal processes that help staff recognize, prevent, and resolve issues up-stream;
  • Engages FEMA regional and other office sites to determine their ADR needs in terms of services and training and coordinates with those offices to meet their ADR needs as they arise;
  • Manages a cadre of 57 ADR Advisors who can be deployed as needed to assist disaster site personnel in managing and resolving conflicts;
  • Designs and presents training curricula in conflict management, communication, mediation, problem solving, and conflict coaching for FEMA personnel;
  • Coordinates with the Office of Human Resources, Employee Labor Relations (ELR), Office of Equal Rights (OER), Labor Management Partnership Council (LMPC), the unions, the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC), and others to support their ADR work and to be a point of referral for them; and
  • Serves as the Agency liaison to other ADR Offices across the Federal government to enhance the use of ADR within FEMA through collaboration with other agencies’ ADR offices on development of policies, guidance documents, educational materials, and best practices for use within the Federal government ADR community.

FEMA services and programs include:


You can consult with ADR for any reason just to see if ADR might provide a useful venue or service for a given situation.  Importantly, ADR does not keep records or case files and does not take action or discuss issues without first discussing it with the person to gain their approval for the next steps to be taken.  Working with ADR is unofficial and off the record, so it is not a venue for “official” complaints.  Our goal is to help the parties resolve their own issues to their satisfaction, if they can.  As part of consulting with someone, ADR provides opportunities for listening, problem solving, brainstorming, considering strategies and tactics for difficult conversations, identifying an appropriate ADR Process, such as mediation or facilitation, and for identifying the right office or resource to help with the particular situation.

Leadership or Executive Coaching

Leadership or executive coaching is a voluntary process where a trained coach from FEMA’s ADR Division assists and supports an individual or a group to enhance skills such as leadership, conflict management, strategic planning, problem solving, career and personal development, and work-life balance.  In coaching, the client chooses one or more goals and the coach uses a structure and range of skills to help the client reach these goals.


Often a unique facilitation process is designed for particular situations.  Three more or less “off the shelf” applications are meeting facilitation, group decision making facilitation, and focus groups.  Facilitation is a process in which a neutral third party, the facilitator, engages the group to assist with drafting the agenda and approach, defining the desired type of outcome, identifying the participants needed to achieve a successful outcome, managing the time and direction of discussions, guiding and clarifying communications, encouraging open sharing, full participation, and consensus building, and concluding the meeting with a focus on what has been accomplished, what tasks remain, and what next steps are needed.  The participants, not the facilitator, are in full control of the


 ADR can help resolve disputes and conflicts of all kinds – often much more quickly and with better results than not taking proactive steps.  For example, for your situation mediation, facilitated discussion, workgroup engagement, conflict coaching, or assistance with negotiations may help resolve the situation.


Training is an integral part of the work of the ADR office.  In fact the law that authorizes ADR in the Federal Government requires ADR offices to provide training to help Agency staff work well and resolve issues both within their staff and with the public and other constituents.  ADR works with EMI, the Learning and Development Office, and Disaster Field Training Offices to identify and provide appropriate training courses.  ADR can provide expertise for training in topics such as communication skills, negotiation skills, conflict resolution skills, giving constructive feedback, etc.  ADR can also custom design or modify trainings for particular purposes.

Reservist Ombuds

The Reservist Ombuds in an independent, confidential, neutral, and impartial resource tasked by FEMA Directive with a focus exclusively on the FEMA Reservist Program.  The Reservist Ombuds works with visitors (anyone who presents an issue related to the FEMA Reservist Program) to understand their issues and concerns and help them identify options and resources.  The Reservist Ombuds may give information about systemic or policy concerns that come to his or her attention to the responsible office.  The Reservist Ombuds, with permission of the visitor, may contact others to seek a resolution of the issue or concern or employ any agreed upon method of conflict resolution, such as mediation, facilitation, or conflict coaching.  Visitors may contact the office in person or by telephone.

Last Updated: 
11/21/2016 - 14:50