The 2017 hurricanes and wildfires marked a change in disaster operations tempo.
Compared to the year preceding 2017, for the past four years, FEMA has had more than twice as many staff deployed every day.
By November of 2020, FEMA was managing six times as many Stafford Act Events (166 emergency and major disaster declarations vs. 26), and responses to fire incidents were up 120% across the nation. This increase in frequency, severity, and complexity has heightened demands on FEMA and on the larger emergency management community.
To adapt to the trend, FEMA must expand its approach to agency readiness and to national preparedness. The only way to achieve this is to increase the nation’s overall emergency management capabilities at all levels of government, as well as the private sector, the nonprofit sector, and among individuals.
By incorporating risks posed by future conditions and non-Stafford Act incidents into FEMA’s readiness planning, the agency can identify the capabilities required to meet the challenges of today and emergent risks we will face a decade from now. The National Capability Targets provide a shared vision of the staff, expertise, tools, and resources required to build a prepared nation.
The National Capability Targets describe the level of capability the nation as a whole — including all levels of government, private and nonprofit sectors — would need to address the nation’s most catastrophic threats and hazards.
Aligning FEMA’s readiness to these targets will ensure the agency can continuously support the needs and priorities identified by whole community partners, in addition to continuity of government across all hazards.
The nation’s ability to address emergent threats is rooted in the strength of FEMA’s emergency management workforce, partnerships, and interconnectivity. Emergency managers are leaders within their communities, uniquely positioned because of their skillsets and ability to coordinate across diverse sectors and situations. COVID-19 has taught us that we must expand capabilities and cultivate expertise from multiple disciplines to meet new complexities and operational demands.
Concurrently, FEMA must engage more effectively with partners in all phases of emergency management to ensure readiness is aligned to meet needs. Within the federal government, this engagement includes promoting better integration and coordination across agencies to enable the government to adapt to emergent threats and to help individuals and communities better leverage federal programs.
“We consider all agencies of the federal government integral in upholding the trust and treaty obligations of the United States. It is important that with each agency we have ongoing, bilateral educational efforts. This ongoing dialogue is to further the agency’s understanding of the sovereign nature of tribes and the agency’s trust and treaty obligations for tribes, how best to engage with tribes, and conversely for the tribes to understand the agency’s mission and how best to partner with the agency for the benefit of our tribal communities.”– Chief Lynn Malerba, Mohegan Tribe