This page provides an overview of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act, as well as instructions on how to submit a FOIA request. This information is intended for anyone who is interested in submitting a FOIA request or learning more about the agency's FOIA program.
FEMA Disclosure Branch
The Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (OCAO), Division of Information Management, Disclosure Branch Office, is responsible for administering policies, programs, and procedures to ensure FEMA’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act (PA), 5 U.S.C. § 552 and 5 U.S.C. § 552a, respectively. The agency maintains records such as those pertaining to the National Flood Insurance Program, grants, and disaster relief, as well as records related to disaster response. The Disclosure Branch Office answers public requests (including that of FEMA employees) for FEMA’s records under the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act of 1974. The Disclosure Branch also provides records requested in writing by any person, but may withhold information pursuant to nine exemptions and three exclusions contained in the 5 U.S.C. § 552 statute.
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a right of public access to Agency/Department records. The FOIA pertains to federal agency records that include any information that would be an agency record when maintained by an agency in any format, including electronic. The Agency must maintain these records according to applicable records retention schedules, and provide any records in its possession. Any person can make a FOIA request. This includes individuals, corporations, associations, state and local governments, a foreign government, etc. The FOIA does not fulfill requests of fugitives from justice--if the requested records relate to the requester’s fugitive status-- and foreign governments when requesting information from intelligence agencies. Additionally, federal agencies may not make FOIA requests, meaning that federal employees may not make requests using their government address. FOIA excludes federal agencies from its definition of persons permitted to make FOIA requests [see 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(3)(A) and 5 U.S.C. § 551(2)]. To avoid confusion as to whether employees are requesting information through FOIA in their personal or official capacities, it is the preference of the FEMA FOIA Office that FEMA employees submitting FOIA requests do so using their personal email accounts instead of their official email accounts.
Privacy Act Overview
The Privacy Act, unlike FOIA, only applies to written requests for records regarding an individual. (e.g. U.S. citizens or aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence). The FOIA applies to any person except fugitives from justice. All Privacy Act and FOIA requests must be in writing. All Privacy Act requests must identify the system of records where the requested records are located, and any particulars that identify the individual from another individual with the same name, such as date of birth or social security number. The written request must also include a certification that the individual is who they claim to be, via a penalty of perjury statement. The requester must obtain a notarized signature of the statement or submit the request per 28 U.S.C. 1746, which allows an un-notarized statement to be made under penalty of perjury. For further information, see 28 CFR 16.41(d) ("Verification of Identity"). If the requestor wishes to obtain third-party records, the requestor must obtain a signed consent form by the third-party.
For more information and resources on the FOIA and Privacy Act statutes, please visit the DHS FOIA Statutes Resources page.
Filing Your Request
Visit our "How to Submit a FOIA/PA Request" page for detailed instructions on how to submit a FOIA/PA Request.
Online Request Submission/Check the Status of Request
To file online click here, the link will direct you to the Department of Homeland Security's FOIA page where you can submit a FOIA request online. To check the status of requests submitted to FEMA, you may use the DHS online check status capability.
Please visit our FOIA Library for information that is routinely and publicly released. Visiting our FOIA Library is also a good way to check whether the documents you are requesting are already publicly available.
If you have any questions on filing a FOIA Request, please contact the Disclosure Branch at (202) 646-3323 or electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Chief, Disclosure Branch
500 C Street, S.W., Mail Stop 3172
Washington, D.C. 20472-3172
For general information or non-FOIA related questions or inquiries about FEMA and its operations, please contact FEMA’s main line at (202) 646-2500 or visit our contact page.